Flash Fiction Contest

Creative Writing Institute Short Story Contest 2017

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This is the greatest opportunity for publication you will ever have.

Welcome to Creative Writing Institute’s annual short story contest. This is going to be our biggest and best contest yet. In a small fee-based contest like this, the competition is much less and your chances of winning are much greater. Our fee is the price of a Starbucks’s cup of coffee and it helps subsidize our nonprofit charity contest, so invest in us and at the same time invest in yourself.

Publication: we will publish the first, second and third place winners, two honorable mentions, and ten additional Judge’s Pick stories in our fifth annual anthology, along with best-selling guest authors and stories written by Creative Writing Institute’s staff. Enjoy the competition. Join the fun!

Judge’s Pick: you may be asking what a “Judge’s Pick” story is. That is a story that impressed a judge so much that he/she nominated it for publication, even though it was not a winning entry. A very high commendation for the author!

First place:

* $150 and Gold eMedal OR a free, privately tutored writing course valued at $260

Second place:

* $100 and Silver eMedal OR $200 applied toward a privately tutored writing course

Third place:

* $50 and Bronze eMedal OR $125 applied toward a privately tutored writing course

Fourth and Fifth place:

* Honorable Mention eMedal

In addition, we will publish ten Judge’s Pick stories.

For the First Time — the Lucky Draw!

We would like to express our gratitude to Microsoft and TechSoup for donating a Norton AntiVirus Package for five computers, valid for one year. *The Norton Package will only open in the USA, but that’s fine. You have 15 other opportunities to win!

eMedals: You will love the classy eMedals. Make them any size you want. Post them on your site and on social media!

Revealing our Cover: for the first time, we are revealing our cover for the next anthology, which will be titled LOST. (You can see the enlarged picture at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.)

The theme sentence is below the picture. Be sure to use it in your story.

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“I am completely and utterly lost.”

  • Open genre
  • One prize per person
  • Entry fee: $5 per submission
  • Submit each story individually
  • Word limit is 1,500 to 2,000 words.
  • Story may not have been published before.
  • No swearing, profanity, explicit sexual scenes, graphic violence, etc.
  • Your story must include this theme sentence: “I am completely and utterly lost.”
  • Winners agree to minor editing rights and will grant first, non-exclusive, electronic rights.
  • All Rights return to the author upon publication.
  • Accepting submissions until August 31, 2017, midnight, USA Eastern Standard Time.
  • Apply the theme sentence to an emotional state, a physical location, fighting illness, or any other application that comes to mind.
  • Copy and paste your document into https://CreativeWritingInstitute.submittable.com/submit.

Do NOT send your submission as an email attachment. We will not open it. Direct questions to head judge Jianna Higgins, at jianna.higgins@gmail.com.

 

NEW 2016 ANTHOLOGY Win $10 Gift Card!

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Get thirty short stories written by short story contest winners, invited best-selling writers, contest finalists, judges, CWI staff, and guests! The perfect gift for relatives, readers and writers. For a chance to win a FREE  $10   Amazon gift card, share this ad on Facebook  Dec. 6. Every time you share it, your name goes into a drawing. We will draw THREE winners at midnight Dec. 6, EST. Winners will be announced at www.CWInst.com. Get the new anthology, called EXPLAIN, at http://amzn.to/2gQiKCH.

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How to Win a Short Story Contest

 

Secrets of Winning a Writing Contest
by Bob Bruggemann

If you want to win a contest, the first thing you must do is follow the guidelines. Many submissions are disqualified because they don’t meet all the requirements. If the rules state a maximum of 1,000 words, a 1,025-word story, however brilliant, will hit the trash. (Do not include the title or byline in the word count.)

If the contest calls for G-rated material (which means no swearing, vulgarities, or erotica) and your entry contains just one swear word, it will be discarded. If you are in question as to whether a word will be considered a swear word, don’t use it or write to ms.jo@cwinst.com and ask.

Assuming you follow the guidelines, the judges will look at the following four elements.

  • Originality
  • Creativity
  • Style
  • Technique

Originality

Some contests give you a theme, such as, “Wedding Day.” What’s the first story idea that comes to mind? Whatever it is, forget it. You can bet everyone else will have thought of it, too. A large percentage of submissions will be so similar that the competition will be fierce, but if you use an original angle, the judges will love it.

Creativity

Don’t wrack your brain for an idea. Relax. Get your conscious, critical mind out of the way and allow ideas to bubble up from your subconscious. In other words, daydream.

Ask yourself who, what, when, where, why, how, and ‘what if?’ Let your train of thought go where it will. Before long, you’ll have an idea for a unique story.

Style

In short story contests, you’ll never wrong with the KISS method: (Keep It Simple, Sweetie.)
Don’t try to impress the judges with $3 words. Like any other reader, they want a story that is easy to read.

Every sentence must move the story forward. The reader doesn’t want flowery descriptions of a rose garden in the moonlight. He/she wants to know what the girl is doing there at two in the morning and what will happen next. Stick to the point.

Technique

A short story contest calls for three distinct parts: the beginning, middle, and end. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The beginning introduces the main character and the action and what the story is about. The middle develops the theme and keeps the reader hooked. The ending must be believable, resolve the problems, and leave the reader satisfied.

Above all, don’t overlook simple formatting rules.

  • Make a new paragraph for every new speaker
    · Single space your short story and indent paragraphs
    · Run the spellchecker!
    · Watch your punctuation

Last, but not least: write an original story specifically for the contest – but assuming you don’t follow that good advice, at least rewrite your story to fit the guidelines.

Creative Writing Institute’s annual short story contest is now in session and accepting entries until September 15, 2016. This is a small contest and your chances of winning are good. Invest in yourself and get your entry ready! For details and submission instructions, visit http://CreativeWritingInstitute.submittable.com/.

Prizes: First prize is $100, a first place eMedal and publication in the 2016 anthology.

Second prize is $50, a second place eMedal and publication in the 2016 anthology.

Third place is $25, a third place eMedal and publication in the 2016 anthology.

*We will also recognize honorable mentions and several “Judge’s Picks,” which means the story didn’t place, but at least one judge really liked it and it will be published in our anthology. Judge’s Pick winners will receive a Judge’s Pick ribbon.

Above all, have fun! Hey! Wait a minute! “Like” us before you go, will you?

See guidelines at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

Short Story Contest Winners Announced!

SHORT STORY WINNERS ANNOUNCED

A hearty congratulations to the winners, finalists, honorable mentions, guests and staff who contributed to Creative Writing Institute’s 2nd Annual Anthology, which will be on sale in December. Thank you for becoming part of our history. You will notice some of the winners have an asterisk by them. That indicates their story was chosen by a judge as a “judge’s pick,” which is a high honor. And now – our list of winners!

You can read the top three winning stories  here:

1st place winner: The Devil and Mrs. Morgan by Marsha Porter: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/the-devil-and-mrs-morgan-by-marsha-porter-1st-prize-winner/

2nd place winner: This Woman’s Right by Brian Staff: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/this-womans-right-by-brian-staff/

 Reading the Leaves by Gargi Mehra: https://deborahowen.wordpress.com/reading-the-leaves-by-gargi-mehra-3rd-place-winner/

1st place: The Devil and Mrs. Morgan by Marsha Porter

2nd place: This Woman’s Right by Brian Staff

3rd place: Reading the Leaves by Gargi Mehra

4th place: * Yogatta be Kidding Me by Sue Nickerson

5th place: * Pages of You by Tricia Seabolt  

Honorable Mentions

*You – Ivadell Brower

*Egot and the Trident of the Pond King by J. Lenni Dorner

By any other Name by M. Bulechek

Read to Me by Joan Bassington-French

Lana’s Sister by Diane Maciejewski

Revelation by Summer Jones

*Mad Artist by Robert Marazas

Aftermath by Mark Trudel

Striking Out by Brenda Anderson

The Truth in Names by Sarah Dayan

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Writing Tips

Author Unknown

1. If you don’t take your writing time seriously, don’t expect anyone else to.
2. Analyze other writings and learn to endorse them into your own style. Reading is an absolute must if you want your writing to grow.
3. Professional writers have the skin of a rhinoceros. There is no place for thin-skinned and timorous writers. Accept all constructive feedback and don’t it personally. Treat all critiques like gold. Put a big note near your computer – CRITICISM = OPPORTUNITY.
4. Educate yourself with writing courses, seminars, writer’s workshops, networking, and conferences. The actual writing is only a small part of the big picture.
5. Know today’s market, timing and submissions – that’s what it’s all about.
6. Submit something every week. When one item reaps a rejection slip, have the next market all picked out and submit it again the very next day. Remember one thing – persistence, persistence, persistence.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

What is “Voice” and How Do You Use it?

Using Voice Effectively
by Deborah Owen

What do writers mean by “voice”? The voice, or point of view (POV), is the angle from which a story is viewed; every story and article has one. There are three types of POV and, while some are more preferred, no particular one is right or wrong.

* First person POV pronouns are: I, me, my, mine, we, us, our, and ours. New authors usually write in first person because they feel focused and closer to the story. First person draws the reader in, but it’s a limiting POV and is not the editor’s favorite.

There are two problems with first person POV. First, the constant use of “I” becomes trite. Second, the story’s character only knows what the writer knows, and cannot see from a different POV.

For example, if John says, “Susan is going to meet me at seven o’clock,” and in the meantime, Susan falls, breaks a leg, and lies helplessly on the floor, John will not know what happened to her until someone tells him. First person POV is better reserved for memoirs, journal entries, and specific stories.

* Second person POV pronouns are: you, (singular), you (plural), your, and yours. Example: “You must come with me to the Christmas play. You and I will have popcorn and lots of fun. Did you know your hat is on backwards?” As you can see, this point of view is even more limiting and never used.

* Third person POV pronouns are: he, his, she, hers, it, its, they, their, and theirs. There are two kinds of third person writing, omniscient, and limited. In third person omniscient, the readers are like flies on the wall and they can see into characters’ minds. This POV limits the suspense since the reader is left with few unanswered questions – but it’s easy to write because authors don’t have to work at “showing” the scene.

* Third person limited doesn’t show internal dialogue (thoughts) so the characters can’t foreknow anything. Like first person, the readers can see through the character’s eyes, but unlike first person, they can also see through the eyes of others.

In third person limited, the suspense builds as the writer shows the scene instead of telling it. The reader lives the story as the character lives it. Here is an example from Deborah Owen’s The Perfect Crime:

“Harrison slumped against the car, collapsed, and rolled in agony as he clutched his chest. Vision blurred, and then his eyes rolled back until they relaxed in a wide, empty stare.”

The sample doesn’t say the man had a heart attack and died, but you know it, don’t you? As you can see, even showing may have a little ‘telling’ in it.

Editors buy more third person limited than first person. Let your readers feel your characters instead of seeing them. Play with the various points of view until you’re comfortable writing all of them.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

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Struggles of New Writers

by Dr. Helen Tucker, CWI Counselor

I remember those early days as a new writer; desperate to express all those thoughts and feelings on paper but terrified that no one would want to hear what I had to say. There was also the fear of not knowing where to begin, not being creative enough, and the huge fear of failure.

I decided to take a writing course as a confidence booster. We covered a section on basic grammar and punctuation. The most useful learning point was to write something every day no matter what. I began to carry a notebook and pen. When travelling on public transport, I wrote snippets of conversation I overheard and observed people as unobtrusively as possible. Based on what I saw, I made up stories and before long; I had written a short book.

The next big step was submitting. The thought of it made my blood run cold. It took me days to send it and all I could think about afterwards was all the mistakes I had made. I was thrilled when I received a complimentary letter from the editor telling me my article would be published but even now, the waiting and wondering is stressful.

Have you heard of NaNoWriMo? It stands for National Novel Writing Month and takes place every November. Those who want to write a book are challenged to write 50,000 words during November, which is an average of 1,666 words a day. Perhaps you would like to participate next November. It’s something exciting to look forward to every year, and a great way to help you write daily.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

*Feel free to write to Dr. Helen at dr.helen@cwinst.com.

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WINNING WAYS

by Hugh Wilson

If you want to win a writing contest, the first thing you must do is study the rules. Many entries are disqualified because the story has not met every requirement, e.g. if the rules state a maximum of 1000 words, a 1200-word story, however brilliant, will go straight on the NO pile.

Assuming you’ve done that bit right, the judges will be looking at four elements:

• Originality

• Creativity

• Style

• Technique

Don’t let those official sounding words put you off. They are only words. Let’s look at each and see what they mean to us as writers.

Originality.

Think again. Winning stories come from second, third, tenth thoughts. Some contests give you a theme – “Wedding Day” for instance. What’s the first thought that comes to mind?

Forget it. You can bet your last dollar that everyone else will have thought it, too. A large percentage of submitted stories will be so similar that the judges will be tearing their hair out.

Make yours different, and they will love you.

Creativity

Don’t “wrack your brains” to get ideas. Relax, get your conscious, critical mind out of the way, and allow ideas to bubble up from your subconscious. In other words, daydream.

Ask yourself who, what, where, when, how, and “what if?” Let the trains of thought go where they will. Before long, you’ll have an idea for a story that is different.

What if that shy looking woman with people entering a church, where a wedding is about to take place, sits in the empty seats at the back?

At the reception, she avoids conversations, eats and drinks, then leaves.

Back in her lonely, one room apartment she scans the Forthcoming Marriages column in the local paper, to see where her next free food and wine is coming from.

Style

You won’t go far wrong if you remember three little words:

Keep it simple.

Don’t try to impress the judges with long, obscure words and “writerly” language. Like any other readers, they want a story that is easy to read.

Don’t stop to admire the view. Every sentence must move the story forward. The reader doesn’t want flowery descriptions of a rose garden in the moonlight. She wants to know what the girl is doing there at two in the morning, and what happens next.

Technique

A story has three distinct parts to think about: beginning, middle and end.

The beginning introduces the main character and what the story is about, so that the reader wants to know what happens.

The middle develops the theme, keeping the reader hooked.

The ending must be believable and leave the reader satisfied. Too many otherwise good contest entries simply stop when they reach the maximum word count, with no conclusion.

And finally…

Always write your story specifically for that contest. Don’t be tempted to re-cycle an old story in the hope it just might fit the contest’s requirements. It won’t.

Above all, enjoy writing it, and the chances are your readers will enjoy reading it.

Don’t forget to ‘like’ us before you leave. For more great tips, sign up for The Writer’s Choice Newsletter (for free) at http://cwinst.com/newslettersignup.php.

Scam Contests

Be Aware

By Karen Johnson Waugh

Beware of scam writing contests. Fraudulent contests have a modus Operandi. There are resourceful ways to judge their legitimacy.

Familiarize yourself with the hosting website. Scammers often claim to come from big companies. Beware if your win notice arrives from a free account like Hotmail or Gmail.

Scammers operate quickly. The “Dear Sir” generic salutations have been sent to thousands of others. Note that scammers outside the United States often make glaring errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation in the bogus winning notifications.

Never pay a fee to receive a prize. Use good sense. A legitimate contest will not have handling fees.

Prizes valued over $600.00 do require affidavits. Con artists lure the unsuspecting to use services like Western Union. Transfers are handled like cash. The scammers receive illicit funds and any money you sent cannot be retrieved. And… don’t be fooled by a phony check. You will get stuck paying fines and your bank account may be closed.

Legitimate fees: writing contests may have an entry fee or a reading fee. This provides the funds to supply prizes. The higher the entry fee, the better your chances are since there will be less entries, but competition will be higher. Some contests offer feedback on your entry for a small fee, usually not exceeding $15. If you’re a serious writer, it may be a worthwhile investment to have a judge share inside information.

You are a winner already by knowing the contests that are safe to enter! Creative Writing Institute invites you to enter our contests at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

Beware of Selling Your Rights

Learning about Writer’s Rights

by Deborah Owen

Most creative writers are so eager to sell their work that they don’t stop to consider what rights they are selling. “Rights” refers to how a publisher can use your work. “Rights” has nothing to do with what you are paid or the copyright of your work.

  • First North American Serial Rights − Known as FNASR, are the most common rights purchased. The purchasing magazine has the right to publish the author’s work for X amount of dollars, while the author grants the magazine permission to publish his story (or article) one time in North America. If you are offering these rights to a magazine, place “Offering First North American Serial Rights” at the top of the document.
  • One-Time Serial Rights – If you are simultaneously offering your story or article to several publications, place “One-Time Serial Rights” at the top of the page. This grants the first magazine that snaps up your work the right to publish your story or article one time.
  • Second Serial Rights – If you have previously sold the story or article, you will be offering Second Serial Rights to the next magazine. They will be able to publish your work once.
  • All Rights – Unless someone is hiring you to develop a piece of work for them (such as developing a course for a school) shudder at the sight of these rights. It means you are signing away “all rights” to whoever bought your work. You may never sell the work again, publish it, copy it, download it, or transfer it. You have no rights left whatsoever.
  • Work for Hire – This is another “right” that should cause you to shiver. Work for Hire can only exist in two ways: you have created a document as an independent contractor and you are selling the rights to it, or you are being paid as an employee and your work was created during your work time – which gives your boss all rights.
  • Non-Exclusive Rights – This one is not desirable either. Although the “rights” refer back to you after one year and you can sell the work again, the original buyer may continue to use it and reproduce it in syndication without sharing the profits with you.
  • Exclusive Rights – If you sign these rights, you have given away the farm. An example of this would be Associated Content and other like places that assume full rights when they buy your work. You will not be able to reproduce it or sell it again. It’s gone. Ker-plunk! Down the toilet.
  • One-Time Rights – You can sell one-time rights simultaneously to as many people as you want. Columnists use this right to sell their articles to multiple markets.

As you can see, there is only the difference of a hair’s breadth on some of these rights. There are many more types of rights, so understand them thoroughly before you sign on the dotted line.

Keep this article in your safe and don’t sign anything without referring to it!

If you liked this article, be sure to follow our blog here on WordPress! You can also find links for our Facebook and Twitter pages at our website: www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

Learning How to Deal with Rejection

You’re Not Alone

by Deborah Owen

Creative writers have a hard time dealing with criticism – constructive or otherwise. After all, our written words are our babies, and how dare anyone criticize or edit them! Right? Wrong. That is a beginner’s belief (and, of course, you may be a beginner). When you can ask for, receive, and apply constructive feedback, you have made the first huge leap to successful writing.

One of the best ways to do this is to join a writing club. There are dozens of them, but two of the best are writing.com (larger) and mywritersgroup.com (smaller). You can publish your stories on the site and let other writers read and rate them. Then it’s your turn to visit their port, read, and rate their articles.

Will anyone hurt your feelings? Probably. But what doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. And if anyone gets downright nasty with you, report him or her to the site’s headmaster. Rude critiques are never welcome on either of these sites, but once in a while it happens.

For example, many years ago I had one story that consistently drew a five star rating, but one day a woman rated it one star and wrote this message: “If you really want to be a good writer, you need to read good authors so you’ll know what good writing is. I rated your story one star only because I couldn’t rate it one-half star, but I admit I only read the first paragraph.”

I felt like a wooly worm, squished by a dump truck full of manure. I didn’t know I should have turned her in, so I licked my wounds and stayed quiet, but a supervisor happened by my site and saw the message. She told the headmaster, who wrote to the woman and banned her from ever reviewing anyone again. As for me, the damage was done. I didn’t accept another critique for a year, but I learned two things.

1 – Pay no attention to rude people with swollen heads.

2 – Write snappy first paragraphs!

A year later I received another critique which read, “I hope you’ll receive this critique in the spirit in which it is given as I only want to help you.” My defenses dropped like a rock. The point is – criticism can seriously wound a new writer – and genuine help can heal a wounded writer. To this day, I accept 95% of all critiques. At first I did it as an experiment, but when my ratings soared, I did it because I knew I was learning.

Dealing with rejection is a part of every writer’s life. Learn who to share your work with. Don’t let family members or friends (who are not published writers) read your work. They don’t know what they’re talking about and they’ll run over you rough shod. It’s much easier to learn from strangers.

When you try to sell your work, you’ll receive rejection slips. Keep them. I know one woman who made a collage out of hers and saved the middle space on her wall for her first acceptance slip.

Rejection is a continual learning process. Ultimately, you will either grow a thick hide or get out of the writing business.

If you liked this article, be sure to follow our blog here on WordPress! You can also find links for our Facebook and Twitter pages at our website: www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

How to Develop a Story

A Step-by-Step Rundown 

by Deborah Owen

There are many ways to form a story in your mind, but I have developed a unique approach that almost writes the story for you. Keeping in mind that every story must have plot, conflict, and resolution (not necessarily in that order) – I build the conflict first, then the resolution, and then the lead in. Notice I didn’t say the “plot”. The plot will develop by itself with this method.

Step 1

I’ll make up a story right now, as I type, to show you the process. I’m starting in the middle of my story because I’ll get into the action quicker, I’ll be able to identify most of the characters quickly, and the plot will develop more easily. FIRST, I’ll begin with the action scene that comes in the middle. I have no idea what it will be. I’ll think about high drama and tension and start there. (90 seconds of thinking.)

I will make this story about two abused children, a sister about aged 9 and her brother, aged 5. My mind begins with the action scene where an enraged stepfather chases them through a forest. They are hiding in a tiny washout in a bank that is covered by tree roots. They found it when the little boy sat down, leaned against the roots and fell into it.

The stepfather races through the forest, loudly calling their names. Gasping for air, he sits down and leans against the same tree, not three feet from where they are hiding. The children hold their breath in fear, lest he should fall into the hole and discover them.

Step 2

Okay. The anti-climax is done and my mind is thoroughly into the story. Next, I’ll create the ending. (Pause – thinking.) The children will come across a village they didn’t know existed. The people who live there dress in strange clothes, like a throwback in time.  They see a man who is a shoe cobbler, and a woman wearing wooden shoes that clack their way down the street.

The children run to the shoe cobbler and pant out their story to him. The cobbler alerts the townspeople that a huge, fierce man is coming and that he intends to harm the children. The townspeople hold a hurried meeting and decide to lay a trap to snare him.

The man walks into the trap, is caught, and put on trial. The people are merciless. In their eyes, there is no greater crime than abusing children. In such cases, they feel that ridding the earth of such a vile person is commendable – and they are commendable people. They hang him. The children live with the shoe cobbler and his wife, and they spend the rest of their natural lives with the townspeople.

Developing the lead will be easy now. What I want you to see is that jumping into a tragic scene mentally will naturally lead you to the number of characters you must have and who they are.

Step 3

Next, I have to answer some questions for the reader, such as, where is the mother all this time? My easy answer is that she’s dead. I can either state that or show it. Next, I have to tell my reader what happened to the natural father, and how the stepfather came into the picture. Or – I have a new idea. Maybe the real father is chasing them, but not to harm them. He’s trying to rescue them and their mother (who is no longer dead). Let’s suppose the mother married the stepfather because her first husband was supposedly killed in war, but now he’s back, trying to rescue her.

That puts the story into a happier mode, and it makes for a better plot. I’ll go with that. So the father is chasing them all this time, but the children think it is the stepfather, so they’re hiding in their little hole and waiting until he leaves. (Note the irony of having the father so near the children, and neither knows the other is there), and then they run to the village. The village people ensnare their father, thinking he is the stepfather who is trying to harm the children, but just before the hanging, the children see it is their father and he takes them home to their mother and they live happily ever after. Now I have to figure out what happened to the stepfather.

This is a very good way to build a story. I call it the DeBowen Story technique. Start writing in the middle of the climax scene, complete the story, and go back to write the introduction. Answer the questions of who, where, why, what, and how, and join it all together. It’s that simple.

The second ending I thought of at the last minute is better than the first because it has a twist, and because it has irony. Both of these are good writing tools.

There is something noteworthy here, and that is, you must always let the reader feel satisfied at the end of the story. That’s why you see very few stories with a sad ending. If you don’t satisfy your reader, they won’t want to read anything else you write.

This kind of story will run about 2,000 words. It will require two main characters (the real father and the oldest child). It will need at least three minor characters (the mother, little boy, and shoe cobbler). That’s an awful lot to cram into 2,000 words, but it can be done.

This DeBowen writing method will work for you every time. Try it. Let me know if you like the approach. And don’t forget to head over to www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com to find out about our creative writing courses! Don’t forget to “like” and rate us before you go, and thanks for stopping by! Deb

The Secret of Weaving Themes, Arcs, and Resolutions

Themes, Arcs, and Resolutions
by Deborah Owen, CEO Creative Writing Institute

Creative writing calls for all the talent you can muster. If you wonder what it takes to become a writer, think about whether you can write a decent informal letter. If so, you can learn to write. Writing is a learned skill. We have yet to see a baby born with a pen in its hand.

Theme

What is a theme? It is the one thing you want the reader to remember when they have finished reading. The theme is the undercurrent from the beginning to the end, but is never spoken outright. Gone With the Wind is a story of manipulation. Moby Dick centers on revenge. Pinocchio is a story of morals. The Ten Commandments is about choices and judgment. What is your story’s theme?

Every sentence must point to it. If you’re writing imagery or scenery, weave it into the theme. For example, if you’re writing a romance story and your opening scene has snow and Christmas lights, the scene should build to something that connects with romance. You could, for instance, use it to introduce a character or a situation that will tie into the deeper story.

But beware. If the snowfall adds nothing to the atmosphere, delete it. If you have a dog in the story and its purpose is to show a person’s loving kindness, (part of characterization), that’s fine, but if the pooch has no purpose for being there, delete it.

Build your story to a climax and let it unfold in a cataclysm. The dialogue must create the right mood. Some of the dialogue may seemingly relate to something else, but in the scheme of things, it should point to characterization, setting, or plot.

Using the romance theme, let’s suppose you have a scene where two neighbors are gossiping over the back fence. How could the gossiping scene relate to romance?

• It could introduce a new character
• It could build the characterization of an existing personality
• It could shift the scene to a closer part of the theme
• It could show “discovery” (something the reader doesn’t know)
• It could “foreshadow” an event (a precursor to the event)

What is Arcing?

Arcing is the rise and fall of the story. As you weave the theme, natural questions will emerge and you must answer them. Questions are little trails that lead to an unnamed destination. They wind upward, increase the reader’s interest, and elevate emotions to a fever pitch. The climax scene (sometimes called the plot scene) should fall between the half and two-thirds mark. This is the highest pitch of emotions, the turning point where you solve problems and show that good overcomes evil. The first part of a story is “flat.” The middle arcs (elevates to a high point). The conclusion resolves to a flat line again.

What is a Resolution?

Note that the end of the story ties up all the loose ends and stops at a higher plane than where the story began. That’s because the reader becomes one with the characters, and becomes involved in their motivation and desires.

Intertwine one piece of the puzzle with another until all the pieces mesh together to form the whole picture. This is called weaving. A writer is an artist that paints words on paper and waits for someone to open the cover and discover the picture within. As with all paintings, develop each picture methodically and with purpose.

Resolve the story by answering every question you have raised. Tie it up in a neat little bundle and in the end, the reader won’t have questions.

Please take a moment to “like” us and make a comment. Thanks! Find more great tips in The Writer’s Choice Newsletter at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, the only school that assigns a personal tutor to every student.

How to Edit – 15 Steps

15 Quick Editing Steps to Rewrite Success

by Deborah Owen

Editing is another name for rewriting, and rewriting can only come once you’ve finished. Once that’s done, each round of editing should accomplish a specific purpose.

Follow these 15 quick editing steps to find out how.

1. Do some warm-up writing for ten minutes before you begin editing. During this time, write about something that makes you mad… perhaps an old flame, something an old boyfriend or girlfriend did, a spanking you unjustly received—anything that will stir your emotions and creativity. When your creative juices are flowing, you can critique you own work better.

2. Keep your eye on the goal. Refer back to the rough outline you used as the basis for your first draft. (What? You didn’t use an outline? No wonder you’re reading this article.) Be sure you’ve included all the initial points you wanted to make.

3. Check for linear flow (order of events). Don’t try flashbacks unless you know what you’re doing.

4. Don’t tell what your character is thinking. SHOW it with action, demonstration, or dialogue. Keep in mind that showing always takes three to five times more words than telling. That’s okay, as long as it’s meaty.

Example of Telling
: I’m so nervous, Jennifer thought as she saw the doctor approach. (Boo… hiss… bad writing)

Showing: Jennifer picked on her thumbnail as the doctor approached with furrowed brow. Noises in the room amplified. Did his strides grow longer? Was everyone looking at her? Tick. Tick. Tick. The clock chimed six and echoed in her head. A tiny drop of blood pushed to the thumb’s surface as she pulled the nail into the quick. The stabbing pain was a welcome diversion.

5. Edit for excessive wordiness, also known as verbiage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines verbiage as “profusion of words, usually of little or obscure content.” In other words, excess words say nothing. Cut your sentences until they bleed. Use only one adjective at a time. Chop your descriptions down to that which relates directly to the scene and leave only the most necessary. When you delete a favorite phrase, copy it and save it in a file for another day.

6. Delete all adverbs ending in -ly, such as sadly, hatefully, etc. The use of adverbs is a sure indicator that you aren’t engaging the technique called Show, Don’t Tell. (See #4)

7. Sentence tags: Don’t use “said she” or “said he.” Turn those words around to read “he said” and “she said.” Delete most tag endings, such as “she said with a snicker.” If you have sufficiently built your characters and the scene, the reader will know the attitudes on display.

8. Check the verbs and replace them with jazzier ones. Examples:

• He choked until he couldn’t breathe – He hawked until he couldn’t breathe.
• The little girl ran down the sidewalk – The little girl skipped down the sidewalk.
• The boy hit the ball out of the park – The boy whanged the ball out of the park.

Jazzing your verbs (choosing more active verbs) will make your work glow!

9. Douse as many forms of the verb “to be” as possible. That includes is, am, are, was, were, be, being and been. These are dead verbs that say nothing. According to Wikipedia, allowed forms are: become, has, have, had (use sparingly), I’ve, you’ve, do, does, doing, did, can, could, will, would, shall, should, ought, may, might and must. The fact that they are allowed, however, does not make them desirable. Get rid of as many as possible because they weaken sentence structure. Likewise, using “could” and “would” will drop you into a trap that you’ll find hard to escape.

10. Watch for tense changes. If you begin in past tense, the entire story must be written in past tense, with two exceptions – one of which you should never use.

 The first exception is dialogue, and that’s because people speak in mixed tenses – present, past, and future.

 The second is internal dialogue (thoughts). That throws it into the omniscient voice and editors consider it a lazy writer’s way of telling what they should be showing. Don’t use it.

11. Follow the rules for prepositional phrases – no more than three to a sentence, and avoid using more than two in consecutive order. Prepositions are easy to identify. Some of the most common are: in, on, at, to, for, under, before, but there are hundreds. Find a partial list of them here: http://www.englishclub.com/grammar/prepositions-list.htm.

Pick out the ones you use most and avoid them like the plague. Prepositional phrases usually tell when or where, such as: “I will meet you IN the afterlife,” or “He told his daughter to go INTO the house.” Consecutive prepositional phrases make weak sentence construction. Note: If you begin a sentence with a prepositional phrase, place a comma at the end of it (just as I did in this sentence.)

12. Punctuation:

 Space ONCE after a period.
 For writing in the USA, most punctuation (except the colon and sometimes the question mark) lies within the quote marks. Check to see that all of your quotes are closed.
 Don’t use a semi-colon unless it is before the words “however” or “therefore,” (in which case, use a comma immediately after those words).
 Don’t use colons except to list things: recipes, items of clothing, kinds of perfume, etc.
 Use commas to separate two clauses into a compound sentence, between city and state, and to offset introductory prepositional phrases.
 Don’t use more than one exclamation mark per every 2,000 words!!!
 Learn to use the ellipsis (three dots) properly. Remember, the ellipsis represents a pause or interruption in the sentence. It’s easy to overuse these little devils. If you find yourself falling into that trap, use a dash instead and insert a space on each side of it.

Rules for using the ellipsis:

a. When used at the beginning of a sentence: “(space)…And that’s all he said.”
b. In the middle of a sentence: “I hated to tell you that…(space) I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”
c. At the end of a sentence, use four dots: “I didn’t want to tell you….” (Some people speak partial phrases and don’t intend to complete them. In such cases, use four dots. The fourth dot acts as a period at the end of the sentence… or some the period is the first dot and the ellipsis follows. It makes a nice theological debate.)

13. Use the spellchecker, but don’t totally rely on it. If you use homophones such as “right” when you meant “write,” or “blew” instead of “blue,” it won’t catch the error. To be safe, scan for mistakes after you use the spellchecker.

14. Check your formatting. Most places request a double-spaced body and indented paragraphs. When the dialogue changes from one speaker to the next, start a new paragraph.

15. Lastly, ask a friend to read your article aloud while you note places you want to change. This is the best way to get clear perspective on what you’ve written. If you don’t have someone to read it aloud, YOU read it aloud—but be careful to read exactly what’s written and not what your mind wants to insert. Hint: Stumbling over a sentence usually indicates awkward wording. Rewrite it.

Of course, the main rule is to follow the publisher’s guidelines, but when those are lacking, these 15 steps will produce crisp, easy-to-understand writing that is stuffed with meat. What reader can resist that?

Don’t forget to click “like” before you leave! Happy day! Deb

Learn more at www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

Writers – Enter Contests! Join the Excitement!

Contest and Writers Go Hand in Hand

OUR ANTHOLOGY CONTEST ENDS 2/28/13 AT MIDNIGHT, EST. HURRY! See details at the bottom.

My first competition was the Writer’s Digest contest. You would think a beginner would know better than to enter a huge contest, but I was naïve. I proved that ignorance can truly be bliss. Truth be known, I wouldn’t have expected to win if there had been only 100 entries. Most writers have these kinds of insecurities, so I’ve concluded that such humility (or some may call it fear) is a self-defense mechanism, a balm for the disappointment of not winning.

Thus, my entry was an act of futility – a dash for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a quest for the Irish shamrock. I entered for the fun of it because I had a very unique story that I told from a very cool angle.

Months later, I received a large manila envelope from Writer’s Digest. Inside was a certificate for Honorable Mention. I stared at it in shock, and then read the accompanying letter that congratulated me for surpassing 16,000 entries. I sat dumbfounded, and stared at the Honor Award with newfound respect.

I learned a lot that day. I learned that it’s worth investing a few bucks to take a chance, and that taking chances can lead to new and exciting adventures. I learned that no matter how the deck is stacked, I still have a chance of winning. I learned that I would have never had that wonderful moment in my life if I hadn’t thrown caution to the wind and invested $15. And I have since learned that investing in myself increases my faith in my own writing abilities.

I also learned that it takes a unique story, told from a unique angle, to win a prize. Entering that one contest gave me the courage to enter others.

As a writer, you will know when you hit upon a unique idea or angle, and when you do, don’t waste it on a magazine submission. Save it for a contest. (As contestants can only enter unpublished material.)

If you have not entered contests, you’re missing a lot of fun. There are multiplied dozens of writer’s groups online, and most if not all of them have writing contests. Or you can search the word “writing contests” and come up with zillions to enter.

Look for these three things:

• Reading fees
• Entry fees
• Deadline

Fees generally total from $20 to $35 (although most of Creative Writing Institute’s contests are free). Contests that award huge prizes will cost more, as the entry fees subsidize the awards.

Don’t be hasty. Choose your contests wisely and enter at least twice a year. Placing in one contest will fire you up for months to come. Dig out the best story you have, render a few edits, and see for yourself what entering contests will do for you.

You’re worth it. Go ahead. Take a chance. Jump into adventure! TWENTY-FOUR HOURS BEFORE OUR ANTHOLOGY CONTEST ENDS on 2/28/13. HURRY! TEN WINNERS. NO FEE. CASH PRIZES. Check it out at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com. And thanks for “liking” us before you leave!

Anthology Contest Closes 2/28/13

WRITING CONTEST

TEN WINNERS! IT ISN’T TOO LATE!

Stories must be 1,000 – 1,750 words and may be any genre, but the following sentence must appear in the story: “Tonight we re-write the rules… ”

CASH PRIZES! NO FEES. Three cash winners and seven additional Judge’s Choice stories will receive publication in our first anthology and Ebook, entitled “OVERRULED!”

Accepting submissions until 2/28/13, USA EST.

Learn more at https://CreativeWritingInstitute.submittable.com/submit. Hurry! There’s still time. See your story in print!

Sponsored by Creative Writing Institute, the only school that gives you a private tutor.

Enter a Writing Contest! Get Brave!

The Pros and Cons of Entering a Writing Contest

by Ariel Pakizer, Volunteer Staff

Should you enter a writing contest? Most writers would like to, but stifle that desire by convincing themselves they aren’t good enough. It’s one thing to analyze your writing and know that you aren’t a Thoreau or Stephen King, but it’s another to think so little of your talent that you won’t enter a contest.

Rejection is a fearsome thing – particularly when you’re not used to it. Writing clubs can help prepare you for contesting. Check out writing.com and mywriterscircle.com. The former is a larger site and the latter is much smaller. Both are good. Both will give you opportunities to post your work and receive comments. You should reciprocate by doing the same, but now you may be thinking you’re not good enough to enter a contest AND you aren’t good enough to critique someone else’s work.

These are low self-esteem feelings. Recognize them as such, push them out of the way, and get on with life. Like everybody else, you’ll learn as you go.

Writing groups hold various kinds of contests. The prizes are small, but the point is, this is a good place to learn. If you’re ready to venture forth into contesting, GOOD FOR YOU! Search “writing contests” on the net and you’ll find all you want. The trick becomes, how do you sort through them? Which ones should you enter? Use this as a guide:

• Watch out for contest scams. Some places will ask for a $50 entry fee, and virtually all of the entrants will receive a letter telling them they have won. When the “winner” replies, the scammer will want another $20 for a biography, and later on you can pay a little more then win the grand-prize. The “winners” are told their work will appear in an anthology (collection of short stories or poetry), but of course, you have to buy it and do your best to sell them to friends and neighbors. If they sell for .99 cents, no problem, but some anthologies are quite expensive. Use common sense.
• Follow directions to a tee – or be disqualified.
• Enter smaller contests for a better chance at winning. Larger contests, such as Writer’s Digest, may have over 16,000 entries.
• What you should expect to pay: your entry and reading fee should be all you have to pay. These fees are what subsidize the awards, and are therefore necessary. Contest fees range from free to $100 per entry. A lot depends on the value of the prizes
• Winning the lottery is much akin to winning a writing contest. Against all odds, even when you think you don’t deserve to win – you may. Winning a contest is better than selling a story. Don’t cheat yourself out of this great learning experience.

Choose the contest that best suits you and your pocketbook and go for it! Contests usually come out in the spring and fall, so plan to gamble on yourself twice a year, if for nothing more than the fun of it. You’re worth it!

And by the way, Creative Writing Institute is holding its first Anthology Contest. NO FEE. CASH PRIZES! TEN WINNERS! This is one contest you don’t want to miss! Follow guidelines at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com. Hey… don’t forget to click on the title and “like” us before you leave. Thanks!

5 Reasons Why You Should Take a Writing Course

Writing Courses Motivate, Stimulate, and Imitate Life
by Deborah Owen

ANTHOLOGY CONTEST NOW IN SESSION- No fee – Cash prizes
See Creative Writing Institute for details.

We creative writers are an odd bunch. Sometimes we can write. Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes we need inspiration. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we really feel like a writer. Other times we feel like we’re playing at writing.

For all you wannabe writers, if you can sit down and write about a picnic, a family function you attend, or a dream you have – you can be a writer! You just have to learn to channel your abilities in the right direction. The writing trade isn’t that hard to learn. No one is born with a pen in their hand. Writing is a learned trade.

• Do you want to be something more than you are? Look inside and what do you see? A new self trying to morph? How would you really like to evolve into that person? There is no better way to do it than through a writing course. As you learn to create characters and look at the world through their eyes, you will drift into a new dimension. Every piece of research, every piece of creativity will broaden your horizons and open your mind to new challenges. Become something you aren’t. Dare to see what you can be.

• Are your writing skills gathering rust? Wouldn’t you like the muse to stir until it compels you to write? Sometimes it takes a writing course to overcome the tediousness of daily life and help set a new routine. Do yourself a favor. March out the rhythm of your life to the beat of a writing course drum.

• Or perhaps you are an advanced writer. Maybe you think you would be bored in a class, and that you might not learn anything new. If that is the case, a wordsmithing course would be perfect for you. Learn to dissect the work of the masters so you can apply their secrets! Or perhaps you should branch out into a new field, if only for the experience of producing new zeal. Stretch yourself. If you have always written romance, change to writing for children, horror, sci-fi, or fantasy – there is so much to learn! The point is, don’t stagnate where you are. Grow by taking a writing course.

• Do you dangle your participles like worms? Do you split infinitives like wood? Do you even know what dangling participles and split infinitives are? Do you need a refresher course in punctuation? We have that, too.

• And there is one more good reason to take a writing course – to prove everyone wrong who doesn’t believe in you. Gain new stability in your life by believing in yourself. Sometimes you have to encourage yourself when no one else will. Take a writing course and put lift in your life.

Any way you look at it, a writing course is a good choice. It will motivate you, stir you, teach you, and expand your horizons. Learn how to create your own world, do it properly, and get paid for it. This is the best time of year to catch great writing course specials. Don’t see a special at Creative Writing Institute? Ask for one! Write to deborahowen@cwinst.com.

How to Win a Contest

Inside Contest Tips and Tricks You May Not Know
by Hugh Wilson, Volunteer Staff Writer for Creative Writing Institute

If you want to win a writing contest, the first thing you must do is study the rules, which are called guidelines. Many entries are disqualified because the story has not met every requirement, e.g. if the rules state a maximum of 1000 words, an 1150-word story, however brilliant, will be disqualified.

Assuming you’ve done that bit right, the judges will be looking at four elements:

• Originality
• Creativity
• Style
• Technique

Let’s look at each and see what they mean to us as writers.

Originality

Winning stories come from second, third, tenth thoughts. Some contests give you a theme – “Wedding Day” for instance. What’s the first thought that comes to mind? Forget it. You can bet your last dollar that everyone else will have thought it, too. Angle is what makes a good story. Make your angle different, and the judges will love you.

Creativity

Don’t “wrack your brains” to get ideas. Relax. Get your conscious, critical mind out of the way, and allow ideas to bubble up. In other words, daydream.

Ask yourself who, what, where, when, how, and “what if?” Let the trains of thought go where they will. Before long, you’ll have an idea for a story that is different. For example: what if the bride’s dog got in the church and jumped all over her as she marched down the aisle? Torn wedding dress. Tears. People scrambling to catch the dog. Mayhem. And what would be the outcome?

Or suppose a shy looking woman entered and sat at the back? At the reception, she avoids conversations, eats and drinks, then leaves.

Back in her lonel one-room apartment, she scans the Forthcoming Marriages column in the local paper, to see where her next free food and wine is coming from.

Style

You won’t go far wrong if you remember three little words: keep it simple.

Don’t try to impress the judges with long, obscure words and “writerly” language. Like any other readers, they want a story that is easy to read.

A short story doesn’t have much room for scenery. Every sentence must move the plotline forward. The reader doesn’t want flowery descriptions of a rose garden in the moonlight. She wants to know what the girl is doing there at two in the morning, and what happens next.

Technique

A story has three distinct parts: beginning, middle, and end.

The beginning introduces the main character and what the story is about. This is the background scene, and yet that first sentence must be a catchy one. That’s your hook.

The middle develops the theme and keeps the reader hooked.

The ending must be believable and leave the reader satisfied. Too many otherwise good contest entries simply stop when they reach the maximum word count, without a good resolution.

And finally…

Always write specifically for that contest. Don’t be tempted to re-cycle an old story in the hope it just might fit the contest’s requirements. It won’t.

Above all, enjoy writing your short story entry, and the chances are the judges will like it.

Creative Writing Institute has a Spring Fling Anthology Contest going right now. It ends Feb. 28, 2013. No fee, cash prizes, and the best ten entries go into the anthology. Learn more at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.