A collection of writing contests

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Today I'm highlighting a few contests you might be interested in. These are for YA, mystery, and speculative fiction. Sometimes when you're dealing with writer's block, or manuscript fatigue, writing for a contest is just the thing to revive your flagging creativity. My current novel was inspired by a short story contest. You never know where it will take you.

Poisoned Pen has begun a new YA mystery imprint (The Poisoned Pencil) and is looking for manuscripts.

Carolrhoda Books is accepting unagented submissions of YA manuscripts for a limited time.

Do you write mystery, but not YA?  Criminal Element is putting together an e-anthology, The Malfeasance Occasional, and it pays $350. The theme is "girl trouble".

And finally, the StoneThread Publishing Speculative Fiction Contest II. They're looking for short stories in science fiction, fantasy, magical realism, psychological horror or suspense, ghost stories, urban fantasy, or paranormal romance, and can be set in any time frame.

Our first contest was such a huge success that we've decided to do it again! We're seeking speculative fiction short stories. For our contests, speculative fiction is defined as any story in any genre that responds to the question "What if?" in a way that depends on science or on any fantastic elements. The genres might include science fiction (hard or sociological), fantasy, magic realism, psychological horror or suspense (no slash and gash please), ghost stories, urban fantasy, paranormal romance (no erotica please), etc. They may be based in the past, present or future. With that in mind, send us your best effort. There are twenty-two monetary prizes.

And if those aren't enough, Carla Jansen has a few more in her contest blog post.

             Has a contest ever inspired you in a new direction?

Platform for pre-pubbed authors

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 Platform and marketing go hand in hand. But when you're a lone writer, searching for that elusive contract or interested agent, marketing can seem like something far off down the road. However, establishing a web presence and a platform can give you a head start in the marketing game.

In the past, I've blogged about some helpful books for authors thinking ahead to establishing their platform. 

So along with those books, here are a few links to give you a better understanding of platform in the pre-published world:

If you're unpublished at this point, what are you doing right now that could help with publicity and marketing down the road? What do you hope to do in the near future? If you're already published, what do you wish you had done earlier on in your writing career?

Preparing for NaNoWriMo

Today I'm heading out to the Rocky Mountain Chapter Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrator's Conference in Denver, Colorado. That's a mouthful! This will be my second time attending, and I'm excited to spend time with writers and illustrators I've met, or met online. Friends like Lois Rosio Sprague and Stacy S. Jensen and Kathleen Pelley.

With all the hospital drama my family has endured in the last couple of weeks, I'm really looking forward to a few days away. But NaNoWriMo has been on my mind, so I thought I'd give you something to think about over the weeekend: getting ready. If you don't know what NaNoWriMo is, check out this post.

 National Novel Writing Month is only a month away. If you're on the fence about whether to participate, now is a great time to make a decision so you can plan ahead. November will be much less stressful if you do what you can to prepare for writing and prepare for living.

Prepare for writing. If you follow the 'rules', you'll be starting a brand-new manuscript. Although you can't begin writing till November 1st, you can work out your plot, an outline, your characterization, storyworld, conduct research. Basically anything short of actually writing the book. Many participants have a chapter or scene list ready to go. Seat-of-the-pants writers can still brainstorm major plot points.

Probably the best thing you can do to prepare for writing is to write something every day starting now. Just getting into the habit of daily writing is the biggest hurdle. You don't have to write 1667 words daily now. Just a few paragraphs a day to get your body and mind in gear for the big push.

I've collected lots of resources for writers preparing for November:
Work out your plot with this course, or these resources or more plot resources.
And if you want some printable workbooks to help out, check out these and these.

Prepare for living. You'll still need to eat in November. And possibly work. If you have a significant other, or kids, or pets, they'll be more than miffed if you completely check out for a month. That means thinking ahead to the easiest meals to fix. Cleaning the house ahead of time. Begging out of commitments during November. Anything to streamline life so you can relax and write.

Here are a few links with specific ideas for getting ready for NaNoWriMo:

Will you take the plunge? What do you plan to work on this time?

Is your book the best self-published book?

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 Not long ago, I highlighted Shelf Unbound, a free magazine for writers. It's a great way to keep up with what's going on in the industry. And yesterday, I got this note in my inbox:

Call for Entries: Self-Published Authors
Shelf Unbound book review magazine announces the Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Self-Published Book. Any self-published book in any genre is eligible for entry. Entry fee is $10 per book. Winning entries will be featured in the December/January 2013 issue of Shelf Unbound. Details here. Contact: Margaret Brown, publisher, margaret@shelfmediagroup.com.

If you've got a self-published book, or know someone who does, this could be a perfect opportunity to get some exposure among the over 100,000 readers. The entry fee is pretty low, and your book just might be one of the five that gets highlighted. The top book also receives a year's worth of full-page ads in the magazine.

What contests have you entered with your writing? Even if you didn't win, did you feel like the entry process was a productive exercise?

Smackdown With Your Inner Editor

Do you wrestle with your inner editor? Do your eyes wander over the last paragraph you wrote, unable to rest until you've eliminated the little red squigglys under each word? Do you find it easier to spend your precious writing time analyzing previous pages than writing new words?

It's time for a smackdown.

Your creative side loves to explore new worlds and uncharted territory. Your analytical side wants to fix everything and make it logical. Unfortunately, to do both at the same time makes for a double-minded writer.

I've gathered a great crop of resources from other writers who have tackled this issue. They haven't solved it, but some of their advice might be exactly what you need to try to keep your editor at bay--at least until your manuscript is finished and it's time to let him or her out from exile.

 One thing I do when my inner editor won't keep quiet is to write in the dark. Yes, it's messy, but effective. Computer users can also choose a font color that matches your screen color so your words will be invisible, or dim your screen to black. Don't forget to save, though! If you have a desktop with a wireless keyboard, move across the room from your screen. Here are some more tips:

Mandy Houk, member of Pikes Peak Writers, shares a great visual for writers to understand what the inner editor does to our confidence.

Cassie Mae, at The Writer's Dojo, gives four practical tips for shutting off the inner editor. I really like her color idea.

Tina Radcliffe over at Seekerville, wowed me with her unauthorized cheat sheet of self-editing tips. I'll be using tip #4 to create my own 'weasel words' list.

The Nanowrimo blog has a post on A 7-Step Guide to Big Picture Revision (With Bonus Checklists!). I love using highlighters to help me visualize what's missing--or overdone.

And finally, Entrepreneur offers a list of ten words to cut from your writing. Super fast and easy fixes to get your manuscript into shape.

Have you found anything useful for keeping your inner editor locked up? Or is yours particularly well-behaved?

A good day for a smile: making fun of the writing & publishing process

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It's an unusually rainy day here in Colorado. Most of our rain comes in buckets (we call them 'gullywashers'), and they're over quickly. Today we're enjoying steady rain, which we need, but there's the threat of mudslides due to the damage caused by the Waldo Canyon Fire. The steep mountain pass between my home and my sons' orthodontist could easily be blocked my mud and ash. Hopefully, we'll make it down and back!

Today I have three links for you that should make you smile.

The first one is from author (and former agent) Nathan Bransford (who I posted about a while ago). His blog is a worthwhile one to read. This particular one is Bransford's take on the publishing process, though he adds an extra twist by sharing it in .gif form (that means short video snippets to illustrate his points). Having experienced both the agent and author's sides of publishing, Bransford's insights are completely accurate. I dare you to read it without grinning.

The second one is for all those writers of fantasy. It comes from Dragon Writing Prompts, a great site to visit. This post is a fantasy novelist's exam. The idea is to ask yourself the questions to determine whether your fantasy manuscript is derivative or cliche. Even if you don't write fantasy, the questions will make you chuckle. Like this one:

56. Does anybody in your novel fight for two hours straight in full plate armor, then ride a horse for four hours, then delicately make love to a willing barmaid all in the same day?
 The third link is a post from my hilarious friend, Evangeline Denmark, who waits along with many of us for that elusive publishing contract in her post Drama Much?
Anyway, I hope you have a great day, and a drier one than mine. How do you keep laughing while you're waiting?

Free Resources for Making Book Trailers

Thank you to all who have sent good wishes and prayers for my family. A dear family member is in the hospital, but the prognosis is improving, and we're out of ICU. I appreciate all the wonderful messages!
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A while back I posted a series of resources on book trailers. That post included a whole bunch of links for authors who wanted to create their own trailer to raise awareness of their books. There are how-tos for iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, and PhotoStory3, among others.

Recently, Dianne E. Butts, who guest-posted recently about creating an online newspaper from your tweets, found a free online service that allows writers to create professional looking book trailers without having to be knowledgeable about a particular software program.

In her post, Butts explains her experience with the program, and provides the trailers she made with it. Like many online programs, users can pay a fee to access more features. It looks like a great alternative to paying someone else to craft a trailer, and a good option for authors too busy to learn a new skill.

How about you? Would you make a book trailer yourself? Do you think they even make a difference? Has a book trailer ever influenced your decision to read a book, or has it cemented the choice you've already made?


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