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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B.I.G. Goals, a Weird Fiction Submission Call, and More

The beginning of the year is a time for dreaming big. So–dream big! Forget about S.M.A.R.T. goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound). Forget about small daily wordcounts, and incremental improvements. Make some B.I.G. goals: Beautiful, Inspirational, Grandiose.

Now lean back in your chair, or wherever you’re reading this newsletter, close your eyes, and take two minutes to imagine these things happening for you. Imagine getting that agent phone call. Imagine seeing your name on the cover of that magazine. Imagine getting that glowing review. Imagine being asked to give a reading at your favorite bookstore–or heck, your favorite university or big tech company.

If you didn’t close your eyes and actually daydream, do that now. This newsletter will still be here when you open your eyes. Set a 2-minute timer on your phone if you have to give yourself permission.

Okay. You’ve daydreamt. You can imagine it vividly. Now write this big, ridiculously huge goal down. Or make a vision board collage, if that feels more natural to you. Either way, put this goal reminder in someplace that you will see daily.

No, really. Take a couple of minutes and do it right now, even if it feels silly. There’s actual science behind that.  If you put your goals where you see them often, you’re more likely to be guided by them when making choices. Get your subconscious working for you!

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

I encountered the first trigger for my “make a fun one” writing resolution! I did not expect to find a flash fiction call in 4theWords, but there it was.

… And of course, my attempt to write a flash piece under 1,000 words resulted in a 1,900+ word short story. It still counts! It was in response to a flash fiction call, I wrote it in a short period of time, and most importantly, I had a lot of fun writing it. Even better, the contest also has a short story category, so I can still submit it. I’m delighted with the charming fantasy that resulted. If you’re a 4theWords member, you can read “My Familiar (Didn’t) Eat My Homework” here: https://app.4thewords.com/community/reading/book/abrasw/my-familiar-didnt-eat-my-homework-1

Save the date! In other news for Minnesota locals, my Dreamhaven reading has been rescheduled to March 20, 2024, at 6:30pm. More details closer to the reading.


Things Shiny or Useful

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

All the Types of Science Fiction: https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/all-the-types-of-science-fiction

10 Tips For Applying to Writing Residencies: https://electricliterature.com/10-tips-for-applying-to-writing-residencies/

Fanfiction Authors: HEADS UP: https://www.tumblr.com/mckitterick/740279699840876545

Tools for Thinking About Censorship: https://www.exurbe.com/tools-for-thinking-about-censorship/

Another Word: Chasing the High: https://clarkesworldmagazine.com/another_word_06_14/

Mastering Beats and Tags to Improve Your Dialogue: https://careerauthors.com/mastering-beats-and-tags-to-improve-your-dialogue/

How to Spot a Fake Literary Agency: https://writerbeware.blog/2023/12/15/how-to-spot-a-fake-literary-agency/

Peak Fake: A Scam Website Impersonating Macmillan Publishers: https://writerbeware.blog/2024/01/19/peak-fake-a-scam-website-impersonating-macmillan-publishers/

DIMENSIONS OF WONDER: George Saunders in a Haunted Mansion with Chocolate Mint (pantsing a plot): https://locusmag.com/2023/11/dimensions-of-wonder-george-saunders-in-a-haunted-mansion-with-chocolate-mint-by-eugenia-triantafyllou/

Featured Market

The Silence (ed. Dave Brzeski) anthology wants themed weird fiction, due 3/31/24.

For this project, it is essential that you read or have already read all six of Algernon Blackwood’s John Silence stories from 1908. Five of these were published in John Silence, Physician Extraordinary, and are available to read or download free through Project Gutenberg: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/49222

… Stories should have all the following elements:

  1. John Silence as a key element. In keeping with the original stories, Silence does not have to be the main protagonist throughout. He may, for example, be the authority of last resort, the deus ex machina who saves the day, the instigator of events, etc. Removal of Silence from the story, on the other hand, should significantly detract from it.
  2. Silence as the canonical psychic doctor in the style that Blackwood envisaged, with the same general nature and modus operandi. Writers are welcome to add to aspects of the character (within sensible limits) but should not deduct from his already stated characteristics.
  3. Setting, societal and technological aspects in keeping with the Edwardian period, or any reasonable period up to the late nineteen thirties, remembering that Silence would be getting on a bit by then.
  4. A decided psychic, paranormal, supernatural or occult problem. Unusual psychological problems or issues may also qualify. Stories about general monster hunting and classic monsters are unlikely to be chosen, unless their approach is particularly innovative and relates to Silence’s established range of activities.

Basics: themed weird fiction, 6,000 word minimum, no reprints, pays $150. Submissions due: 3/31/24.

Guidelines: https://horrortree.com/taking-submissions-silence/

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 updates from January

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 2/15/2024. 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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Productive Procrastination with Flash Fiction

“I’m on deadline, so my house has never been cleaner.” I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard some version of that from my writer friends. It’s never worked for me, alas. My brain does not accept cleaning as a procrastination method from writing deadlines. However, it turns out that the reverse might be true!

This month, I was doing a cleaning and organizing challenge*. So naturally, my brain decided that I should be doing some writing instead. But not Big Writing, like working on my book. No, that would be too obviously not what I was supposed to be doing. But how about something smol and quick, with a deadline that meant I should obviously do it sooner rather than later?

That is how I ended up taking my daily quick freewriting exercise and tweaking it to fit a monthly flash fiction contest’s theme.

* Necessitated by the accumulating detritus that began when I participated in NaNoWriMo’s monthlong writing challenge right before the pandemic hit, and snowballed when … yeah. All that came with it.

Takeaway 1: Seriously, if you’re not a super-speedy writer and you’re planning on NaNoWriMoing this November, have prep plans and recovery plans for everything non-writing-related! Bonus points for actually writing your plans down in advance.

Takeaway 2: Don’t have time for a “serious” writing project? Not sure what you want to write next? Try something small and fun, like one of these monthly themed flash fiction contests. As always for publishers included in Aswiebe’s Market List, none of these charge fees and they all pay (a little–flash fiction is not usually highly remunerative!):

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

DreamHaven storefront in the Standish neighborhood
DreamHaven storefront in the Standish neighborhood, by Elcief (CC BY-SA 4.0)

If you’re in the Twin Cities area, I have a reading coming up in October at Dreamhaven!

On Wednesday, October 4, ABRA STAFFIN-WIEBE reads and holds a reception as part of the Speculations Reading Series, from 6:30-7:45 p.m. 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.

Things Shiny or Useful

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

Lucy Worsley’s 9 “Christie Tricks” for Mystery Writers: https://careerauthors.com/christie-tips-on-mystery-writing/

Hook Your Genre Readers on Page One: https://careerauthors.com/writing-for-genre/

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer: https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/5-ways-to-use-short-stories-to-grow-as-a-writer

Publishing Contracts 101: Beware Internal Contradictions: https://writerbeware.blog/2022/06/10/publishing-contracts-101-beware-internal-contradictions/

How to Prevent AI Bots from Scraping Your Website: https://www.jonathancrowe.net/2023/09/how-to-prevent-ai-bots-from-scraping-your-website/

10 Tips for Building a Realistic and Vibrant Fictional World: https://www.writersdigest.com/write-better-fiction/10-tips-for-building-a-realistic-and-vibrant-fictional-world

Overdrive and Libraries: Everything You Wanted to Know: https://ilona-andrews.com/blog/overdrive-and-libraries-everything-you-wanted-to-know/

Featured Market

Tales & Feathers Magazine (Augur) will be opening soon for cozy fantasy submissions!

Our ideal submissions look like this:

  • Quiet character-driven storytelling
  • Gentle moments
  • Rich fantastical worldbuilding
  • Everyday moments
  • Stories that take place before or between or after the epic conflicts
  • Stories that offer warmth, comfort, and possibility

We welcome stories written in any fantasy genre or genres, including stories that blur genre lines. We are especially interested in high fantasy, fairy tales, and myth.

We also welcome stories that have been translated into English and stories that engage with non-Western fantasy genre traditions.Tales & Feathers

Basics: cozy fantasy, 1,000 – 2,500 words, CA$.11/word, no reprints. Submission periods: 10/1/23-10/21/23 BIPOC, trans, or disabled writers; 10/8/23-10/21/23 general submissions.

Guidelines: https://www.augurmag.com/submissions/

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 updated New Markets page

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 10/15/2023. 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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What Belongs In Fiction Submission Guidelines? plus Aswiebe’s Market List updates

Thoughts in Passing

What Belongs In Fiction Submission Guidelines?

Here are the basics of what should be in short fiction submission guidelines. If you follow me on social media, you may have seen me rant about some of these in “Dear Editors…” posts. This post is aimed at editors because that’s how much of it was originally phrased, but as a writer, it’s also helpful to know what you should expect to find in the guidelines.

0. Just starting out?

Are you in the process of establishing your publication? Not sure what your final pay rates or accepted wordcounts will be? That’s okay! It’s fine to adjust your guidelines later, as long as you are clear about what current accepted submissions will be paid, etc. You can say, “We are figuring out our long-term policies. Right now, we are reading for our first issue. Stories accepted for this issue will be paid $.08/word.” Changing your policies after you accept a submission is shady. If you plan to change your guidelines, consider pausing submissions and changing guidelines before the next submission period.

1. What kind of story do you want?

Genre, subgenre, any themes or particular vibes. It would be lovely if every writer had time to read several issues of every publication they ever might submit to, but that isn’t the reality. Putting this info up front will save you a lot of time in the slush pile. Genre magazines are generally pretty good about this. Realist literary magazines are generally pretty terrible at it.

2. How much do you pay?

Per word or a flat rate is the usual. “We pay at or above the industry standard rate” is not actually saying how much you pay. Industry standard can mean many different things. Pro rate changes depending on genre. Paying in “exposure” = non-paying. If you don’t list a pay rate, the assumption is that you don’t pay. One exception to this assumption is “Best of the Year” anthologies, which usually pay $.01/word. (They should still list the pay rate on their guidelines, but they often don’t.) If your pay rate depends on the success of a Kickstarter, be upfront about this! If you don’t pay in U.S. dollars, please specify your currency. Sorry, but USD are the standard.

Note: Charging submission fees is a common practice for realist literary magazines. But in science fiction and fantasy circles, Yog’s Law dictates that money flows to the writer. Charging submission fees is taboo, and patting yourself on the back for not charging fees is … weird.

3. What rights are you buying?

The subject of rights is really a whole essay by itself. Usually this is some version of First Rights for original (never-before-published) stories and Reprints Rights or One-Time Rights for reprints. Often there is a period of exclusivity and a right to archive the story for a particular length of time. Never say, “All rights stay with the author!” That is impossible. If you didn’t get any rights, you wouldn’t be allowed to publish their story. Publishing a story automatically uses First Rights, for one thing.

Don’t try to take All Rights. Don’t be a jerk.

4. What wordcounts do you accept?

What’s your minimum? What’s your maximum? If you don’t specify, please don’t be mad if you get flash fiction or novellas. If you don’t specify because you’re honestly good with getting flash fiction or novella submissions, it’s lovely to say so. Some of us have been snarled at by editors who assume their idea of acceptable story length is universal. It’s fine to say that people must query first for stories over X words.

5. How do you feel about reprints?

Do you accept reprint submissions? It’s also great to specify if they are given the same preference and if they will be paid at the same rate or not. If you don’t say you don’t accept reprints, expect to get some queries about them.

Beyond the basics…

6. Are simultaneous submissions okay? 

For bonus points, you could also specify if you accept simultaneous submissions–authors submitting to other magazines at the same time, which might mean a story you like gets accepted elsewhere before you respond.

7. What’s your submission schedule?

Once you figure out a submission schedule (Open all the time? Only open the third week in October in leap years?) and average response time, it’s very kind to include that information too.

Finally, please please please keep submission guidelines up even when you’re closed to submissions. Don’t erase the whole page. Just put a big SUBMISSIONS CLOSED UNTIL X at the top of the page, and temporarily hide the submissions email address if you need to.

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

If you’re in the Twin Cities area, I have a reading coming up in October at Dreamhaven!

On Wednesday, October 4, ABRA STAFFIN-WIEBE reads and holds a reception as part of the Speculations Reading Series, from 6:30-7:45 p.m. 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.

Things Shiny or Useful

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

Five Secrets to Writing Suspense: https://careerauthors.com/five-secrets-to-writing-suspense/

IMHO: What Remedies Do Authors Have When Fraudulent Work Appears on Amazon? : https://hotsheetpub.com/2023/08/imho-what-remedies-do-authors-have-when-fraudulent-work-appears-on-amazon/

5 Ways to Survive a Publishing Draught: https://careerauthors.com/5-ways-to-survive-a-publishing-drought/

My Book is Coming Out This Month. Here are Ten Things I Learned on the Way to Getting Published: https://horrortree.com/my-book-is-coming-out-this-month-here-are-ten-things-i-learned-on-the-way-to-getting-published/

How to Market Your Book to Get Worldwide Exposure: https://insights.bookbub.com/ideas-for-getting-your-book-more-international-exposure/

Rambling About Revisions: https://pcwrede.com/pcw-wp/rambling-about-revisions/

The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World (how people traveled in olden days): https://orbis.stanford.edu/

Featured Market

Nightmare Diaries anthology wants dark speculative fiction, pays $.10/word.

Moonstruck Books will publish an anthology of dark fiction titled Nightmare Diaries in Spring 2025. We are seeking short stories, fairy tales, flash fiction, and novellas of 500-10,000 words.Moonstruck Books

Basics: dark fiction, 500 – 10,000 words, $.10/word, unknown reprint policy, due 12/27/23.

Guidelines: https://www.moonstruck-books.com/submissions

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 updated market listings.

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 9/15/2023. 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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