Writing For Anthologies

Back to Part 2 of my VirtualBalticon panel notes.

The panelists were: Michael Ventrella as moderator, Keith R.A. DeCandido, John L. French, Monica Louzon, and Jean Marie Ward.

While many writers are publishing novels or sending short stories off to magazines, other writers have found anthologies to be a great space for their work.

Some of these writers find inspiration from the anthology’s submission call, some write what they want, then look for a home.

Three Reasons to Write For Anthologies

  1. It’s a great space for short stories, especially those that might be too long to be in most magazines
  2. Your audience is extended by the audiences of the other writers in the anthology
  3. It can help you network with other writers

Four tips and approaches to writing for anthologies:

  1. Pay attention to the guidelines. They’re there for a reason. Don’t make your work easy to reject on a technicality. Don’t waste your time writing stories that the anthology isn’t looking for.
  2. Start your story where it starts, short stories don’t have time for much backstory. Have the stakes on the first page.
  3. If your story was pre-existing and revised to fit the submission call, make sure that it doesn’t read as forced.
  4. If you’re creating a new story for the anthology, don’t just do the first plot that pops in your head that fits the theme. There are likely going to be tons of people with that same instinct. Try to do something less expected. Maybe your fourth idea, or so.

Five reasons why your story might not be chosen

  1. It stinks
  2. It doesn’t meet the guidelines
  3. Too many other submissions were along the same theme
  4. Another story with a strong resemblance to yours was a better fit
  5. The story is great, but the tone doesn’t work with the other stories in the anthology

If your story is not selected, wait a year or so before submitting it elsewhere. Many publishers are inundated with themed stories right after an anthology makes their selections. Don’t get lost in the crowd.

Flags to Watch Out For

Not all anthologies are a good home for your story. Here are a few of the things you should watch out for.

  • They don’t pay you
  • Their previously published works have bad formatting or otherwise look unprofessional
  • Most importantly? The rights don’t expire and revert back to you.

This isn’t to say that unpaid publishing opportunities are always red flags, but make sure you’re comfortable associating your name and your work with their brand.

I know I’ve made a few of these mistakes. But, with my attempts last NaNoWriMo at writing shorts, I’ve got a few projects to polish and find homes for.

Have you submitted to anthologies? Do you like them? Let me know!

A Holiday Story: Visiting Home

In honor of the holiday week, here’s a story about the transition between ‘coming home for the holidays’ and ‘visiting home’.

Thanksgiving had been short. We’d celebrated a day late to accommodate schedules. An aunt and an uncle who both worked shift work, and me, with my job at the bookstore/coffee shop that graciously allowed me Black Friday off…after I’d worked past 1 am Thanksgiving Eve.

But now?

Now I had a shiny new job and paid holidays. Working a job that used that expensive degree I’d spent four years earning. A job that closed between Christmas Eve and New Year’s day.

Thus, on Christmas Eve’s Eve, there I was, sitting in an office as the sun sank beyond the horizon, counting down the minutes until 7:30 pm.

The rest of my coworkers were long gone, having the leave available to start their holidays a bit early. I was still on a loaner laptop, in the glory that was my own office: half-storage space, half fish-bowl, looking out upon the glory that was a parking lot–and the smoker’s alcove. The office was a bit drafty, but my grandfatherly manager, after noticing me huddled in my coat and gloves at my desk had finagled me a space heater the week before. I had it cranked all the way up.

Finally, 7:25 pm rolled around.

Close enough, I thought.

Traffic was still rough as I headed the thirty-one miles down Interstate 95, through holiday traffic.

In my shared apartment, I grabbed dinner and waited. By 9:30 pm, traffic was as died down as it was going to get, that eve before Christmas Eve.

I piled all the gifts I was bringing into my trusty red Ford Taurus, most of them books hastily bought on credit before my bookstore employee discount ended. And before I’d actually earned that first non-minimum wage paycheck.

Taking a back highway south, I managed to make reasonable time, arriving home before my parents went to bed for the night.

The electric candles gleamed in the windows, the Christmas tree was framed in the living room window, making sure to impose that holiday spirit to any who drove by.

It looked just as I remembered it.

I smiled as I gathered my bags and made my way towards the door that had been mine for eighteen years.

“Oh good,” my stepdad was standing in the doorway as I approached. Had he heard my car pull up? “Can you hold the door for me?”

My hands were full, so I used my hip to catch the screen door and stepped back to let him pass.

Blinking, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

“Is that my bed frame?!” I asked in disbelief as a familiar, twin-sized headboard, with space for books, passed by me and headed up the driveway to the road.

“I went in to change the sheets!” my mother explained as I stumbled into the house, bewildered. “You never told me that bed was ready to collapse! I thought I was getting you a good, solid bed. I spent my coach’s stipend on it, that year.”

As a high school librarian, even coaching Academic Bowl didn’t make her salary go very far. I knew how much she’d given up to get me that furniture.

“It wasn’t that bad, Mom. I loved that bed,” I hastily reassured her over the cheerful yapping of our puppies. The sideboard was a little crooked, but it couldn’t have been that bad.

“There was only one cross-wire supporting the thing. We’re lucky it didn’t fall with you sleeping on it,” Mom said.

“Wait. Really?” I stared agape.

Mom raised her eyebrows and nodded.

I slumped, then pushed past the puppies, bags still bundled over my shoulders, and made my way down to the end of the hall where my old childhood bedroom lay.

Opening the door, the scent of a stale, closed-off room welcomed me. And the sight of a mattress made up for me on the floor.

“Welcome home,” I sighed to myself.

It was still a good Christmas.

Do you have a story about visiting home?

For My Dearest Peddler

(I haven’t put any of my fiction up here, so this is a first. Just a short vignette I wrote this week.)

She’d had to cram a year of work into a few short months. That’s when her stasis ended. The magic that took the year and compressed it for her gave her just long enough to do her work. Four months out from delivery was now when they could calculate what might be wanted and what would be needed.  It was part of the deal she’d made.

For much of the year, the little ones experimented and worked on pet projects, lived their lives, grew their families. But once she awoke, it was time for all-hands on deck, around-the-clock work. They had deals through many of the large manufacturers: two percent of the merchandise would be delivered there for her purposes. It was easy to get these deals when you got in early, while the companies were still small, before they’d grown into the massive conglomerates that they were now.

They had to start sorting, organizing, and filling in the gaps as soon as possible. Towards the end, they got specific requests. Those took some shuffling, since she worked hard to get everything lined up right. But it was all worth it after they made their deadline–a day to celebrate. A day to relax.

It seemed every year was harder than the one before. Every year her time was just a little longer than before. Fortunately, they only had to take care of the one night. There were others who had their own arrangements to handle the other nights.

Tonight was their night. She’d gotten to see him when he awoke. They’d shared a filling dinner, but it hadn’t been long enough. He didn’t have time. His stasis was longer than hers. Rather than a year compressed into four months, he got a year compressed into one night. And one day.

She still wanted to help all the children, to make sure none under her charge were missed. She loved giving them hope and sharing what she could with them.

That was why they’d accepted the bargain. They could stay on and fulfill their mission, continuing on, with all their time condensed into the days they were needed–those that would do the most good. In exchange they got an eternity together.

Even if it was just one day a year.