Short Stories, Release Forms, and Good Rejections

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I tried writing novels, but I found I was better at writing shorter things. I wrote some short stories, but they all come out as if they are a view into a certain event or something. They don’t really have a beginning, middle, and end. Are they still considered short stories?

A: You probably are writing what is called slice-of-life stories, which can also come under the heading of short stories. It is my understanding that many markets that accept short stories also accept slice-of-life stories. Continue reading

Adverbs, Italics, and Underlines

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I’m having a problem with adverbs in short stories. (He said, shyly.) I want to enter some of my stories in contests, but they are usually limited to a specific word length. In longer stories, I try to use adverbs only when I want to make the attributive statement contradictory.

Example: “That was fun,” he said, angrily.

Otherwise, I will write something like this: “I like that.” He had a sarcastic tone in his voice, as if it were a challenge.

In short stories, though, I might be forced to write “I like that,” he said, sarcastically.

Do I go for the brevity and take the chance that I am losing something, or do I temper the prose in a short story with a mixture of adverbs?

What about novels? I read about five books a month and I’ve seen some books heavy in adverbs and others not; however, some of these are not recent publications. Is the current trend toward more adverbs, less, or a blend of both writing styles? Continue reading

Starting Out, Crediting Sources, and Spelling Coworker

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I have considered starting a book for a long time and I have come up with ideas on the plot, the development of characters, and so on, but when I get down to writing it on the page, it ends up uninteresting. I can’t get the suspense or the dialogue right. I can’t get the story to come to life. Can you help me get my story to come to life yourself, or can you send me some links that will help me in this area?

A: Congratulations on creating a good plot and planning the character development! Idea creation is one area where many beginning writers fail, and you’re past that point. Way to go! Continue reading

About Rejections, Agents, and Dialogue vs. Narrative

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I received two more instant rejections from agents today. One said, “We’ve read your material, and I’m sorry to say we don’t think it is right for the specific talents of the people working at our company at this time.” Another rejection said, “Unfortunately we feel that your manuscript is not right for us.”

I am getting concerned. I researched agents who were accepting new clients and who were interested in the type of material I was submitting; however, already almost half have stated otherwise. Is my research model flawed?

Continue reading

Being the Expert on a Subject and Abbreviating Cousin

By Bobbie Christmas

Q: A friend read my nonfiction manuscript and said it lacks conviction, as if I’m not an expert on my subject matter. I have advanced degrees that prove I’m an expert on the subject of my book. What might she mean?

A: First let me say that one opinion should not shatter your dream. We editors know the old adage, “Ten editors, ten opinions.” Nevertheless, if you think the comment has merit, I have some suggestions that will help. Note that my recommendations do not apply to textbooks and academic books, which have restrictions, but to how-to books and other less formal nonfiction. Continue reading

When Your Publisher Drops You and Determining the Viability of a Book Idea

by Bobbie Christmas

Q: My publisher closed the imprint under which my book was published. What should I do now?

A: You have several options, but first and foremost, you must have the publisher return your rights to you. After you receive a letter that officially reverts the rights to you, you can then look for another publisher or choose to self-publish.

Cardoza Publishing, which bought and published my book on creative writing, Write In Style, did exactly what you describe, a few years after releasing my book in 2004. It shut down the Union Square Publishing imprint that specialized in books for writers and moved the company from New York to Las Vegas, where it concentrated on books about gambling. Continue reading

How to Integrate Your Opinions into Fiction and the Value of Print Ads

book doctor 2015by Bobbie Christmas

Q: I have strong political opinions, especially in light of the recent presidential election in America. I’m not one to write a letter to the editor or other nonfiction essays and opinions, but is there a safe way to express my opinions through fiction?

A: Absolutely, and you can have great fun doing so. Conflict and suspense drive fiction, so you have the perfect setup in fiction to voice your opinions through one or more characters. You can then add conflict by having other characters disagree with the character or characters’ opinions and act based on that disagreement. Continue reading