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.

 

How to Win a Writing Contest

Secrets to Winning a Creative Writing Contest

by Deborah Owen, CEO of Creative Writing Institute

Contests are like cars. There are a lot of them and no two are the same, but this is an overview of how Creative Writing Institute judges their annual writing contest. This year, it runs from July 15 – September 1, 2015.

First, the judges do a quick sorting. They place stories that might have a chance to win in one pile and stories that have no chance of winning in another. Needless to say, those in the latter pile hit file 13. Your first question should be, on that first sorting, what are the judges looking for? Among other things:

a. Very poor grammar
b. Very poor punctuation
c. Long, drawn out discourses that make no point
d. DEAD and DULL FIRST PARAGRAPHS
e. NOT FOLLOWING the STATED RULES
f. Not using the theme line, word for word!

The judges’ first scanning is not an in-depth reading. It simply sorts the big pile into a smaller one. There will be at least four full readings of each story by each judge.

You will win or lose a judge’s interest in the first paragraph, so be sure that first paragraph begins in the middle of an ACTION scene. Don’t lead up to the action. You don’t have time for that in a short story. Jump in with both feet. Next, develop that action until it reaches the climax about 2/3 of the way through and use the last 1/3 to form a conclusion and tie up loose ends.

Do all judges look for the same things? No. Each judge is as different as a snowflake. They may look alike on the writerly surface, but their thoughts and interests are as different as night and day, and that is what makes a good judging panel.

Here’s a clue. Our judges are not into romance. Does that mean you can’t enter a tactful romance story? No. Does it mean a romance story can’t or won’t win? NO. It was just a hint.  🙂

Another clue: the head judge would like to see some mystery stories this year. Does that mean the winning entry will BE a mystery story? No, but clever writers will certainly think twice before submitting to another genre (For newbies, genre means division – such as drama, fantasy, crime, etc.). But then again, some judges would prefer fantasy! In the end, the best, most captivating story will win, no matter what the genre.

Creative Writing Institute likes to run “themed contests” where the story centers around a certain phrase. This year’s theme sentence is, “I got more than I bargained for!” (You may choose your own punctuation, but those exact words must be in the story, in that order.) This is a fun theme!

The number one reason for disqualification is NOT FOLLOWING the RULES. Last year we had a winning entry that used one swear word. The judges were so into the story that none of them caught it, but I did and the instructions clearly said, “no swear words.” We even published a brief list of what we considered swear words (much to my chagrin) AND the address of the head judge in case anyone had a question.

Why do we have a “list” of swear words? Because we are an international organization that is based in the USA and even Americans hold heated debates on which words are or are not considered swearing. Why don’t we include swear words from other nations? Because it would be impossible to make a list of every country’s swearing slang.

The next question might be, “Why don’t you allow swear words?” One reason is… swear words are a form of telling instead of showing. (Note to beginners: a technique called Show, Don’t Tell means you should always show an emotion with action instead of description. For example, instead of saying, “Jarod was angry at the little boy and pushed him into a bush,” you could show his anger by saying, “Jarod drop-kicked the little runt into the shrub.”)

Another reason we don’t want swearing is because our anthologies are suitable family material. Believe it or not, not everyone swears!

We have already mentioned following the rules, which you would think would be a no-brainer, but to be sure you have conformed to the guidelines, read every single rule one more time before you submit. If we call for a limit of 2,000 words and you send 2,005, guess what? No matter what the quality of the story, it will hit file 13.

The quickest way to win is to write an original story totally based around I got more than I bargained for. The quickest way to lose (and embarrass yourself) is to pull a pre-written story out of mothballs, insert the theme line where it fits best and submit it.

I speak from experience. I tried this little number on a writing teacher years ago when she told me to write a story and insert a certain theme line. It seemed like a silly exercise to me and I was pushed for time, so I pulled an old story out, dropped the line in and submitted it. (*blushes… in my defense, this was the only time I ever did anything deliberately dishonest.)  I thought I was so slick and so smart, until I got her comment which read, “It almost looks like you used an old story and just dropped that line in. Rewrite it and make it blend.” Well… *duh, our judges are smart enough to figure that out, too!

On rounds 2 and 3, our judges usually grade each story from 1-10 and then they total the points for each story. It takes a terrific story to make it to 8, 9, and 10. By the time the judges get to round 4, bloodshot eyes are crossing, every person answers to any name, none are sure which way is up and the coffee has long ago run out so sometimes the head judge changes the method of tallying to, “This time we will deduct points for ________.”

All entries will be judged on originality, creativity, style and technique.

Originality

Plain and simple – how original your ideas are. There are no new stories, but there are always new angles. Day dream a little bit to find something spicy. Keep asking yourself, “What if… ?” That will open dozens of unique ideas.

Creativity

Creativity is how you express yourself. You might use similes, metaphors, emotives, or all of the above plus a whole lot more.

Style

Your writing style will reveal who you are, how you think, how you express yourself and what voice you use. (Hint: stories written in past tense, third person [using he, she and it] sell the quickest… and win the most contests.)

Technique

Writing technique includes the point of view, visualization of scenes and people, style of dialogue, how you write flashbacks (or if you use them at all), red herrings, foreshadowing, etc. It can also refer to the more technical aspects of rhythm, harmony, assonance, alliteration, personification and the like. All of these things equal your technique and the voice that is peculiar to you.

Seldom do we have a clear winner. We have ties more often than rabbits nibble carrots and when that happens, we pass the smelling salts and deodorant around and see how it goes. Under the careful scrutiny of our head judge, Ms. Jo Popek, judges may politely “argue” why “their pick” should win. By the time they emerge with a list of winners, it’s a wonder they are still friends, and an even greater wonder that they will return to the judging panel again next year!

Once you get contesting in your blood, you will have to enter at least two a year. Writing for a contest is one of the greatest, quickest ways to learn from your own writing.

Above all, enjoy the writing experience… and support our nonprofit charity by purchasing our anthology in December.

May the best author win!

SEE CONTEST RULES AT http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com.

The Job that Made me… and Broke Me. My Personal Story of Success and Humiliation.

PERSISTENCE in WRITING

Win-Win Propositions

by Deborah Owen

Persistence in writing DOES pay off! Win-win propositions pay off, too. Editors love the phrase “win-win,” which means you have a deal whereby both ends have something to gain. I remember the first time I used that term.

The American Legion’s upcoming 75th Anniversary Edition was in preparation and their national office was in my back door. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that soon enough and when I called to ask about a job, the kind editor, Mr. Greenwald, said he had filled all positions.

Somewhere on the path of life, I had heard not to take no for an answer so I called again the next day and said, “This is Deborah Owen again. I called yesterday to ask about a position… “ and the not so kind editor cut me off mid-sentence with, “As I said yesterday, I have no positions available. Thank you for calling.” *click

I didn’t sleep much that night. Instead, I laid in bed and devised a plan whereby Mr. Greenwald would have to hire me. By morning, I was ready. With a dry mouth, I called him a third time and literally read from a written script, faking a voice of bravado and excitement:

“Hello, Mr. Greenwald. This is Deborah Owen again. I understand you don’t have any openings, but I have a win-win proposition you won’t want to pass up. I’d like to treat you to lunch one day this week to discuss it.”

He tried every way in the world to finagle the proposition out of me, but I knew it would be good-bye for the last time if I told him, so I said, “It’s too complicated to discuss on the phone. You choose the time and place and I’ll tell you in person.” He hesitated. [Never get in a hurry when waiting for an answer.] But, sensing he was about to say no, I added, “I promise to be brief.”

I was beginning to feel like I had leprosy when he finally agreed.

We met at his office Friday and walked two blocks to the diner. All the way there he wanted to know about my proposition but I played for time. “For now, let’s just get to know each other.”

I asked how long he had been editor at The American Legion, where he worked before and what his goals were in life. I kept him talking about himself – which is always a great strategy. At the end of the meal he asked about the great win-win proposition. I knew it was now or never, so I waded in and tried to look confident and enthusiastic (best done with a smile on one’s face).

“I’m a published freelance writer but I have yet to work inside a magazine. I understand the importance of a deadline and I’m never late. I’m meticulous in researching, and I was once a secretary for five men so I have good office skills. I’m a touch typist and a quick learner. Here’s my proposition: I’ll work for you free of charge. I’ll research, write, edit, or sweep floors if you’ll just let me work on the 75th Edition with you. Teach me. I want to learn. I’ll be the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at night. No matter what job you give me, you can count on it being done well. Now if that’s not a win-win proposition, I don’t know what is.”

With a smile, he answered, “Let me give you some advice, Mrs. Owen. Never offer your services for nothing. Someone may think they aren’t worth anything, and everyone is worth something. I’ll see you Monday morning at 8 am… and I will pay you a salary. I met you because I was curious, and I hired you because you were persistent. Persistence is a good quality. You’ll intern directly beneath me and you can have the desk right outside my office.”

I earned over $400 as I researched original WWI history and drafted 37 articles. No other job taught me so much in such a short amount of time. This is where the story should end on a high note, but there’s more.

One day Mr. Greenwald sent me to see a woman who was a higher up in the American Legion Auxiliary. In front of a third party, she lied to me to my face and I called her on it. I told Mr. Greenwald about it immediately (to build some insurance, in case he heard about it later). Three weeks came and went and I forgot about the incident, but the lying shrew didn’t. Mr. Greenwald called me in and said orders came down from way over his head. He had to fire me, as she was calling for my job and nothing less would please her.

“But I told you what happened,” I said. He lectured me on the urgency of good politics. So there I was. Out of the best job in the world.

The highs of digging through authentic files as direct intern beneath the American Legion’s National Headquarter’s editor was too high, and the low of losing that job was too low. I didn’t even know how much of my work went into the edition until it came out. ALL of it went in, and the “I Remember” section was completely my work, including the idea for it. Still, I couldn’t pull out of the depression, so I did the worst thing possible. I dropped completely out of writing for ten years. I let go of writing, but writing wouldn’t let go of me, so here’s the lesson:

When the doors don’t open easily, take a crowbar! Know what you are going to say. Practice saying it out loud (in front of a mirror), and then go for it! What do you have to lose? Groom yourself properly. Dress for success. Greet the editor with a strong handshake and take him out for lunch. And by the way, don’t leave your wallet at home (like I did) and… lastly… learn when to button your lip.

Editors want to hire writers who practice tactfulness, not brazen personnel that casts their magazine in a bad light. Writing persistence and “win-win propositions” will take you far but in the end, it depends on how much guts you have.

Mr. Greenwald was one of the main stepping stones in my writing life. If not for him, I wouldn’t have founded two writing schools later. The future is exciting!! If you could only see it. Every single day, you are affecting your future… so go after it, and swing by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com on the way.

While you’re there, check the guidelines for the writing contest now in progress!

Continue reading The Job that Made me… and Broke Me. My Personal Story of Success and Humiliation.

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

____________________

Sponsored by http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com, YOUR place to find writing fulfillment with a private tutor. No need to wait. Sign up today and start tonight!

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.

Are Creative Writing Classes Right for Me?

A Free Writing Evaluation Can Answer that Question

by Deborah Owen

Are creative writing classes for everyone? No, perhaps not… but the fact that you’re reading this article indicates the answer may be yes for you. Ye olde subconscious doth not lie.

What Will You Learn in a Writing Class?

Even if you have good sentence structure, a good background in English, and are talented beyond your wildest dreams, you still need the inside dope on how to sell what you write. Writing classes will not only teach you the latest writing requirements, but you will also learn how to target a market, research it, write for that particular market, establish a rapport with editors, write a cover letter and develop the self-confidence to present yourself properly.

Writing shortcuts are only for geniuses or those who have connections in the publishing world. If you fall short of being a genius and you have no publishing connections, roll up your shirtsleeves and get ready to sweat with the rest of us. Anything worth having is worth making a sacrifice for.

What Will a Writing Analysis Do For You?

Do you need a punctuation review course? A brush-up course on creative writing mechanics? Do you need to learn “Show, Don’t Tell”? A writing analysis will provide an unbiased view of your skills and offer a suggested beginning point.

Almost anyone can become a writer if they really want to. Creative writing is a learned occupation, just like anything else. If you have average punctuation skills and you can craft a decent letter, the chances are good that you can become a full or part-time writer.

How to Get Started

Most people can begin selling articles to newspapers in their first writing year. Even if your goal is in the fiction realm, this is the place to start. Local newspapers pay about $15 per article (+ $5 for each picture used). Although the proceeds are low, this is a great way to fund your writing courses, collect press clippings and establish a résumé.

Creative writing seems almost romantic to some people, but it is no such thing. It can be downright frustrating and it’s very hard work. Writing classes are exciting, but they can also be difficult. The dropout rate is over 50%. To keep yourself out of the dropout bracket, develop the right mental attitude before you begin.

Creative Writing Classes – What Will be Expected of You?

You’ll need to set aside 60-90 minutes a week for homework. More is better. Some options for working that amount of time into an already pressed schedule are: rise 15 minutes earlier, stay up 15 minutes later, or use 15 minutes of your lunchtime for studying/writing. If all else fails and you can’t keep up with the workload, extensions are usually available at no additional fee.

You must have one thing in order to succeed – creative writing must be a priority in your life. Isn’t it worth the investment to become more than you are now? Isn’t it worth the investment to find out if writing is for you? Life is short. Why not take the leap?

Next Steps

For a free and honest evaluation of your writing skills, send a G-rated 1,000-word story or article to Creative Writing Institute’s CEO, Deborah Owen: deborahowen@cwinst.com. Please see http://www.creativewritinginstitute.com for writers’ guidelines (rules) to receive the best results. Your 20-point analysis will cover such things as imagery, characterization, dialogue, structure, plot, strong and weak points, “Show, Don’t Tell”, style, verb action, wordiness, passive voice, and presentation, among other things.

So go ahead. See what your potential is. You might be surprised.

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.

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!

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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.

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.

Enter a Writing Contest! Get Brave!

Writing Contest Tips and Tricks

by Deborah Owen

Creative Writing Institute is about to close its Fourth Annual Beginner’s Short Story Contest. If you enter, you won’t be competing with anyone who has ever sold a short story. This is for beginners only and there are less than 50 entries, so your chances are good, but hurry! It ends August 31, 2012, EST.

* First prize: $100 cash or a tutored writing course valued at $200!
(additional gifts)
* Second prize: $50 cash, plus additional gifts
* Check our site to see all of the prizes.

Is it free? No. It costs about the same as a cup of Starbucks coffee. Free contests have more entries, and thus, more competition. Go ahead. Take a chance. Believe in yourself. It’s good to analyze your writing and know that you aren’t a Thoreau or Stephen King, but it’s something else to think so little of your talent that you don’t think you stand a chance. Isn’t it worth the price of a cup of coffee to find out?

Rejection is a fearful thing, I know, but not believing in yourself is worse. I began contesting several years ago, and the first one I entered was huge. I didn’t know that at the time. I’m glad I was naïve because I took honorable mention over 16,000 other entries in the Writer’s Digest Contest. I almost won… not because my writing was so good, but because my story was unique and it had a good angle.

A huge dose of morphine couldn’t have made me any higher. Here I am years later, and I’m still riding that high wave. It was well worth the money to have that marvelous experience.

Contest Tips and Tricks:

• First and foremost, follow the guidelines! Do exactly what you are told or your entry will be disqualified.
• Enter contests that have small fees, as they have less competition than free contests.
• What you should expect to pay: our contest is only $6, but fees vary. Contests that give cash prizes must charge a modest fee to subsidize the awards. If you’re a beginner, I suggest that you not enter a contest that charges more than $10.
• Winning the lottery is much akin to winning a writing contest. Against all odds, even when you think you don’t have a chance, you might win! Last year’s third place winner was a 15-year old. The point spread from first place to third place was less than three points. Don’t cheat yourself out of this great learning experience.
• Watch out for contest scams. Some places will ask for a high 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 they’ll ask for more money to enter for the grand prize. The so called “winners” are told their work will appear in an anthology (collection of short stories or poetry), but of course, the organization will prod them to sell anthologies to family and friends. A little common sense goes a long way in this kind of thing.
• There are only three kinds of fees that you should consider: (1) Entry fee, (2) reading fee, and (3) critique fee, if you want the judge’s feedback [well worth the money].

Choose the contest that best suits you and go for it! Just search “writing contests” and you’ll find more than you can enter. They usually run in the spring and fall, so get brave. Gamble the price of two sandwiches a year, if only for the sheer fun of it. It’s a great experience.

Check our guidelines and enter before it’s too late. Contest closes August 31, midnight, EST. This is the kind of contest where you really have a chance. Check it out at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com. Don’t forget to click “like” before you go.

How to Develop Style, Mood, Tone, and Unity

Writing Style, Mood, and Tone

by Mr. Lynn Carroll, writing tutor

Writing style is the elusive Holy Grail of the serious writer. Where does one find style? Certainly not on a store shelf or where X marks the spot on a treasure map. It isn’t written in ancient code, so where is it?

You’ll learn good writing stye when you study the masters — and also make it a point to study literature that has been published in the last five years. Can you copy style? Perhaps, to a certain extent. Here’s how: choose two or three paragraphs from an author you like. Read them over a few times and then rewrite them in your own voice. Read everything that author has written and a bit of it will rub off on you. Sorry, but that’s as close as you can get to copying someone else’s style.

Even the great painter, Michelangelo was once an apprentice. He unashamedly imitated the masters for years before he matured to his own style.

Style is something that comes from within. You can influence it, but you can’t change it to a large degree. Relax and be yourself. Since you’re a unique being and there is only one of you, your style will be unique.

Writing Mood and Tone

Mood and tone are part of style, and you can pull these two tools out of your toolbox at will, depending on the audience and needs of the article. Before you begin writing, set the mood and tone. What will it be? Light and breezy? Dark and gloomy? Informal and humorous? Somber and informative?

Whatever your choice, you must maintain the same mood and tone throughout the piece. This is part of what is known as unity. After you’ve made your choice, don’t try to mix somber with humor, or formal with informal.

There is much more to learn on this subject, and Creative Writing Institute will be happy to teach you. You need not wait for a new term to begin because we don’t use terms. Every student receives a private tutor. You can sign up today and start tonight. There’s no better way to learn than with a tutor, and no one will give you more individual attention than CWI. Be sure to enter our SHORT STORY CONTEST for BEGINNERS, now in session. Find information at http://www.CreativeWritingInstitute.com. CASH PRIZES!! Ends August 31, 2012.