Wednesday, January 12, 2011

'Tis the Season to… Plan Your Next Story

Hi folks!

I was in the store last night and couldn’t help but notice that the Valentine’s Day cards and candy are already out. (Makes you wonder, when did they make that candy?) So just when you thought the holidays were over, we’re bracing for another batch. Before we know it, it’ll be February, the time of year when thoughts turn to romance and love. March is just around the corner, and everyone will be getting ready for spring….so naturally writers are thinking about—Autumn? Back to School? Halloween?

Yes, believe it or not, some publications are already planning late summer or early autumn issues. What’s the rush, you ask? Most magazines work on issues two to three months in advance, while some plan anywhere from six to nine months ahead.

What does this mean for writers? Basically, if you have a great seasonal/holiday story (or article) waiting to be sent out—don’t delay! Depending on the publication and the rules about simultaneous submissions, you may have only one shot of submitting your seasonal story this year.

By sending it “early” your story has a good chance of falling onto the editor’s desk when he or she needs it, and it could very well be accepted into one of the coveted seasonal slots. In some cases (if your story is rejected quickly or you learn that a publication has folded), submitting early will allow you to send the work elsewhere within the proper timeframe. With a little advance planning, you could see your seasonal work published sooner than you think!

Are you working on a seasonal story and don’t know it? Whether you write romance, horror, or mystery, your story has to be set at some time of the year. Spend a few minutes and think about all the sensory details of the season you can add to any piece of writing. (The crisp crunch of oak leaves in autumn, a fresh-cut grass smell, icy blasts of December wind, the salty taste of sweat in summer….)

But don’t just focus on the weather—remember that each season or holiday has its own particular sights, sounds, and smells. And don’t overlook tiny details such as flowers, insects, and animal life. (I once tossed a book across the room because the author had tulips blooming in September!)

Three of my Amber Quill Press books (A Midsummer Night’s Delights, A Midwinter Night’s Delights, and Trust with Hearts are all seasonally-based. I worked details like the weather, outdoor activities, and even planting flowers into the stories.

Here’s a Writing Exercise: Pick a holiday or season and write a story around it, using as many details as you can. Consider breaking away from the “traditional” seasonal stories (not every horror story happens in October). For example, why not set a romance at the beginning of the new school year? How about a terrifying tale that takes place on the 4th of July? (Preferably one that doesn’t involve frogs—that’s been done.)

You might be amazed at what you come up with, and you could turn a writing exercise into your next submission!

Until next time,


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