Unintentional Promises to the Reader–Oops!, a Contest for Non-Professional Writers, and More

Do writers know when they’re making promises to their readers? Sometimes. Not always.

How can a writer spot accidental promises? Critique partners are invaluable here. But when doing your own revisions, the most useful self-editing technique is to keep an eye out for unintentional foreshadowing and misplaced emotional weight.

Did you spend a lot of time describing that ornate door that your main character walks past every day? Maybe you just needed to get your wordcount in, or you were warming up to the story. But in the reader’s mind, that door now glows with importance. If your main character doesn’t go through that door–or even if they do, but nothing exciting happens on the other side–the reader is going to be frustrated.

Did you mention an extremely dramatic element, even just in passing? Maybe there’s a deadly storm coming that’s expected to just barely miss the main character. Maybe there’s a big magical trial coming up. Maybe the corporate overlords are planning layoffs. These are classic Chekhov’s gun situations. Just by existing, they promise major drama.

Characters themselves can be dramatic elements.

Is there sexual or romantic tension between characters? You better believe the reader expects something to come of this.

Have you mentioned a missing or estranged loved one multiple times, to build your main character’s tragic backstory? The reader expects a resolution of some kind, or at least a heart-wrenching attempt and failure to connect.

Is there a minor character who keeps stealing every scene they’re in? They now want a story arc, too, however slight and off-page. Note: keeping this story arc mostly off-page provides a great opportunity to write it as a short story reward for readers.

Of course, after a writer has identified unintentional promises they made to their reader, the hard part starts: deciding whether to fulfill the promise, or rip it out of the story. This can be especially challenging when the promise is entangled in characters’ relationships. But the author is the only one who can decide if the promise’s existence supports or takes away from the focus of the story. No pressure!

What I’ve been up to lately, writing-wise:

I have a science fiction reading at DreamHaven Books in Minneapolis TONIGHT. If you’re in the Twin Cities, you’re invited!

On Wednesday, March 20th, ABRA STAFFIN-WIEBE reads and holds a reception as part of the Speculations Reading Series, from 6:30-7:45 p.m. at DreamHaven Books, 2301 E 38th St, Minneapolis.

Abra Staffin-Wiebe is a science fiction author who loves futuristic fairy tales, cheerful horror, and dark science fiction. Dozens of her stories have appeared at award-winning publications including Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Fireside Magazine.

Bring a friend! There will be cookies and soda as well as giveaways during the reading. Afterwards, we usually adjourn to Parkway Pizza for some social time.

If you’re on Facebook, event updates can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/events/6905583366237017

Things Shiny or Useful

Archive of all shiny or useful links: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/shiny-or-useful-writing-links/

How to Make Google Show You the Good Search Results Again: https://lifehacker.com/tech/how-to-get-more-accurate-google-search-results

Rules, What Rules: The Passive Voice (Should not be Written In): https://aarubin.wordpress.com/2024/03/08/rules-what-rules-the-passive-voice-should-not-be-written-in/

Worldbuilding With Legs: Incorporating Insects into Your Stories: https://www.fantasy-magazine.com/fm/non-fiction/worldbuilding-with-legs-incorporating-insects-into-your-stories/

Can ChatGPT edit fiction?: https://theconversation.com/can-chatgpt-edit-fiction-4-professional-editors-asked-ai-to-do-their-job-and-it-ruined-their-short-story-216631

34 Transformative Prompts to Unlock Your Writing, Courtesy Kelly Link: https://lithub.com/34-transformative-prompts-to-unlock-your-writing-courtesy-kelly-link/

On fast rejections: https://neil-clarke.com/on-fast-rejections/

Writing Hasn’t Won Me Fame or Fortune But It’s Brought Me Friendship: https://janefriedman.com/writing-hasnt-won-me-fame-or-fortune-but-its-brought-me-friendship/

3 Tips for Writing Cosmic Horror That “Goes Beyond”: https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/tips-for-writing-cosmic-horror-that-goes-beyond

Featured Market

The Geek Partnership Society’s Annual Writing Contest for non-professional writers is open until 4/30/24!

This contest provides a forum for new talent of any age and gives them a chance to learn about the publication process and its requirements. The submission requirements are not negotiable, nor should this contest be used as a required class exercise by teachers. Teachers, please encourage your students to enter our contest but making it a homework assignment goes against the spirit of the contest.

Entries must be science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural, and alternate history in short fiction, poetry, or graphic stories (comic).

Please select a division to enter. You may only enter one short fiction division. You have the option to also enter a poem in the Poetry Division and/or a short comics in the Graphic Novel (Comics) Division.

  • Open: Short fiction only. Open to writers of any age. There may be TWO (2) winners chosen from this category. The Open Division winner will be chosen from all entries.
    • An additional local writer may be chosen from contestants residing within 200 miles of Geek Partnership Society to receive the Scott Imes Award. This award proudly honors Scott Imes, a major force in the Twin Cities’ science fiction reading and writing community who passed away in December 2001. For over two decades, Scott Imes worked at Uncle Hugo’s Science Fiction Bookstore and promoted the speculative fiction genres. His recommendations served those far beyond its doors.
  • Poetry: Poems only. Open to writers of any age.
  • Youth 1: Short fiction only. Open to writers 13 years of age or younger as of April 30, 2024.
  • Youth 2: Short fiction only. Open to writers 14-16 years of age as of April 30, 2024.
  • Graphic Novel (Comics): Short comics only. Open to writers of any age.

Geek Partnership Society

Basics: speculative fiction and poetry, 5,000 word maximum, no reprints, prizes range from $50-$100. Submissions due: 4/30/24.

Guidelines: https://geekpartnership.org/programs/writing-contest/

Market List Updates

To see all the details about these new listings and what they’re looking for, go to https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/new/. For all the hundreds of listings, go to Aswiebe’s Market List and download the latest version of the spreadsheet, or view it online at https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/marketlistonline/. Best read on a bigger screen!

Screenshot of March update spreadsheet

Click to see details of the latest updates!

Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!

Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Keeper of Lists Feel free to share this blog post/newsletter with others by whatever means you like, as long as you include all of it. The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 4/15/2024. If you don’t want to miss an update, subscribe to the Aswiebe’s Market List newsletter: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/subscribe-to-market-list/
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How Long Since You Wrote?

Thoughts in Passing

How long has it been since you last wrote fiction? When you stop and think about it, does the answer to that question surprise you? Do you even know how long it’s been?

More than once, I’ve found myself startled to realize how long it has been since I had a real writing session. It’s usually not an intentional choice. It’s life. Things happen. Recently, it was covid + a nasty chest cold, followed by my family getting stomach flu, and then Thanksgiving travel was upon us. This could definitely have been worse–we could have been sick during Thanksgiving. But it definitely dented my ability to sit down and write in a focused way.

I don’t think I would have noticed exactly how much it affected me if it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo.

Obviously, the question, “Do you know how long it’s been since you wrote?” is not for those of you who have been doing NaNoWriMo! If you did NaNoWriMo, congratulations. Congratulations if you wrote the full number of words to “win.” Congratulations if you don’t make it, but you still wrote more words than you thought you could in one month! Congratulations if you wrote any number of words, at all. You brought new sentences into the world, and that’s a pretty awesome thing.

I didn’t try to do NaNoWriMo this year, but I still benefited from the special NaNoWriMo event hosted by 4theWords (a website that gamifies writing, complete with quests and monsters to defeat by wordcount). Here’s how.

Tracking.  Writing. Streaks. 

As simple as that! How many days in a row had I written a certain number of words? The days stack up. Keeping the chain going can add motivation. More importantly, for me, it builds a daily habit of thinking about how many words I’ve written that day.

Building that habit doesn’t require a special month or a special app*. You can track it with a spreadsheet. You can track it with a paper calendar that you put stickers on. You can track it by gouging hash marks into the wall of your writing dungeon, if you have a writing dungeon and you don’t mind causing a little property damage.

If your answer was that you don’t know how long it has been since you last wrote regularly–and if that answer bothered you–you might benefit from making a habit of tracking your writing every day, even on those days when the number of words you wrote was zero.

* If you would like to use an app, there are many habit-tracking apps available. If you like making a game of writing, 4theWords is fun. If you want a tracker that also helps you meet a deadline (and is free), I recommend Pacemaker at https://www.pacemaker.press.

What I’ve been up to lately, writing-wise:

I’ve been working on the never-ending ending of my WiP! I swear, it keeps getting longer… Funny how that works.

Things Shiny or Useful

Archive of all shiny or useful links: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/shiny-or-useful-writing-links/

5 Rules for Writing Humorous Urban Fantasy: https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/5-rules-for-writing-humorous-urban-fantasy

Featured Market

The Mike Resnick Memorial Award for Short Fiction (annual) wants SF by new writers, is open for submissions 11/15 – 4/1.

Short Story (definition): A story up to 7,499 words, as defined by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).

New Author (definition): An author who has not had any fiction work published (including short stories, novelettes, novellas, and novels in paper, digital or audio form) that has been paid a per-word rate of 6 cents a word or more or received a payment for any single work of fiction totaling more than $50.

If the author has self-published the piece then their total earnings from any single piece of fiction may not exceed $50 from all published venues.

Eligibility: Entries should be a new science fiction short story written a new author who affirms their story was not in any way plagiarized off of any other work, nor written (in part or whole) with the assistance of AI apps or programs.Arc Manor Books

Basics: science fiction, limited author demographic: new authors, up to 7,499 words, no reprints, 1st – $250, 2nd – $100, 3rd – $50. Submissions due: 4/1/2.

Guidelines: https://www.arcmanorbooks.com/resnick

Market List Updates

To see all the details about these new listings and what they’re looking for, go to https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/new/. For all the hundreds of listings, go to Aswiebe’s Market List and download the latest version of the spreadsheet, or view it online at https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/marketlistonline/. Best read on a bigger screen!

Screenshot of November updates

Click to see details of the latest updates!

Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!

Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Keeper of Lists Feel free to share this blog post/newsletter with others by whatever means you like, as long as you include all of it. The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 12/15/2023. If you don’t want to miss an update, subscribe to the Aswiebe’s Market List newsletter: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/subscribe-to-market-list/
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Finding Your Best Way to Write

The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be between 11/15/2022 and 11/30/2022. If you don’t want to miss an update, subscribe to the Aswiebe’s Market List newsletter: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/subscribe-to-market-list/

As the seasons change, I’m reminded that when writers are most productive can change too. Our lives change, our schedules change, our responsibilities change. Hell, our brains change. What works best for you during the summer might not work at all in the fall and winter. Or switching to a new method might break you out of a rut. Knowing what works for you matters, especially if you’re planning on doing NaNoWriMo this year! And if you are planning on doing NaNoWriMo, that quantity of writing provides an excellent opportunity to experiment.

So how do you know when and what works best for you?

There are no shortcuts to this, I’m afraid! You have to try it to find out. Track the time you spend, when you spend it, how many words you produce, and how you feel about those words. You’ll probably want to give yourself a few days of trying something to see how it works for you, because the first day of a new system or schedule is always weird. Only alter one thing at a time–I suggest trying a different writing schedule first.

Here are some things to try, to see what works for you.

Schedule

Look at all the time you have available. Consider temporarily changing your wake-up time, your bedtime, your lunch break habits, your Disney+ habit, and any other “normally I do X now” times that you can move around. Schedule a particular time of day to be your designated writing time. Write at that time every day. Remember that this might change depending on the season, and on the darkest days of the year, a happy light is your friend!

Try writing in a block of at least 2 solid hours with minimal breaks.

Try writing in 25-minute intervals with breaks according to the Pomodoro Method.

Try writing in snippets throughout the day instead of one big chunk of time. Uninstall social media apps and write on your phone when you would normally check Instagram, or carry a notebook with you.

Try burst writing. Don’t write for a couple of days, then go to a coffee shop or turn off your phone and close your door and neglect everything else for a 4-6 hour block of writing.

Method

Outline the whole story first.

Outline the scene you’re about to write.

Don’t outline at all.

Write out of sequence. Focus on the scene you’re most excited about first.

Write multiple stories at once. Switch between them when you get bored. Try a few sentences and if you aren’t excited about what you’re writing, move on to the next one. (Note: this method only works if things eventually get finished!)

Means

Write longhand, then transcribe it later. (Remember to count transcription time.)

Try dictation. Give the free trial a shot.

Gamify it with 4theWords.

Write in a coffee shop, write lying on the couch, write at a desk, write in a museum. Try different locations.

Write with friends, or find a local writing meet-up (NaNoWriMo will offer several).

Write totally alone.

Write with strangers nearby, without interacting with them.

Try blocking the internet and social media while you write.

(Do you have a writing question? Send it to me, either by replying to this email or by using the contact form on my website, and it may get answered in the next newsletter.)

What I’ve been up to lately, writing-wise:

This newsletter of markets updated in October is going out a little late, thanks to Halloween shenanigans. Other than that, I’ve been writing on my WiP. It’s kind of boring giving status updates on writing a novel, right? Because mostly it’s just, “Yup, still writing a novel. Recently researched skullcaps, skullstripping (actual medical terminology!), and the decay rate of brains.” You know, the usual. Also, turns out brains liquify fairly quickly because they are already so liquidy.

I’m over 25% of my wordcount goal for the novel, though. And I think the plot’s about in the same place. Hurray! 1/4 done!

Things Shiny or Useful

Archive of all shiny or useful links: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/shiny-or-useful-writing-links/

What is Your Halloween Writer Type: https://careerauthors.com/what-is-your-halloween-writer-type/

Wanting a Beta Reader: https://twitter.com/clpolk/status/1584320844825735169

Write the Thing: https://www.thingswithout.com/comic/write-the-thing-comic-734/

The Ecology of Worldbuilding: https://www.sfwa.org/2022/10/25/ecology-worldbuilding/

Marathon Lessons: https://stone-soup.ghost.io/archive/marathon-lessons/

Top 10 Twitter Tips for Authors: https://twitter.com/garethlpowell/status/1580920359502909441

How to Make Twitter Suck Less: https://shaunduke.net/2021/07/howtomaketwittersuckless/

How to Leave Twitter for Mastodon: https://www.pcmag.com/how-to/how-to-get-started-on-mastodon-and-leave-twitter-behind

Upcoming Virtual Conventions/Workshops

(Any registration fees are noted.)

World Fantasy Convention ($125), Nov 3-6, 2022: https://www.wfc2022.org/

The Nebula Conference is over for 2022, but purchasing a membership now ($75) still gets access to recorded panels and year-round special events: https://membership.sfwa.org/event-4563942

Featured Market

The Quantum-Steampunk Short-Story Contest wants quantum steampunk, pays total awards worth $4,500.

Entries must satisfy two requirements: First, stories must be written in a steampunk style, including by taking place at least partially during the 1800s. Transport us to Meiji Japan; La Belle Époque in Paris; gritty, smoky Manchester; or a camp of immigrants unfurling a railroad across the American west. Feel free to set your story partially in the future; time machines are welcome.

Second, each entry must feature at least one quantum technology, real or imagined. Real and under-construction quantum technologies include quantum computers, communication networks, cryptographic systems, sensors, thermometers, and clocks. Experimentalists have realized quantum engines, batteries, refrigerators, and teleportation, too. Surprise us with your imagined quantum technologies (and inspire our next research-grant proposals).

Quantum-Steampunk Short-Story Contest

Basics: quantum steampunk stories, up to 3,000 words, grand prize $1,500 Visa certificate plus other whimsical categories up to $4,500 total, reprint acceptability unspecified, due 1/15/23.

Guidelines: https://qtd-hub.umd.edu/contest/

Additional details: https://quantumfrontiers.com/2022/10/09/announcing-the-quantum-steampunk-short-story-contest/

Market List Updates

Continue readingFinding Your Best Way to Write
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The Joy of Research

The next update of Aswiebe's Market List will be after 10/15/2022. If you don’t want to miss an update, subscribe to the Aswiebe’s Market List newsletter: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/subscribe-to-market-list/

Ah, the joy of research! It’s amazing how much research writers use to build purely imaginary science fiction and fantasy worlds. And I love it. There are the tiny little bits of research that make pleasant diversions (hey, what’s the etymology of spick-and-span anyway?) and the big chunks of research that are a necessary part of realistic world- and alien-building (carapaces and mandibles and cuttlefish, oh my!). As long as you don’t get lost down a research rabbit hole, and words still get written, research can be great refreshment for the imagination. And sometimes, indulging in “research” and random facts can inspire your writing.

Here are some excellent research-based sources of inspiration:

(Do you have a writing question? Send it to me, either by replying to this email or by using the contact form on my website, and it may get answered in the next newsletter.)

What I’ve been up to lately, writing-wise:

The current chapter in my WiP (work-in-progress) seems to be all vibes, no driving plot action. It’s Chapter 6, so that’s far enough in that it should be okay, right? Right??

Things Shiny or Useful

Archive of all shiny or useful links: https://aswiebe.com/marketlist/shiny-or-useful-writing-links/

Apex Mag wants (unpaid) slush readers: https://apex-magazine.com/blog/apex-magazine-flash-fiction-contest-slush-reader-needed/

Tade Thompson on synopses: https://twitter.com/TadeThompson/status/1570133449155186688

SFWA Safety Resources: http://www.sfwa.org/safety/

Close to You: Writing in Third Person Close: https://careerauthors.com/third-person-close-pov/

Writing Tricks and Brain Hacks: https://twitter.com/rapscallison/status/1562442998717509635

Upcoming Virtual Conventions/Workshops

(Any registration fees are noted.)

Can*Con (CAD$45), Oct 14-16, 2022: https://can-con.org/2022-registration-and-price-list/

World Fantasy Convention ($125), Nov 3-6, 2022: https://www.wfc2022.org/

The Nebula Conference ($150) is over for 2022, but purchasing a membership now still gets access to recorded panels and year-round special events: https://membership.sfwa.org/event-4563942

Featured Market

Phantom wine 2022 Ghost Story Writing Contest wants ghost stories, only 250 entries accepted, winner takes $5,000.

TELL US A GHOST STORY THAT’S NEVER BEEN TOLD

Phantom Wine

Basics: ghost stories, up to 2,500 words, pays $5,000 to the winner, no reprints, due 10/31/22 or until full. Guidelines: https://phantomwine.com/ghoststories/

Market List Updates

To see all the details about these new listings and what they're looking for, as well as hundreds of other listings, go to Aswiebe's Market List and download the latest version of the spreadsheet. Note: going forward, limited demographic market listings will be italicized.
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Keep writing, keep submitting, and good luck!

Abra Staffin-Wiebe, Keeper of Lists
Aswiebe’s Market List
Abra Staffin-Wiebe’s Author Website

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