Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Habitica for Writers

I recently discovered a great free online program that I've been using for all kinds of things. I don't know about you, but I'm a list maker. I've tried making lists on notepads, sticky notes, emails, Word documents, etc., and it has worked fine. However, this program makes it fun, and I find it highly addictive.

The program is Habitica. You can get to it and sign up by going to I'm not just using it for writing, but have started leaning on it increasingly for writing related reminders and habits, and I figured I'd pass along the information for other list makers (no, I'm not being paid to endorse it; I just really like it.

It's a website where you can get rewarded for accomplishing items on your to-do list. You create a character, join quests where the points you earn help you battle monsters, and you can hatch and feed pets/mounts. All of this sounds time consuming, but it's not. Otherwise, it would be just another distraction for me.

What you do is create four different lists: Habits, Dailies, To-Dos, and Rewards. So in habits I have things like "Walk 1000 steps," "Drink a glass of water," "Get up and stretch," and "Write for ten minutes." Under dailies, I have "Write daily," "Do something writing related daily," "Exercise/Walk," and "Read." To-dos are the things that would have gone on my old lists, such as "Edit Story X," "Submit rejected story Y," "Wash colors," "Research creating LLC," etc. And under rewards I've put stuff like "Purchase Funko Pop," (because I get one for each short story published) and "Drink milkshake," (which I get to have when I finish a novel.

You check these things off as you do them. Dailies reset each day, so even though you check them off today, they will be back tomorrow. To-dos are gone once you check them, so you have to add them again if it needs to reoccur. Habits are different, in that they should be things you want to do throughout the day with some regularity. That way, you click on them multiple times in a day and earn lots of points. I put habits I want to start or get more consistent with here. You can also set these to be negative, so if you sign into Facebook more than you should, setting this so you have to click on "Visited Facebook" and lose points every time you do it can be a deterrent.

Here's a screenshot from Habitica:

Whenever you click on one of these accomplished tasks, you fill the yellow bar you see on the top left. This is how you level up. It's your XP, for those who game (I don't, but I've been around gamers.) You can also earn extra items, like armor, weapons, food for the pets/mounts, etc.

Plus, you can friend people on there and go on quests together, which just means that your XP attacks the monster, and you get updates. It can also harm you if you do not fulfill all your dailies in a given day.

If you're interested, it's free to sign up, and you can check it out on your own. It's great for writing related tasks. Aside from using it to reinforce writing daily, I will put blog posts on the to-do for specific topics/themes, any writing related work I need to do at all, whether it's writing, editing, submitting, research, or anything else having to do with writing. I also used it for a writing contest I was judging, because they sent me 66 entries to judge. I like to go in two steps, so first I do the initial read and my first judging responses and comments. I then go back at a later time to read again and update scores/comments. Keeping track of what I'd done with 66 entries took some extra work, but I used Habitica, and it helped immensely. Plus, I got to check off each entry twice, and to earn points for it. Bonus!

You can break a task down into sub-tasks, include due dates, and all sorts of things I haven't bothered checking out yet.

Even better, I got my kids to join, and they can put chores, homework, and various tasks on there, plus habits they need to get better about, and we can do the quests together and chat in the program.

Side note: Your friends cannot see your list of to-dos, just your character, pet/mount, and level. They won't know if you have something embarrassing on the list.

Again, it's free. And ad-free. So check it out! It can't hurt.

Okay, link time. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Of Interest:

Before I get to the submissions, I wanted to pass along this deal via AppSumo for 100 credits toward stock images on Depositphoto for $49. I have a friend who bought this a year ago, and is loving it, so it is legitimate. It's one credit per image, and they are usable in print and electronic, so you can use this for book covers and such. I didn't see when this deal goes away, but it was still going at 2:00 AM, so I hope you can still grab it.

Accepting Submissions:

Johns Hopkins University is seeking submissions of short stories with disabled characters written by those with disabilities for (Dis)ability. 500 to 7500 words. All genres except erotica (must be appropriate for those 14 and up). Pays $30. Deadline October 1.

B Cubed is seeking science fiction for pre-teen readers for Cosmic Caravans. Poetry or prose. 300 to 3000 words. Pays $.02/word, plus royalties. Deadline October 7.

Thirteen Press is seeking horror along the theme of Buried; Swords Against Cthulhu: A New Dark Age; Bringing it Back; Sacrifice; Lonesome Train; Revenge; Blood; Blood on the Tree; Kek V's Cthulhu; Time Port 1985; Sweat, Steel, & Cruise Control; Ashes; Hyper Tomb: Crypt of the Cyber-Mummy; and Locked In. Up to 5000 words. All pay in royalties. Deadline October 15.

Splickety Havok is seeking Science Fiction in the theme Deep Space Design. 300 to 1000 words. Pays $.02/word. Deadline October 27.

Have you tried out Habitica? Are you a list person? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share?

May you find your Muse.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Answers to Your Short Story Questions

Back in February, I announced that I was going to be speaking about short stories at a couple upcoming events (that have now passed), and I asked you what short story questions you wanted answered, so I could try to cover things people wonder about. I said I'd do a blog post answering those questions at some point, but here we are, eight months later, and I never did post those.

I went back and found those questions, and you'll find the answers below. Feel free to ask more, and I'll try to answer them, either in the comments or in a future post.

Bish asked about short story structure, what defines a short story, and how one goes about planning/outlining.

Geez, starting with a hard one.

Short story structure can follow novel structure, but obviously massively compacted. The difference (other than the compactness) is that you should start closer to the climax/action, and get to the meat of the plot more quickly. You also get far less time to establish character, setting, plot, and conflict. And character arc is different in short stories (though story arc still must exist.) While the main character must be effected by the outcome of the story, they do not have to find major growth and change as expected in novels. There's much more to this than I've said, but since it's just a blog post, I wanted to cover the basics as simply as possible.

In defining a short story, we'll go with Duotrope's definition, which is 1000 to 7500 words. Having said that, the markets define the length, and many will go up to 10,000 or even 12,000 words for short stories. Some will go even higher, but we're technically getting into novelette and novella territory as we grow the word count. I've found that 4000 to 5000 words are the sweet spot for many short story markets, though this is in general, not a definitive maximum.

Like I said above, there must be a story arc. A short story is not a vignette, so it must still have a beginning, middle, and end.

As far as planning/outlining, do so as you would a novel, but with a single plot line/conflict, rather than the more complicated versions you'd do for a novel. You should be focusing on one element for the plot, not branching off into many subplots and multiple conflicts. If it needs to be that complicated, it's probably better as something longer than a short story.

Alex asked where to submit short stories.

My go to places to find markets are Duotrope and Submission Grinder. Both of these websites are fantastic resources for tracking down markets taking submissions. You enter information, such as genre, length, and pay, and they pull up listings for markets that meet your specifications. Duotrope charges an annual fee, but Submission Grinder is free.

There are also other sites, such as, My Little Corner, Horror Tree, Writing Career, and the Authors Publish newsletter.

Sandra asked how you handle character development with so few words.

Try to establish the basics of your character through their immediate reactions to their surroundings and the situation. Use brevity in describing them. And definitely use dialog and actions to show the character, rather than telling us about them, which we tend to do in novels. In short, develop the character organically through the story and their observations, reactions, thoughts, actions, and dialog. Skip the back story. Imply it if it's needed, but try to just show us what we need to know about the character as far as it impacts the story, rather than bringing in a bunch of extraneous information.

Pat asked how one decides how many characters to use.

I recommend having only one POV character, and only a couple other characters. Two to three characters is a good rule of thumb. There will always be exceptions to this recommendation (and my others above), but in general, especially when first starting on short stories, keep the characters limited, which also helps keep the story along simpler plot lines.

Olga asked if a protagonist needs a goal, like they do in novels.

Yes, the protagonist needs a goal, whether that's surviving the issue, solving a crime, or making their way through the maze of a new romance. However, they don't need a major character arc like they do in novels. I said it above, but be sure the story impacts your character. The reader needs something to draw them in and make them care about what happens to the character. Not having a character goal impacts suspense and story.

Jennifer asked how to fit a plot into a story of only a few hundred words.

Keep the idea simple. Like with short stories, you'll need to not complicate the story with sub-plots or too many characters. In fact, in a flash piece, which is what this would be, one to two characters is more than enough. I always set out with a word goal in mind, which helps me naturally write that brief. Flash fiction needs a beginning, middle, and end, just like short stories, but it's based on a single event or goal. Flash fiction is also a great place to try out twist endings, and twists tend to imply more information, which makes the story bigger than the number of words used.

Bryan asked about making a career of writing short stories and whether it's best to write a bunch with a goal toward making a collection or to focus on them singularly. 

The career question is a bit of a contentious one, surprisingly. I do know at least one author who has no interest in writing novels, and who has had over 100 short stories published. I was on a panel with him recently, where he broke down what he was making versus what a newer novelist makes in a year, and he was able to show that it was more profitable to write short stories. So, yes, it's possible to build a career on writing short stories if you're writing a significant number and submitting them regularly, and if you ultimately build relationships in the writing world, but just in the same way you can do so as a new novelist. You certainly won't get rich, and likely can't quit your day job. For me, they pay for me to maintain writing costs and go to some conferences and events, and that's good enough for now.

Personally, I like to focus on the stories individually, but this one would come down to personal tastes. I did have an editor say they'd like to see a collection themed around a short story I'd submitted to them, and including that story, and I'm considering doing that (I already had been, actually). So I'd map that out more like a novel. Generally, I prefer the freedom of being able to work on whatever story is begging the most for my attention, and then being able to switch gears on a whim.

Those were all the questions on the post. I hope something in here was helpful!

Now for some links. Bear in mind I'm not endorsing these, merely passing them along. Always do your own due diligence before submitting.

Accepting Submissions:

Gordon Square Review is seeking short stories and personal essays. Up to 5000 words. Pays $25. Deadline October 15.

Helios Quarterly Magazine is seeking fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and art. The December issue is themed Heroes, Heroines, and Thrill Seekers. Up to 1500 words. Pays $.03/word. Deadline October 15.

Lagos Literary is seeking short fiction, essays, and poems. All genres. Up to 2500 words. Pays $20.

Rivet is seeking fiction that crosses boundaries. Between 15 and 15,000 words. Pays $25.

Roar is seeking feminist pieces. Pays $25.

Gamut is seeking neo-noir, speculative fiction with a literary bent. 500 to 5000 words. Pays $.10/word.

Frontier Poetry is seeking poems. Pays $50 per poem. Must be 10 pages/5 poems or less.


Futurescapes is holding their short story contest. Up to 8000 words. Theme Blue Sky City. Must involve the future, technology, etc. $2000 grand prize. 5 runner up prizes of $500. Deadline October 13.

Do you have any burning short story questions you want answered? Any questions on the answers above? Or comments? Any of these links of interest? Anything to share? Submission news?

May you find your Muse.

*Guilt by Mary at
*Typewriter by OCAL at
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*Book Set by OCAL at

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG - Juggling

Today is the first Wednesday of September. Fall's on the way!

First Wednesday of the month means it's time to air our insecurities with the Insecure Writer's Support Group, created by Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Our co-hosts today are Tyrean Martinson, Tara Tyler, Raimey Gallant, and Beverly Stowe McClure!

My insecurity today concerns juggling ALL THE THINGS! Life in general, sure, but I'm talking about the writing things. Writing and editing novels; writing and editing short stories; submitting short stories, which means tweaking formatting and such for each market; querying novels; looking into self-pubbing a collection of short stories; looking into all the business things that come with self-pubbing; putting off research into creating an LLC for that purpose; putting together workshops and researching panels for speaking gigs; judging a writing contest; so on and so forth. Some of these things are easier than others because they're something I'm comfortable with, but others are hard. Still others aren't hard, but are definitely time consuming, and if they have a deadline then that's where I have to focus, which means other things fall by the wayside.

I have a period of "calm" coming up starting in November. Then again, I guess that depends on whether I do any form of ShaNo (I don't do NaNo, as such, but I set writing related goals that month and use the communal energy from NaNo to pursue them). Anyway, it may be that the period of calm doesn't start until December, but ack, what's calm about December. January? Okay, cool, January. I can make it until then, right?

Also, I have a book signing coming up this Friday, plus my books will be in the bookstore during the Colorado Gold Conference I'm speaking at, but my Create Space order is LATE, and I may be starting to freak out. I ordered it in plenty of time, so I have no idea what the delay is, but COME ON! Luckily, I do have inventory, just not the full inventory I submitted. Tracking says it arrives today, but so far, no dice, er, books.

Okay, my stats for the month of August are as follows:

Submitted: 9 short stories
Accepted: 2 short stories, plus request for additional
Rejected: 6 short stories
Queried: 1 novel/agent
Currently on Submission: 16 short stories, 1 novel

I'm not up to my goal of 20 short stories on submission at a time, but I'm getting closer (plus, without the acceptances, I would have been up to 18!)

Since I'm posting this late, I'm not going to have time to do links to open submissions, but I should have some up next week. I'll have a post then answering questions about short stories I've been asked in blog comments in the past.

What are your insecurities? How do you manage your time? What do your submission stats look like for the month of August? Are you attending the Colorado Gold Conference? (If so, stop by and say hi at the book signing!)

May you find your Muse.