Monday, September 29, 2014

I Just Finished a Short Story! What next?

By DeAnna Knippling

(Editor's Note:  This post is in response to a reader request.  We do listen to you!)

So you’ve written a short story. You’re not sure whether it’s any good. You’re not sure whether it
matters if it’s any good. You’re not sure whether you need to cut your story down to a specific length, or to pad it out. Should you send it to a professional editor? Or should you just delete it? Is it really even a short story? You’ve asked yourself so many questions and done so much research online and head so many conflicting opinions that it doesn’t even matter anymore.

First: whatever choice you make, it’s the right one.

Whether you decide to submit or not submit, where to submit, whether to self-publish; those are choices that nobody else can make for you. How do you make those choices? Trial and error. Lots of error. Whatever choice you make will be a learning experience, all right.

Second, some practical suggestions:
  • Use standard manuscript format. One, it’s more professional. Two, you might as well make the process a no-brainer. Three, if you format all your stories the same way, you’ll start seeing paragraph pacing better. Six huge paragraphs in a row become blatantly obvious. And for goodness’ sake, do backups and save your files with a different version number every time you open it. 
  • Filter your readers’ feedback down to two things: satisfaction and dissatisfaction. Most readers will tell you they like or don’t like something...then proceed to give you a reason for that that has nothing to do with the real strengths or weaknesses of the story itself. 
  • Decide whether you’re going to submit to markets or self-publish (a discussion beyond the scope of this blog post). The easier, lower-risk choice is probably submitting and will thus be the focus of the rest of this blog post. 
  • Find your short story markets. I use, because I have to track a lot of short stories. But I hear good things about and the forums at, or you could check out the current Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market from Writer’s Digest. You could also check out the websites of the markets listed in any reprint anthology (e.g., a Year’s Best collection), or, as a last resort, get involved with the short story community for your genre(s) and read the markets yourself. <sarcasm>
  • Write up a template cover letter. I recommend using standard business format, even in email. First paragraph: States that you’re sending such-and-such story, at so many hundred words. Second paragraph: Brief publication credits and/or bio of relevant-to-writing details. Don’t provide a synopsis unless requested. 
  • Pick a short story market and research the editors’ names and titles, the types of stories they’re looking for (read an issue or two), and any wonky formatting requirements, like straight quotes. If you don’t know how to switch to straight quotes or what straight quotes are--look it up. You’ll need that feature fairly often. 
  • Skim through your story one last time, not to edit but to make sure you’ve done a spelling and grammar check and that you have the right version. 
  • Assemble and send your short story package--cover letter and short story--as instructed by the submission guidelines of your market. 
  • Track your submission, either in a spreadsheet of your own, on a site like Duotrope, or both. You need to know a) where you sent the story, b) when you sent it, and c) when the panic date is. The panic date is about thirty days after that market's estimated response. If the market doesn’t give an estimated response time, then I’d go for 180 days. Send a query letter to the query address (if there is one) after the panic date. If you don’t hear back thirty days after that, send them a note withdrawing the story and move on. 
  • Keep sending out the story and getting it rejected. When it comes back in, send it out again. Don’t edit it unless you plan to delete and rewrite. Given a choice between writing new words and fussing with old ones, you learn more with new ones. 
  • When you get accepted, look over the contract. I’m not a lawyer and this isn't legal advice, but I think it’s pretty safe to say that any short story market that tries to get more than the rights to publish the story in the formats in which it currently publishes is writing a sloppy contract. You don’t have to turn down the contract; just say that you aren’t interested in selling translation rights or movie rights or audiobook rights or whatever and make them update the contract. Read The Copyright Handbook, which is the legal guide to covering your butt as a writer. This is not optional. 
  • Keep an eye out for when the rights revert to you. Two years seems about the maximum for the current short story market. You get to sell short stories as many times as you can get away with it. You have to call them reprints, but if you want to sell them after your rights have reverted, more power to you. And -- perfect time to self-publish, if you’re into that kind of thing. The Copyright Handbook, I’m telling you. It’s there to help you make money. 
  • Don’t work for free until you’ve exhausted the paying options. “Exposure”.  It’s the reason that writers, artists, and musicians have such problems making a living at their profession. Please try not to contribute. Ironically the places that pay in “exposure” have the least amount of “exposure” to give. 

Third, a sense of perspective about short story submissions: you’re going to get rejected. A lot. More than a dozen times per story, easily. And editors, no matter how much they complain about the quality of the submissions they get (the really good ones don’t), know all about the learning curve, and how much work it takes to get to be a professional. So if you’re worried about submitting a bad story--well, I won’t tell you not to worry. You will. But the good editors just blow the bad stories off. Besides, it’s often the stories you hate that sell the quickest.

 And finally, no regrets. You wrote, you finished. Send it out, publish it, and keep working.  No matter what else happens, you're ahead of every single wannabe out there who has an idea for a story.  Plus it all gets easier as you go.  Not soon.  But it does.

About the Author: DeAnna Knippling started freelancing in May 2011 and wouldn’t be able to do it without her wonderful family and friends, especially her husband. In fact, she owes a lot to Pikes Peak Writers for helping her be a better writer, especially through the Write Brains, both in the lectures and in meeting lots of other writers.

Her reason for writing is to entertain by celebrating her family’s tradition of dry yet merry wit, and to help ease the suffering of lack of self-confidence, having suffered it many years herself. She also likes to poke around and ask difficult questions, because she hates it when people assume something must be so.

For more kicks in the writerly pants, see her blog at or her ebook How to Fail & Keep on Writing, available at Smashwords, B&N, Amazon, and OmniLit.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

To write something, you have to risk making a fool of yourself.

Anne Rice (born Howard Allen Frances O'Brien; October 4, 1941)

The Vampire Chronicles
The Queen of the Damned
Christ the Lord 

This week on Writing from the Peak:

* I Just Finished a Short Story! What Next?         DeAnna Knippling

*  Your Guide to NaNoWriMo Prep                         Deb McLeod

* PPW October News & Events                                 Debi Archibald

Friday, September 26, 2014

Sweet Success! C.L. Roth

Compiled by Kathie Scrimgeour

C.L. Roth’s middle grade fantasy/SF novel, Cosmic Chaos (ISBN: 978-0-9846619-5-4, ebook, 166 pages) was released in ebook format on July 29th, 2014 by C.L. Roth. It is available on Amazon :

Mark Cooper’s parents are three weeks overdue. Something is wrong and he’s not waiting any longer. The children, Flicker, and Great-Uncle Harley set off for Grayson where the change has already started. Cosmos hunts for the renegades, Hemlock and Dalt. Can the children, the Hunter, Flicker, and Harley rescue Mark’s parents before the renegade find them?

About the Author:  C.L. Roth is an artist, caregiver, and author. She started her writing career writing articles for her local newspaper; a job that taught her to write tight and meet her deadlines. She is a full-time caregiver for her son. Joshua was born with cerebral palsy. He is a talented watercolor and acrylic artist. C.L. manages OurHome Studio which showcases her son’s artwork as well a rare pieces of her own work.

We love to hear of fellow Pikes Peak Writers' Sweet Successes, including story acceptances, winning contests, getting published and book signings. Please email Kathie Scrimgeour at if you've got a Sweet Success you'd like to share.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Community and Confidence

By Jade Goodnough

Community and confidence.

I would not have connected the two a few years ago. Before I found my path as a writer.

Then so many doors opened in the form of my local network. I have made so many friends and connected with kindred spirits over such a short period of time. Each individual has contributed to my growing sense of self. They've lent me their strength and built a net of positive energy for my creativity.

Yes, it does sound a bit exaggerated, but that doesn't change the fact that it's true.

When I first went to a PPW event, I was the shy gal in the back, the one that felt out of place. The volunteers welcomed me and made sure I had access to their upcoming schedule, their resources, and answered the few questions I managed to ask. With every event thereafter, they recognized me and made sure to include me in conversations. Looking back, I can't picture myself without the friendship that bloomed from that beginning.

At my first opportunity to apply for a scholarship for Conference, I did everything wrong. The second time around, I had an entire community of writers there to advise me on how to better my chances. Without them, I do not believe I would have been awarded the gift of my very first writer’s conference. And I most certainly would not have been as confident in meeting all of the wonderful professionals that presented workshops there.

My biggest realization occurred at lunch on Day Two of Conference. I had tried to sit with an agent, but her table had filled up too quickly. So I made my way over to the table held for the editor I was meant to pitch to that afternoon. I figured that it wouldn't be too stalker-like, as long as I didn't hog the conversation. Someone asked the question, “How would you like to have a pitch given?” I perked up.

The editor thought for a moment and replied, “You know, I'd just like for someone to sit down like we've been friends for years and recommend the next book I should read.” I won't lie, I almost jumped out of my chair and screamed, “I can do that!” Because I'd been doing that for years with friends and family. All the nervous tension and stress I'd been feeling released and left behind a kind of jittery excitement. That's when I learned that industry professionals are just normal people trying to do their jobs. Like the rest of us.

The bonds I've made, at conference and all of the other events I've attended, are life altering. The people I now calls friends are irreplaceable. My community is a broad spectrum of talented writers and editors that show me every chance they get that I am where I belong. No other group of people celebrates me for my accomplishments, big and small.

So, community and confidence. One doesn't necessarily rely on the other, but both are stronger in unison. I am stronger with both of them in unison. There is no measure of gratitude that could ever be enough for such a wonderful blessing.

About the Author:  Jade N Goodnough is a writer who calls the beautiful city of Colorado Springs home. She has a short published in the very first Colorado Springs Fiction Writers Group anthology, An Uncommon Collection. Her next short story will be released in the fall of 2014, and her multitude of novels will follow in the coming years. A winner of NaNoWriMo and PPWC scholarship recipient, Jade strives to become a better writer every day. You can find her online at:
@jade_goodnough on Twitter

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Indie Publishing and Me

(Note from the Editor: With so many submissions from PPWC attendees, you are seeing a lag between conference time and the time we can schedule out the posts. But it's never too early to start applying our writers' insights into next year's conference!)

By Fatma Alici

I’d been considering indie publishing for a while. As is my nature, I started to read every online article, every book, and look into every resource I could find. What I got in return in was a lot of conflicting information. Some sources talked about how horrible most eBooks were. Others claimed the only real way to get your books to the public was to go to big publishers. Even more warned of the horrors of traditional publishing and how it would eat your soul.

None of it really offered any truly practical advice. I wanted charts, graphs, and evidence. And failing that, I’d like some down to earth advice. From what I already knew, this wasn’t going to make me a millionaire. But I wanted to be a writer. I never thought I’d be a millionaire anyway. What did it really take to be a successful indie publisher? How did one market? How did I even know where to start? Which products or services did it make sense to pay for and which didn't? What should I be aiming for?

Becky Clark and Deanna Knippling aren’t really that much alike when it comes to the ways they set up their publishing. That ended up being an asset for their workshop. They each do it their own way. That was the first thing I learned. When you enter indie publishing, you need to figure out what you want out of it. What are you trying to accomplish? What your goals are will determine everything else.

Together, they had great marketing tips. Marketing is the key to getting yourself, and your book, out there. And it’s definitely not tweeting the same book blurb over and over. Instead, you have to look at everything you’re doing to see what you can apply to marketing. Your author bio doesn’t help you if it is only about you. Instead, what about you makes your books unique? You might write a certain genre, but what makes your vision, your words so different from everyone else’s? It is the small changes to things you already do that are the start of marketing. The rest is realizing you are marketing director, your boss, your editor, and so forth. You have to know your strengths and your weakness.

There is a community of independent publishers around you. Connect with them. They can help you keep up with the latest new developments. They can give you reviews on services you might need. Let’s face it; none of us can do everything we need to be published.

The most important thing I learned was the hardest one for me and they mentioned it a few times. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to do it all wrong. Don’t be afraid of not being perfect. You will mess up. You will get things wrong. You will not be perfect. In the end, you have to accept those blows, dust yourself off and get right back up. That’s what indie publishing has in common with writing -- at first we were all terrible, and with time we found our stride. If I can make it through critique groups and rejection letters, I can take on indie publishing.

About the Author:  Fatma Alici is gamer geek turned writer who blogs about neglectful gods, magic gone crazy, tech that can save you or kill you, and of course aliens, lots of aliens. Each week I take a slice off these realities and put it up at

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Hero's Arc

(Note from the Editor:  With so many submissions from PPWC attendees, you are seeing a lag between conference time and the time we can schedule out the posts. But it's never too early to start applying our writers' insights into next year's conference!)

By Delores Gonzales Montaño

“Did you have fun at the Pikes Peak Writers’ Conference?” That was the prevailing question everyone asked after I dragged my butt home, tail tucked between my legs, collapsed on the couch and prepared to watch mindless hours of mindless television just to quiet the voices echoing in my head.

Voices that insisted on tension, and more tension; story structure, beginning, middle and end—Act I, Act II, Act III. Eliminate the back story.

Voices: “What do you write?”

What do I write?

I wasn’t prepared to answer that question in one sentence. I should have practiced. “Literary Fiction.” At least that’s what it said on my name tag. Eyes glass over; what does that mean?

What does that mean?

It meant I sucked.

I needed potato chips—potato chips to silence the chatter. I found the sad remainder of a bag tucked away in the rear of the cabinet, saved for just such an occasion. Not a single chip remained intact, only crumbs. (I really should stop doing that.)

Now I was ready for mindless television: Mad Men. Doug was sleeping around. Doug was always sleeping around. But this was his neighbor! She knew his wife! He knew her husband! His daughter caught them doing it! Ooooh, the tension!

It was bedtime… after one more episode. I decided I could sleep late and take a really short shower in the morning.

Doug was drinking. Doug was always drinking. But now he was doing drugs! What did they inject into his ass? He wasn’t going to make his deadline! Ooooh, the tension!

One more episode. I didn’t need to shower in the morning, did I?

Eventually I pulled the plug and padded off to bed, new voices in my head. Tension; highly motivated characters, (I could do that); write what you love; break all the rules; tell your unique story.

2:00 a.m., the morning after the Conference, and I had a sleep-deprived revelation. Maybe I could write the story I wanted to write. A story that started at the end, was nonlinear, written in the first person and third person from the same point of view, used symbolism and adjectives—constantly, that wasn’t Y.A. Fantasy. I would just have to be brilliant! My last thought before I faded.

But brilliance has always had a way of eluding me. I was reminded of this the next morning after I hit the snooze button three times, piled my unwashed hair into a bun and cemented it with hairspray.

So, if not brilliance, then what?

The Hero’s Arc demands that the character changes. (I could do that). Maybe I can incorporate more tension? Maybe there is too much back story? Maybe I did learn something from those voices? Something about my craft and what it takes to write a story that will compel a person to read late into the night and forgo their morning shower. And maybe, if I do it well, I can write the story inside-out, ass-backwards, use metaphor… and an occasional adverb?


And if all else fails…I’ll add a fairy.

Fun? Yeah, fun was had. But the better question was, “Did you grow?”

About the Author:  Delores Gonzales Montaño is a graduate of the University of California, San Diego, where she studied literature and writing. Although her first loves were children’s literature and horror, not an unlikely pair in her opinion, she is currently writing neither. Instead she finds herself neck-deep in a mainstream novel where the characters are neither animals nor monsters, at least not in the conventional interpretation. First place winner of the 2014 PPWC Writing Contest in the genre of Literary Fiction, she remains convinced that the prize is hers because no one else entered in that category. A native of Colorado, she often battles with the need for ocean.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Quote of the Week and Week to Come

“Let’s get one thing clear right now, shall we? There is no Idea Dump, no Story Central, no Island of the Buried Bestsellers; good story ideas seem to come quite literally from nowhere, sailing at you right out of the empty sky: two previously unrelated ideas come together and make something new under the sun. Your job isn’t to find these ideas but to recognize them when they show up.”

Stephen King (September 21, 1947 - )
The Shining
The Stand
Dr. Sleep
On Writing

Awards:  Bram Stoker, O.Henry, National Book Association "Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Literature, Mystery Writers of America "Grand Master Award"

Happy Birthday, Mr. King

This week on Writing from the Peak:

(Editor's Note:  Watch for an extra blog post on Tuesday.  We are publishing all the posts specific to PPWC14 before we fully launch into PPWC15 mode.)

* The Hero's Arc                              Delores Montano

* Indie Publishing and Me            Fatma Alici

* Confidence and Community      Jade Goodnough

* Sweet Success! C.L. Roth            Kathie Scrimgeour