Tag Archives: submission guidelines

Delusions and Adventures – Two Open Submission Opportunities

Writer friends and followers:

While there are a host of magazines and collections that often solicit submissions, two recent options caught my eye.

ApparitionLit runs a quarterly open solicitation for submissions of poetry and short fiction, with some appropriately thrilling or mysterious theme. This quarter is “delusion,” but unfortunately, the session is about to close (Feb 28th).

They’re accepting works with a theme of vision from May 15-31, and submission guidelines can be found here.

Find a quiet place, listen to the voices in your head, and write out all your inner pain… easy!






Since I’ve been focused on preparing my own submission, I failed as a blogger and provided those links far too late for anyone else to benefit. To make up for this heinous misdeed, here is another opportunity for short story submissions:

Rachel Ritchey is organizing a short story contest for adventure fantasy and sci-fi pieces as part of an anthology to raise money for charity. The inspiration for this piece is a cover picture provided with the submission details at the link above.

This contest just opened up today (Feb 26th) and runs until March 16th.

Now my guilty conscience is (somewhat) appeased, and I can get back to working on my own pieces.

Elements of Critique: Plan

I’m about to go to overseas with the military, and I don’t think I’m going to find a writers’ group like the one I’m leaving here. Perhaps you can relate to not finding a good group where you are.

What’s stopping me from starting my own group? Fear of a challenge I’ve never tried before? Fear based in lack of experience? Worry that I wouldn’t know where to start?

After the A to Z and the two add-ons, I’ve covered the essentials for how to critique. The only question I can think to answer now is, “How do I run a critique group?”  It’s simple once I have a plan.


To answer that question, I’ll steal from the guidelines used at the lovely group I attend. This is a starting point; these can be altered to suit whatever an in-person group needs, and can easily be adapted for an online group.

1. We set up a monthly date. Ours is the fourth Tuesday of every month. A monthly group means I’m not always critiquing or writing a submission. It’s manageable for me. Your mileage may vary.

2. We say submit up to 1200 words a week before the meeting. Setting that limit helps ensure we can all read the submissions even if we have busy lives. We’re pretty flexible about it; I usually submit a longer piece with a 1200-word spot marked so that if someone is willing to critique more, they can.

3. We have a standard format for submission. This seems nitpicky, but there’s a reason “A” is all about appearance. I got a comment from someone judging a competition, stating that the vast majority of submissions were disqualified because people failed to follow the guidelines on format. Ours is: header with last name/title on left, page number on right. First page upper left has name, address, email, and word count. The whole submission must be Times New Roman, double spaced.

4. Our guidelines restate that we should submit a week ahead, but they leave room for late submissions and encourage participants to come offer critique even if they didn’t submit anything that month. Everyone’s input is valuable.

5. We normally submit by email, but we’re trying out a Facebook group where everyone can “submit” by uploading their document to the group’s page. That way the documents don’t get lost in the shuffle of email.

6. Our group usually has five to eight participants. Eight borders on too many for our two hour meeting to cover well. We aim for a short 15-minute social time at the beginning, followed by 15 minutes of critique per submission. We actually use a timer visible for the whole group to keep everyone on track. When there’s time, we read a short portion of each entry (perhaps a page or two at most). Then we go around the room for critique.

7. Our guidelines reinforce what’s expected when your submission is being read and critiqued. Don’t cringe; no one’s out to hurt anyone. Don’t jump in to explain or defend (since we’ll never get the chance to explain our slant or ideas to an editor). Don’t apologize for what’s written. Listen fully; take what you need and leave the rest.

8. After each person’s piece is critiqued and read, they receive hard copies with comments and highlights, or they receive an email with an electronic document marked with comments and highlights.

That’s all there is to it. Seems easy, right?

It is. It doesn’t take much, it doesn’t require some amazing author or insightful editor to organize. All anyone needs is a host, a location, and some willing writers.

Adapting this to an online group is even easier: no need for a host or locale. A group could agree on a monthly timeline and submit critiques back-and-forth via email, or use an online chat feature like Google Hangouts to share together while geographically separated. And if all attempts at forming a group fail, there are online pages like Scribophile which are all about building community while getting and giving useful critique.

But this covers the basic framework. I can’t say enough good things about how beneficial a critique group has been for my own writing. I feel like a critique group evangelist when I meet other writers, and I have to tone it down so I don’t scare them off.

Perhaps you know of a group that runs differently in some key way. I’d love to hear about it in a comment.

And that’s all, folks. Everything anyone needs to at least kick off a group of their own and begin offering meaningful critiques. Thanks so much for accompanying me on this month-long journey and providing encouragement along the way. The feedback has been valuable to me beyond the power of words to convey. If there’s any question or concern not covered, shoot me a comment and I’ll be happy to respond with my take on it.

So with that, farewell. What are you doing reading blogs anyway?

There’s writing to get done!

Elements of Critique: Appearance

Welcome to the A to Z Blog Challenge for 2014, and thanks to you readers who are coming from that list to check this out.

This year I’m covering elements of critique: What to look for to make our writing stronger.

A critique is all about getting other eyes on our efforts, finding out what works and what doesn’t, seeing around our blind spots by taking advantage of the eyes and experience of several others.

Critiquing someone’s creative work can be daunting. You’re picking apart something they poured their heart into. But when everyone realizes the end result is a far stronger piece of writing, the slight pain of criticism and the terror of becoming vulnerable become well worth it.

When you hit “Publish” and send your words out into the Internet, or when you click “Send” on that e-mail delivering your manuscript to a submissions address at a publisher, the people who see your material have one unconscious motivation:

To dismiss it as quickly as possible.

Blog reader feeds and e-mail inboxes fill up fast. People don’t have time to wade through hundreds of articles. We naturally skim through, ostensibly looking for something to catch our eye. In reality, we’re flashing past plenty of material that for whatever reason we deem inconsequential, not worth our time.

Likewise, any editor accepting submissions is going to be inundated with pitches, queries, and manuscripts. The sooner that pile can be whittled down, the better. There’s a hundred more where this manuscript came from.

So the very first element of critique that I want to focus on is appearance.

Any editor or publisher is going to provide guidance for how submissions must be formatted. Magazine editors will post guidelines to give a prospective writer all the details necessary to know how to prepare their query or pitch. Even my critique group provides a formatting requirement, and they will pick on submissions that don’t follow the standards.

For example, If I send my piece in Helvetica font when the publisher demands Times New Roman, right from the outset, I’ve told them a few things:
“I don’t pay attention to what you want. I want you to pay attention to me.”
“I’m above following your rules. I will be a problem to work with.”
“I don’t have time to look at piddly details. That’s what I have you for.”

When a guideline tells me to use a specific style (AP Style Manual or what have you), I should get a quick primer for what that means. It might mean typing ‘OK’ instead of ‘okay.’ Or it could mean not using the Oxford comma when making a list of 1, 2, and 3. (The comma after 2 and before the ‘and’ is the offending comma.)

Tiny details. Simple matters. Easy to miss, with potentially large consequences.

The critique group I belong to has guidelines, and we mostly follow them. There’s room among friends for “I forgot” or “Something went wrong in Word” as excuses.

The editor or potential reader isn’t there to be my friend. I don’t want to give him or her any reason to ignore what I have to offer.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Make sure it’s good.

Appearance matters.

Tomorrow I will look at background.