Showing posts with label non-fiction writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label non-fiction writing. Show all posts

Friday, January 18, 2019

Using Anthologies to Study the Market

One piece of writing advice I hear a lot, and which I agree with, is that you must read.  But not everyone agrees on the particulars.

Some say you should read like a reader and others say you should read like an editor or a scientist, dissecting what you read to see what works.

Some say read, read, read your genre and then stop reading while you write, so you don't accidentally let whatever you're reading influence your own work too much.

Others say read, read, read all the time, in your genre and others.

I write short stories in a variety of genres, novels (fantasy and sci fi), travel essays, travel guides, and various other types of work.  But I have to admit that my reading habits are a bit more narrow.  I tend to mostly read novels instead of short stories.  I read travel guides to places I plan to travel, but don't read as much other travel writing as I should.  Part of this, of course, is due to limited time.

So, to make my reading of short work more efficient, I use the anthology approach.

Benefits of Reading Yearly Anthologies


Long-standing, well-respected anthologies are great because they collect some of the (subjectively) best fiction of the year from various magazines.  You don't waste time with mediocre stories.  You get a feel for what's current and what editors are throwing their support behind.  Go ahead and dissect these stories and learn from them.

Another valuable aspect of an anthology is that you see which magazine first published which story.  This is very useful for your own work.  You know the old advice about submitting to magazines:  read a few issues first to see if your work fits.  This is excellent advice.  Unfortunately, we don't always have time to read a few issues of every magazine.  Luckily, anthologies give you a shortcut.  Pick out the stories you like or that could be good matches to yours, then see which magazines they were published in.  Start submitting to those magazines. 

Some Good Anthologies:


The O. Henry Prize Stories, edited by Laura Furman.

The Pushcart Prize; Best of the Small Presses, edited by Bill Henderson.

The Best American Short Stories, edited by Heidi Pitlor and various yearly editors.  Obviously the yearly editor puts a slant on things, so some years may be more "best" than others.

The Best American series has other genre-specific anthologies, such as The Best American Essays, The Best American Travel Writing, The Best American Mystery Short Stories, The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, etcLook for your target genre to see if they have one that matches.

The Year's Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, edited by Rich Horton.  Also in the series, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, edited by Paula Guran.

The Best Horror of the Year, edited by Ellen Datlow.


Many of these can be found at your local library as well as at online and brick-and-mortar bookstores.



You can read (and listen to) Melinda Brasher's most recent short story sale at Pseudopod.  It's a tale of a man who doesn't believe in superstition...until he has to.  You can also find her fiction in Ember, Timeless Tales, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska this summer, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com








Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Where does your story really start?


I recently went to a writing program where the instructor, writer Amy K Nichols, talked about her first book. She polished and polished the first chapter, as we all do. She got an agent, then sold the book. But after the editor started working on it, she told Amy, "You know, I think your story starts in Chapter 8."

Since then, she's noticed that many people don't start in the right place. Often it's not as drastic as 8 chapters too early. Sometimes it's only a couple of paragraphs.

Now Nichols does a workshop where people get up and read their first couple of pages aloud and the listeners decide where the story should really start. They try to cut out backstory and get right into the meat--or to a killer hook line.

The workshop was really interesting. It made me re-evaluate a short story I wrote that I really like, that I think is better than some the stories I've sold to magazines, yet I just can't find a taker. And you know what? I think Nichols was right. I think the real beginning is about three paragraphs down.

I challenge you to take your current work in progress and read it aloud--to a group of trusted critiquers, to friends who like to read and will be honest, or even just to yourself. This works with non-fiction too. As one travel magazine said in its general guidelines, your article doesn't start the moment you wake up to go to the airport.


Melinda Brasher can't resist photos of teddy bears, animals, and small children reading books (who were perhaps hooked because the author started the story in the right place).  

Her most recent sale is a twist on Rumpelstiltskin, appearing in Timeless Tales. You can also find her fiction in NousElectric SpecIntergalactic Medicine Show, and others. If you're dreaming about traveling to Alaska, check out her guide book, Cruising Alaska on a Budget; a Cruise and Port Guide. Visit her online at http://www.melindabrasher.com

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