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Writing Short Fiction and Nonfiction
I've had over 600 short stories, essays, and
articles published in magazines and anthologies and won 62 cash prizes in
writing contests. And yet, I struggle with feelings of failure because I haven't
sold my children's books.
by Kathryn Lay
No one tells me I'm less, my peers are proud of
my accomplishments. It wasn't until I realized that I love writing short pieces
that I began to see the joys and advantages of them.
There is a sense of accomplishment and finality
in finishing any piece of writing, but the completion of short pieces generally
comes sooner than the novels I am working on. It is an exciting challenge to
pack plot, conflict, characterization, dialogue, and a satisfying ending in less
than 2000 words, more often less than 1000 for children's stories. I can write
about things from my childhood or my daughter's childhood, things that are not
meaty enough for a 100-page book. I can write nonfiction that is fun and
interesting to young readers, emotional and informative for adults.
An interesting teen I've read about in the paper
or know from my church is enough for a magazine profile. My daughter's
experience with setting free the turtle she found fit a theme for
Pockets perfectly. Combining my daughter's irritating talking doll and
an experience with a nearby tornado scare became a short story that sold quickly
to Boys' Life. By selling and winning contests with half the short
stories I have in a themed anthology I hope to sell, I feel I've got more clout
in finding a buyer for the book as a whole.
The opportunities to write and publish short
fiction and nonfiction is endless. By reading and studying magazines for
writers, joining writing clubs and organizations, trading information online
with other writers, and reading market books, it is less frightening an
experience to market your short writing.
There are magazines that include short fiction
of humor, fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, adventure, mystery, western,
For children I can create puzzles, poetry,
how-tos, rebus. I can write stories that rhyme, read like journals, or take
children to imaginary places in amazing ways.
I can write nonfiction for young and old about
science, history, animals, pet care, health, safety, parenting, marriage, and
much more. My life is often turned into essays, sometimes humorous, sometimes
There are adult magazines and in-flight
magazines that use short fiction for children, reviews of children's products,
or articles for parents to understand, help, or entertain their
Dozens of Sunday School take-home papers for
very young children through young adult and adult offer opportunities for
nonfiction, short stories, profiles, poetry, crafts, puzzles, and cartoons. Some
use themes. Many purchase only one-time rights, giving writers the opportunity
to resell it to a non-competing denomination.
There have been anthologies for short fiction
for children and adults, and many for nonfiction essays.
What about contests? Some of my short fiction
and nonfiction has won contests over and over. One story has won me 5 times more
money than it will probably pay when it finds a publication home. Occasionally,
contests will be judged by editors.
A published picture book writer took several of
her unsold picture book manuscripts and sent them to Cricket who
purchased them as short stories. Turning that around, authors have had stories
published in magazines and been contacted by editors who wanted them to flesh
the story out into a book.
Perhaps you have published novels and nonfiction
books. What about taking a strong character from your book and writing a series
of short stories? Or the knowledge you used from your nonfiction research for
A well-published children's book writer once
told me that she admired my ability to write and sell short pieces. She really
wanted to, but hadn't been successful.
Magazines are read by hundreds and even millions
It's true that books have influenced me as a
writer and a reader. It's true that I'd love to see a book with my name on it as
the sole author. But it's also true that I am deeply satisfied with completing a
short story and seeing it in print. My writer's soul leaps when an idea comes
that I know is a good short story or article. And receiving an acceptance, a
check, a copy of a magazine or anthology or award certificate for my short
stories and articles is exciting no matter how many times they come.
Do you love writing short fiction or articles?
Are you a whiz at poetry or puzzles? When someone asks you what you do and you
say you're a writer, what do you say when they ask what books you've written?
Are you honest about being a short story writer or nonfiction article
There is a place for writers of short prose,
poetry, puzzles, articles, essays and cartoons...
Jump right in. And hold your head high. You are
© Copyright 2001, Kathryn Lay
Kathryn Lay is the author of 26 books for children, over 2000 articles, essays and stories for children and adults and the book from AWOC.COM Publishing, The Organized Writer is a Selling Writer. Check out her website at www.kathrynlay.com and email through email@example.com
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