Brilliant In Its Simplicity

In continuation of providing support to my fellow writers, today’s blog post offers further assistance with the publication of your short story.  I touched on how to format your short story for submission, but now I’ll address the query letter.  I don’t know about you, but those two simple words often strike fear in my heart.  After working so hard on your piece of writing, now you have to craft a brilliant letter to entice your chosen agent or editor in the hopes of receiving publication of your short work or a request to see more of your longer pieces.

The good news is that a query letter to accompany your short story is more like a cover letter.  You’ll probably spend more time researching magazines that are compatible with your work than you will crafting your submission cover letter.  In fact, I’m amazed I have this much to say about one of the shortest things you’ll ever write.  As an added bonus, this letter works for poetry, too.

Start you letter with your name and contact information at the top left-hand side of the document.  Immediately following is the name of the editor-in-chief or appropriate genre editor and the name of the magazine.  Next is the genre of the piece you are submitting.

Sidebar:  I must admit that I didn’t know short story was a genre especially since many people indicate that a piece is fantasy, horror, etc.  I double checked this because I always love to learn something new and pass it on.  It would appear to be true.  I suppose if one has written a piece in a more specific genre, such as those mentioned, you could state this.  I also suppose one would be smart enough not to send a short work of romance to a sci-fi journal.

The word count for the short story comes next, or if you’re submitting poems, indicate the number you have included.  A brief bio highlighting your previous publications should be included.  If you are well published, congratulations; however, resist the urge to mention every piece you’ve ever placed.  One or two of those placed with well-known magazines or journals will suffice.  If your education is relevant to your writing career or topic of choice, include that as well.  The same goes for your professional background.

Be sure to mention whether or not your submission is simultaneous.  There are a few places that will not accept a simultaneous submission, and I will withhold my opinion about them.  Some editors assume a submission has been sent to multiple magazines/journals, but they still want this noted.  Quite frankly, I can’t imagine why one wouldn’t be sending out simultaneous submissions especially if he or she is attempting to build reputation as a writer.  When your piece of short fiction has been accepted, immediately notify and/or withdraw it from other places to which you have submitted.

The good thing about cover letters for short fiction is that they do not require a synopsis of the written work.  Another unnecessary addition is your life story, so don’t be tempted to include it.  Only short works of non-fiction need this type of information, and even then, filter what you include.  Use good sense and don’t gush over the magazine/journal to which you are submitting.  Don’t tell how many times the piece has been rejected.

And that, fellow writers, is the long and short of it.

Ruby & Jonathan

Ay, ay, ay – these visual writing prompts are taking me in a direction I never thought I would go unless it was kicking and screaming.  I’ll leave it to you to see where this story goes.  Not my usual style, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.


Ruby & Jonathan

“Why do I suddenly feel like Little Red Riding Hood?”

“I don’t know,” Jonathan replied. “Why do you feel like Red?”

“Oh, are the two of you on a first name basis now?”

Jonathan glanced at me sideways, flashed his beautiful smile. He took my hand and pressed it to his lips. Along with his toothy grin, these little romantic gestures were another thing I loved about him. And don’t even get me started on those dark gold eyes.

“You’re going to love this trail, Ruby,” he said. “It meanders with no steep inclines, no rocks to climb.”

“Sounds perfect.”

In the short time we’ve dated, I learned that Jonathan has three passions: Hiking, running, and hunting. He may have been twenty years older than me, but he was as fit as a man half his age. We’d hiked and run countless miles. The only activity I didn’t join him in was hunting.

“There’s a place just ahead where the path veers sharply to the right. The trail almost turns back on itself,” he said.

“Are we done hiking already?”

“I mentioned it because it creates a little nook completely hidden from view. No prying eyes.”

I looked behind us and craned my neck to see up ahead.

“I’m pretty sure we’re all alone,” I laughed.

Jonathan blushed and ran his hand through shaggy, salt and pepper gray hair.

“Well, I don’t want our twilight walk to be disturbed,” he said.

“Is this place special to you?”

“It’s private in this particular grove of trees. The branches make the perfect canopy for a secret rendezvous.”

“And what, exactly, do you think is going to happen there, Mr. Wolfe?”

My secretive boyfriend pulled me into a tight embrace, roguishly kissed my temple. His teeth lightly grazed my skin.

“I’ll race you there,” he said.

“I don’t know where it is.”

“You can’t get lost, Ruby. Just follow this big root-like thing on the path.”

I feigned reluctance with hands on hips.

“Ready, set– Hey!” he called as I took off running.

I could hardly run I was laughing so hard. Jonathan’s feet pounded the ground behind me. It would only be a matter of moments before he caught up to me on powerful, sinewy legs. I imagined him tackling me, rolling on the ground, laughing, and kissing. Instead, I heard his footsteps grow faint. A cold wind rushed past me as I ran.

I reached the secluded area first sure I had won. With hands on knees, I stood there panting.

“Hello darling.”

My head popped up at the sound of his voice.

“How– how did you get here? You cheater,” I said between ragged breaths. Pointing at his bare feet, I asked, “Where are your boots?”

“I run faster without them.”

A wicked smile spread across his face, not quite reaching his eyes.

“Didn’t you feel me pass you?” he asked.

I shivered at his question.

“No, but whatever. You won. Can we go home now?”

Laughter growled in his throat. Jonathan dropped into a runner’s stance, fingers and toes pressed lightly into the leaf litter. His muscles tensed, ready to spring.

“Wanna race again, Red? You run, I chase?”

“My name is Ruby, Jonathan.”

“That’s what I meant.”

I couldn’t tear my gaze away from his glowing gold eyes.

“I don’t want to play this game anymore.”


“No, Jonathan.”


“Cut it out!”


Dripping Ink – Questions for Self-critique

The Writer Has the Last Word

It is my very great pleasure to share an article by Caroline Totten of The Greater Canton Writers’ Guild, Inc.  The following article was featured in the September newsletter.  Information regarding the Guild can be found at:

Dripping Ink by Caroline Totten

Questions for Self-critique

Do your demons imitate the gods by grabbing and holding attention? (Your demons are ideas that keep poking you in the eye. If the idea arouses laughter, tears, paranoia, fright, curiosity or indignation, etc., you have acquired a point of view, which may boil into a plot.)

Does the plot offer an opportunity to provide fresh insight into the theme? (Ideally, the plot begins with a distress signal in the middle of the story. The action is already in progress and tinged with an emotional element in the main character. Usually, the setting fits the character and supports the viewpoint.)

Is the character(s) consistent in the context of the plot? (Draw the emotional tone from your personal experience and place it in the persona of the protagonist, the main character. The conflict may be psychological, physical, or ideological, or a combination of these elements.)

Here are a few aspects of the reader/author relationship to keep in mind. By being a writer, or hoping to become one, your entire self becomes an instrument to observe and record human experience. When you extrapolate heartache, joy, fear, whatever, and put them into your character, you are actually putting the reader in touch with his emotions. (Numbness, repression, or suppression are emotional factors.)

Psychologically, mystery, or suspense stories excite the mind of the reader.

Horror stories, by a circuitous route, help the reader release his fear.

Adventure stories encourage bravery.

Love stories release hormones that tenderize the heart.

Fantasy encourages imagination by offering another way of perceiving the resolution of conflict even though at the outset, the reader may be looking for escape.

Humor may release attitudes that might otherwise be socially rude or crude.

Actually, stories that contain violence, corruption, and greed may contribute to the reduction of these elements and/or act as a catharsis for the reader.

Reading fiction is not an idle past time. Its factual component may differ from nonfiction, but the result is similar. The point of view alters the reader’s perceptions.   Effective writing heightens awareness of the subject by allowing the reader to participate in the physical and mental experience of the character. Most effective stories show the character in action. In some cases, “thinking” by the character rather than dialogue or confrontation may be the entrance into a story. The approach depends on the genre, your style, and editorial desires. (At times, magazine and book editors don’t know what they want until they see it.)

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