Entries tagged with “Every Day Fiction”.


By J. Chris Lawrence

Getting published is a tough business that isn’t for the timid or insecure. While Every Day Fiction’s openness to a variety of genres and daily publishing schedule leave a lot of room for well written stories to have their chance, quite a few still fall short due to common and fixable issues. Like any publication, there are certain steps writers can follow to increase their odds, and one of the keys to success is simply being prepared.

Here are my 5 tips for getting published by Every Day Fiction magazine.

Tip #1. Know Your Publication

Every publication is different, but all of them expect writers to read and respect their guidelines.

Like most flash markets, EDF takes a firm position on word count and is upfront about this. Even if your story is amazing, it will have to fit this very simple rule, yet countless submissions nevertheless find rejection for this misstep.

The importance of following rules can’t be stressed enough. Attempting to sidestep them reflects poorly on writers: it shows they either don’t respect the publication’s standards or lack professionalism.

Another leading cause for swift rejections is submitting a previously published story. This does include your own blog, even if it doesn’t have many followers.

The importance of following rules can’t be stressed enough. Attempting to sidestep them reflects poorly on writers: it shows they either don’t respect the publication’s standards or lack professionalism. But many of these issues can also be accidentally overlooked as well, so before submitting, give the guidelines a second read and stick to them. It might just save your story.

Tip #2. Break from tropes

People love to hate Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.  Many die-hards scoff at her glittery vampires, but love it or hate it, it’s undeniably original, and while classic stories of traditional vampires can thrive (see Anne Rice, for example), the odds of them finding publication are lower than something editors have never seen before.

The key isn’t to avoid common themes, it’s to try to break from the mold and look at them in a different way. EDF is always open to creative takes on classic staples. In May, 2011, Rich Matrunick’s “The Pale Farmer” (http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-pale-farmer-by-rich-matrunick/) gave a chilling tale of a Vampire struggling to overcome his addiction to blood. For religious/end of the world content, Sarah L. Byrne’s “And Though Worms Destroy” (http://www.everydayfiction.com/and-though-worms-destroy-by-sarah-l-byrne/) broke new ground by showing a different side to the story. Likewise, Brock Adams explored one man’s struggle to return to normal life after a zombie apocalypse is contained in “The Former King of Fort Wal-Mart” (http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-former-king-of-fort-wal-mart-by-brock-adams/).

The key isn’t to avoid common themes, it’s to try to break from the mold and look at them in a different way.

When submitting to EDF, ask yourself what’s fresh about your material. If the story is strong enough, overused creature features can certainly still make it, but taking it that extra step into the unknown will make it stand out in a crowd.

Tip #3. Polish Your Prose

A strong story concept isn’t always enough; sometimes stirring works get rejected simply for prose alone. The good news is writing is a craft, and like all crafts, there are tricks of the trade that can help polish your work.

First, try getting a couple of beta readers to comment on your story. This only works if they are going to be honest and constructive (no, Mom doesn’t count). Often a different set of eyes can find plot holes, typos, or other errors that we writers tend to miss.

A fresh outlook helps us view our work beyond fresh-story blinders.

You can also try reading your story aloud or have someone else read it to you. This gives you a strong sense of how it sounds outside of your head, and more importantly, inside the reader’s.

Another rule of thumb is to simply give it time. Once the story is finished, put it away for a week or so. Let it settle, then go back and read it again. A fresh outlook helps us view our work beyond fresh-story blinders.

As a flash and web publication, EDF looks for prose that reads well for the screen and is appealing to its readership. It’s always best to keep your paragraphs sparse and clean, and while stylish prose is good, never lose sight of what’s most important–the story.

Tip #4. Themes and Arcs and Growth, Oh My

A theme is the underlying meaning or abstract concept behind your plot. This is what you are trying to say, the ultimate point of the story. Knowing this can help you stay on track. Yet, a theme is nothing without an arc–the basic structure of storytelling: the beginning, middle and end.

In flash, certain parts of the plot can and should be implied, but without a complete arc, you have a vignette at best. Most arcs thrive on the growth of a certain aspect, such as a character learning something or changing in some way. But all arcs have a very clear point of climax.

Before submitting your story, give it another glance. Ask yourself, is the tension clear, and is the central conflict being resolved? Is the message being conveyed? Does anything significant happen or change in some way? These are, perhaps, the most important aspects of a story. Many submissions that are turned away from EDF lack some or all of these important building blocks of fiction, because without them, you don’t have a complete story.

Tip #5.  Watch Your Ending

Often, stories come through EDF’s slush that are very intriguing, but die quickly due to their final lines. The ending is paramount: it’s the final note where all threads converge. Still, while it’s necessary to get it right, it’s also easy to get it wrong.

A common issue I’ve seen is the rushed ending. Whether it’s because the piece simply isn’t meant for a flash venue or the writer hasn’t paced the story well enough to fit the confines, a rushed ending can kill a story. Keep in mind the cadence of your plot as you go, and make sure it comes to a smooth close.

Twist endings are always a pleasure, but they can be difficult to pull off. A good twist story should never mislead the reader or leave them feeling tricked. Instead, it should be littered with clues and foreshadowing, so after finishing the piece, the reader can look back at it and think, “How did I miss that?”

Keep in mind the cadence of your plot as you go, and make sure it comes to a smooth close.

When doing comedy, be wary of the punchline ending. These aren’t stories so much as extended jokes. Sure, good comedy can end in a punchline, but if the entire piece revolves around that single jest, it probably won’t make it into EDF, or most other publications for that matter.

Finally, never let your story cop out. Be very cautious of using deus ex machina to resolve conflicts. Ending a story as just being a dream, or bringing in outside elements with the sole value of resolving the plot will likely lead to rejection. This is also a kind of cheat and the reader will notice. Let the elements of your story resolve their own conflicts.

While nothing here can guarantee you an acceptance letter, following these basic tips can certainly improve the odds of your story finding a home in the annals of Every Day Fiction magazine.

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Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia, J. Chris Lawrence spent much of his life traveling and exploring the various cultural facets of American life. Most recently, he’s found himself in Georgia, where he spends his days reading slush for Every Day Fiction magazine, striving to improve his craft, and wrangling his sons, Michael and Ayden. You can find more of Chris’s fiction online at www.jchrislawrence.com.

by Aliza Greenblatt

Ian Florida left St. Louis for the greener fields of Northern Missouri where he studied History and Philosophy at Truman State University. He still lives there in a small white house at the edge of town where city streets meet pasture and farmland with his fiancé, their two cats and a living mountain of books that seems to take up every room in the house. When not writing or reading science fiction and fantasy he manages a market research team and in his spare time pretends to be a wood worker and outdoorsman.  His story The Only Gifts We Give was the top story for July at Every Day Fiction.

Aliza Greenblatt:  This is your second story at EDF. How long have you been writing fiction and what made you want to tell stories? Do you primarily write flash fiction, or do you like writing stories of various lengths?

Ian Florida:  I started out writing and illustrating “comic books” about a crime fighting, boy robot, when I was seven or eight years old. Ever since then I’ve had the good fortune of being surrounded by family and friends who encourage me to write and be creative. My family is full of musicians and song writers, artists and story tellers so I see it as my own contribution to a family tradition.

As far as my publishing credits go, all of my work so far has been short form, but I have just started the second round of editing on my second novel. It’s a fantasy epic set in modern day Chicago, a city sanctuary for all the Old Gods of religions past and a few present, who are quite unhappy with the state of moral decay in modern America and quite pleased with their decision to do something about it.

As for which I like better, sometimes I have so many different stories I want to write it’s easy to get sidetracked, which makes focusing on just ONE project a Herculean ordeal. But both are rewarding in their own way.

AB:  Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

IF:  My stories are mainly divined via consulting a Ouija board while ritually burning a lock of Ernest Hemmingway’s beard. But when the spirits slumber I fall back on a big list of characters, personalities, inventions, plots, and locations and I generally start by pulling a couple items from the menu and meshing them together. I find that both processes work best between the hours of 3:00 and 6:00 AM.

Reading is also a big part of my process, I read anything and everything. You never know where you’re going to find a great catalyst for a story that isn’t going quite right. My background is in history and that really informs my writing as old history tomes are bursting at the spine with stories and people waiting to be remixed, retold and reborn.

This particular story was a little bit outside my ordinary process. I had some recent events dredge up old memories of sitting by my little sister while she was in the ICU . She was six and I remember my parents standing over her little body, tubes and wires everywhere. This story just flowed out of those old memories.

AB:   You captured the wonderment of a child and the sadness of a parent very well in this story and there were lots tough emotions, as well as a sense of beauty packed into this piece. What were some of the challenges in writing this story? What were some of your favorite bits?

IF:  Knowing the difference between what’s important and what can be cut is always the hardest part for me. I tend to write too much and edit too little and so paring the story down is always my biggest challenge. For this story the challenge was trying to prevent the emotional punch being softened  and slowed down with too much description and imagery. Flash fiction is especially fickle in that regard, you have so few words and every single sentence has to carry so much weight that there’s no time for needless things, no matter how much you love them and want to keep them wrapped up nice and warm in your story.

My favorite part about writing this story is being able to come back to it two months after I’ve put it down, rereading it, and still having it invoke the emotions I wanted it to invoke. I knew  I found a story that was important to me when I could read it six, seven, eight times and still have it punch me in the gut.

AB: The narrator’s identity was not revealed right away to the reader. I initially thought that this was a husband-wife relationship at first, but realized my mistake as the story progressed. Why did you choose to tell this story in second person?

IF:  I tried writing the story in first person before anything else, but it didn’t come off sounding very genuine. I could tell right off it needed to change. Second person gave it the power and flow I was aiming for, it turned it almost into a speech or a soliloquy.

Sometimes when you’re confronted with challenges that seem impossible, that are just too hard, that wear you down, mind, body, and soul you have to take a deep breath and remind yourself what you’re doing and why. You take a look at the people you love and remember how important they are to you and that no matter what happens you’ll do anything you can to make their lives just a little bit easier, and then you get back down to work. This story was that man’s second wind.

AB: The power of memories and imagination is a main theme in the story.  But your narrator implies that experience comes at the price of hope, so instead he tells his daughter stories. Why did he pick planets for the basis of his stories verses traditional stories like fairytales? Why were they things neither of them could reach?

IF:  I don’t think he believes in fairy tales anymore and he really needs to tell a story that he and his daughter can both believe in. The story is just as much for the teller as for the listener, maybe more so. Also, I don’t think he tells her fairy tales because happily or unhappily those kinds of stories end and he doesn’t want his story to end yet. He’s too afraid of how it might turn out. The worlds up there are fresh canvas, he can build a story from scratch, he can decide when, how and if it ends.

AB:  What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

 IF: Aside from cleaning up my second novel I’m working on a children’s book about a long haired wild child and his attempt to stop a sun sized, world eating, monster. Sad to say my illustration hasn’t really progressed too far past that eight year old self but luckily I have a very talented friend that have been gracious enough to put up with me for several projects. You can find links to my published work as well as a whole host of unpublished material at my website www.ianflorida.com

AB:  Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors. 

IF:  Thank you for taking the time to interview me and big thanks to all the staff and readers at Every Day Fiction!

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Aliza profile-pic-2

Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.  Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.  She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreen

Karen Nelsonby Karen Nelson

Sometimes in the midst of summer, you just want to find something to take your mind off the stiflling heat and the sound of slowly-burning lawns.  What better way than to try a new writing technique or visit with a practicing author?  For the month of July, Flash Fiction Chronicles did not disappoint.

If you’re looking for a connection, Susan Tepper makes one with Misti Rainwater-Lites, who’s just a bit bitter about the traditional love story.  Let’s just say she has a story to tell for 3 different honeymoons, and the fourth isn’t looking too good.

Eric Lorberer (interviewed by Bonnie ZoBell) shares some practical advice on getting published with chapbooks.

…every publishing venture is a collaboration, in its most basic sense. It’s multiple artists working together to give a work a specific identity, a physical form, and an audience.

Every Day Fiction’s Top Story this month was by Lyn Vroman, who says, “One thing I’m known to do is study people. Going to a public place to study habits and mannerisms of strangers probably sounds odd, but it’s a great tool! Many people I know end up being the basis for quite a few of my characters.”  You can read her interview and link to her winning story HERE.

John C. Mannone takes us through the fascinating process of using a journal prompt to complete a prize-winning story in his “Phantom Springs Cave” Story & Backstory.  (So THAT’s how you get from “quarry” to “I always find them. The dead.”)

FFC’s new Book Reviews are off with a bang, thanks to Robert Vaughan sharing his new MICROTONES collection with us.  You won’t be sorry you spent a little time with this gifted writer.

Now, just in case you were beginning to think too highly (or too lowly) of yourself, check out Camille Gooderham Campbell’s comments on The Dunning-Kruger Effect.  She’ll have you thinking twice about what you THINK you know.

As if flash fiction weren’t short enough, Beth Carter blows us away with her Six-Word Memoirs.  You can learn how to write these brief bombshells in this Five Tips follow-up.

Just a few of those memorable memoirs by celebrities are:

  • “Former boss: ‘Writing’s your worst skill!’” ~ Amy Tan
  •  “I’ve done it all except hear.” ~ Marlee Matlin
  •  “Acting is not all I am.” ~ Molly Ringwald
  •  “Class clown, class president, town drunk.” ~ Victor Goad
  •  “Life is one big editorial meeting.” ~ Gloria Steinem
  •  “A story told with every wrinkle.” ~ Beth Canton
  •  “I spent Christmas alone. At 10.” ~ Qraig deGroot
  •  “Journalism? Hah! Just make stuff up.” ~ Dave Barry

Not to be missed is Bonnie ZoBell’s two-part series on Book Trailers.  Let’s face it – we love moving pictures, catchy music, and sultry narrator voices.  When we can get them combined with a good book, it’s a win-win situation.  Get tips to finding a good director and making a book trailer on the cheap.  In the meantime, Bonnie’s trailer is below because we like the quirk factor.

The staff at FFC had a ball with brainstorming Top Ten Pieces of Writing Advice, ranging from inspirational to a good kick in the pants, so be sure to stop HERE before you pick up your manuscript today.  (Of course, I can’t leave you without ONE gem from personal favorite Mark Twain… “Substitute damn every time you’re inclined to write very; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”)

I think my favorite tidbit of the month was from Sarah Crysl Akhtar in her article “Saved From the Black Hole of Oblivion“.  She sums up the struggles of any writing with

…anything you really want to say can be said successfully in flash.

Sounds like good advice to me!  Once you’ve read it all, it’s time to get busy.  Now, where’s my pen…

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Karen Nelson is the Technical Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles, and also works as Curriculum Coordinator for Goldminds Publishing.  Her writing can be found in numerous niche magazines and educational curriculum, as well as via her blog (kbnelson.wordpress.com).  She homeschools her two children at their Ozarks hobby farm, and teaches classes for various arts organizations and universities.

by Aliza Greenblatt

Flash Fiction Chronicles interviewed Lynn Vroman about Every Day Fiction’s Top Story for June, “In Her Eyes“ a tale about love, guilt, and redemption.  Lynn Vroman lives in the Pocono Mountains with her husband and four awesome kids. A recent college grad with a degree in English Literature, the only thing she’s ever wanted to do was write. She has been writing seriously for the last five years and has had four of her stories published in online magazines, including Every Day Fiction. Though many of her short stories are literary, her passion is writing science fiction and fantasy. A voracious reader, she is always on the lookout for authors whose stories inspire her to keep writing. Vroman is currently working on the final edits for her first novel and drafting the second. With any luck, she’ll be querying agents in the near future.

 Aliza Greenblatt:  How long have you been writing fiction? What made you first want to tell stories? For you, what is the appeal of flash?

 Lynn Vroman:  I started writing in high school, but didn’t get serious about it until four or five years ago. Since I’ve rekindled the passion, I try to write every day. I love experimenting with both literary and genre fiction, but the fundamental goal when I write stories is to get readers to connect with the characters. When I tell a story, I try to make sure the people I create are complex and flawed like all of us. I want readers to have an emotional connection, even if the emotion they feel isn’t all positive for the protagonist. When writing flash, the challenge to create people with layers in a short space is difficult. I think that’s why I love writing it because sometimes the story works and sometimes it doesn’t. For any writer, it’s a great accomplishment when an idea works using a minimal amount of words.

 AG:  Can you tell me a little about your writing process?

 LV:  I wish I could say that my process is orderly and structured. I’ve tried outlines and plotting, but going that route isn’t for me. I do character sketches when writing longer pieces of fiction because I believe a story isn’t worth reading if the characters are stereotypical archetypes. However, that’s as structured as I get. I try to let the story flow organically just to see where the characters take me. Of course, there is a lot of revision once first drafts are done.

One thing I’m known to do is study people. Going to a public place to study habits and mannerisms of strangers probably sounds odd, but it’s a great tool! Many people I know end up being the basis for quite a few of my characters. People close to me—namely my teenage daughters—beg me to keep their friends out of my stories.

 AG:  I loved the complexity of this story, all of the swirling emotions, and how Rob’s both detestable and empathic character for the reader. What were some of your favorite elements of the story? What were some of the most challenging?

 LV:  When I began writing this story, Rob’s wife was already dead and the plot centered on him missing her. The story started out as just a free writing exercise to get the juices flowing. Yet, while writing, I thought what if his wife was still alive? Would he still cheat? And so, my favorite element of this piece was how I managed to turn a cliché story into one with layers. Rob isn’t admirable—I wouldn’t want him to be my husband—but he does have real feelings and compassion.

The biggest challenge was to show this guy doing something so abhorrent without making him completely unlikable. Yes, he’s weak, but he also loves his wife. He feels empty and helpless and tries to erase those feelings with physical contact. Dumb rationalization on his part, but he knows that.

 AG:  There is almost no physical description of the characters in this piece, expect for their eyes. Consequently, the reader understood each woman in this story through her eyes. But I wondered, how would Rob’s wife describe his eyes? How would his mother-in-law or his lover? How would he describe his own?

 LV:  Great question! I believe his wife would see a strong man whom she loves and be grateful that he has stayed by her side. She would see the father of her children, but mostly she would see the boy she grew up with and feel content.  The lover would see maturity that goes along with a middle-aged man—at least a perceived maturity. She would see stability, maybe a future with financial security and children. I believe the mother-in-law sees the truth, yet distorts it due to her grief. She sees a weak man who is putting his own feelings of loss ahead of the emotional needs of her daughter. She sees the guilt, but doesn’t care.

AG:  This story created quite a debate for many readers because the main character’s actions were unappealing and yet he manages to win the readers’ sympathy. Was it a challenge to write a character that does wrong, but knows that he’s doing wrong and is consumed with guilt because of it? Were you surprised by readers’ responses?

 LV:  His whole sense of self is anchored on the admiration of his wife. He liked who he was when he was with her. With the knowledge that he was losing her, his life unraveled, which led to stupid decisions. Showing this was extremely difficult, as I wanted readers to understand that he wasn’t evil or unfeeling, just desperate to fill a void.

I can’t say I was surprised that some readers didn’t like him. No one likes to feel betrayed by the people they love, and no one likes to see an innocent person being betrayed. And so, when readers had strong negative reactions towards him, I understood. But we are all flawed and have done or said things to people we love that we regret. Rob is no different. We are all capable of mistakes. Hopefully we can all be capable of forgiveness, too.

 AG:  What other projects are you working on now? Are there other stories of yours, either upcoming or published, that you can point readers to?

 LV:  Right now, I’m finishing up the edits for my first novel while working on the draft of the second. Two of my short stories can also be seen in the Penmen Review, an online journal.

AG:  Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with us. Best of luck with all your writing endeavors.

LV:  Thank you!

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Aliza profile-pic-2

Aliza T. Greenblatt works in a firmly non-writing field when the sun is up and writes under a desk lamp at night.  Fueled by a sheer love of books and a tyrannical imagination, she writes the stories that appear over her morning coffee and won’t leave her alone until they are put down on paper.  She writes, raves, and blogs at http://atgreenblatt.com. and on Twitter @AtGreen

 

Reprinted from the author’s blog, originally published on Copy. Edit. Proof., April 21, 2012

by Camille Gooderham Campbell

 

I’m not making this up.

From Wikipedia:

The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.[1]

Actual competence may weaken self-confidence, as competent individuals may falsely assume that others have an equivalent understanding. As Kruger and Dunning conclude, “the miscalibration of the incompetent stems from an error about the self, whereas the miscalibration of the highly competent stems from an error about others” (p. 1127).[2]

I have no doubt that this interesting effect applies to every area of life, but I was particularly struck by its relevance for writers.

Above all, for your own sanity, try not to spend a lot of time thinking about how your abilities stack up against everyone else’s.

Given the grey area where formal grammar and creative license intersect, and the degree to which each reader’s perspective colors the reading experience, there’s no objective and measurable way to define what constitutes “good” or even “competent” fiction writing. We tend to “know it when we see it”, and when we read the work of others — especially published work or in the context of a critique group — consensus can validate our impressions. Even then, there’s debate: select your choice of wildly-popular novelist reviled and sneered at by at least half the writers you know on Facebook… is everyone who loved those books wrong, or is it a matter of taste?

I’m not saying that all fiction is good if you just look at it right. Mediocre-to-poor writing does exist. But would you recognize it, if it were yours?

When it comes to assessing one’s own writing for quality and skill, there’s no grid or checklist to apply; even writing-class “rules” are only general advice and current fashions. Killing all the modifiers and avoiding the passive voice doesn’t automatically produce great writing, and being structurally on trend for 2012 doesn’t guarantee popular appeal now or in the long term. So is that glowing feeling of I-just-finished-writing-the-most-awesome-thing-ever the satisfaction of a job well done, or the Dunning-Kruger effect?

Mediocre-to-poor writing does exist. But would you recognize it, if it were yours?

Apparently Dunning & Kruger and some other psychologists did some further research, and came up with this (again from Wikipedia):

They conclude that the root cause is that, in contrast to high performers, “poor performers do not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve.”[4]

So, first, find some feedback. Join a serious writing group/critique circle (not a mutual-praise-and-smoke-blowing club).

  • Pay a reputable editing/critique service to assess your work.
  • Submit stories to publications that provide editorial feedback.
  • Participate in a workshop or go on a writing retreat that includes an instructional/critique component.

Then learn from the feedback. Don’t be That Writer (everybody knows one) who refuses to hear anything but praise, argues with editors about why a piece was rejected, takes offense at suggestions for improvement, and generally thinks every last comma and modifier and dialogue tag was divinely inspired and embodies perfection.

Above all, for your own sanity, try not to spend a lot of time thinking about how your abilities stack up against everyone else’s. Writing is a solitary pursuit — in the dark hours, it’s easy to project imagined levels of competence (or lack thereof) onto one’s perceived competition, and assess one’s own skills accordingly.

The good news is that if you’re about to burn your latest manuscript on the assumption that you’re totally outclassed, you’re probably wrong.

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In addition to the many hats she wears for Every Day Fiction and Every Day Publishing, Camille Gooderham Campbell is both a copywriter and a full-time mother, and she also writes her own fiction under a pen name. She has an Honours B.A. specializing in English Literature from the University of Toronto, where she was privileged to study creative writing with Professor J. Edward Chamberlin. Read more by Camille on her website: http://www.copyeditproof.com/