Submitting Short Stories to Magazines?

When you are submitting short stories to magazines, are you sure that your story  best suits that publication?

I can remember years ago having a ‘brilliant’ idea for a story, (I thought so anyway) it came to me in a blinding flash and I hurriedly started writing it, eager to capture my thoughts. There is nothing like inspiration when it strikes and it is so satisfying  as the words pour out of you in a creative stream of consciousness.The story was written fairly quickly and the clever twist in the tale fitted in like a dream. Satisfied that I had done my best, I packaged it off to the magazine and waited.

I didn’t have to wait too long for the rejection letter to reach me, in fact the turnaround was so quick, I wondered whether they had even read it.  I  was quite upset I have to admit because I had been convinced that it was a great idea. 

Rejected and miserable I may have been but I wasn’t going to be deterred, so putting the story to one side, I carried on with my other projects. As time progressed and I eventually summoned up the courage to de-clutter my study, I came across the story again and read it through. Although I still enjoyed it, I realised immediatelythat the magazine had been right to reject it as the story was much too long for that publication. No wonder it made its way back so quickly. No publication is going to make an exception to the rule if the story is over their designated word count. I hadn’t even considered this fact and afterwards, the light of realisation dawned regarding the importance of market research.

In fact that revelation made me realise that creativity alone didn’t cut it and I was going to have to start writing smart if I wanted to achieve my goals of publication.

I mention this because if you are considering submitting short stories to magazines then you need to plan your story first and it will save you a lot of time editing and re-writing later.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  •  Is your story suited to the readers of those magazines?
  • What is the required word count?
  • Does the magazine accept fiction?

 Researching any publication is vital if you want to stand a fighting chance of placing your work and a little time spent pre-planning may just save you from facing the pain of a rejection letter later. So next time you are submitting your short stories to magazines, stop and think, are you sure that you have checked your story, matched the word count and  that you have researched the publication from cover to cover? Even with careful research and the best writing in the world, there are still risks when submitting your short stories to magazines, but that’s part of the fun of becoming a serious writer, never give up if you do get a rejection letter, just treat it as a learning curve and keep trying, you will get there in the end.

Creative Writing Contests – Why Winning is Easy

Entering creative writing contests can become a lucrative yet addictive pastime for many writers who are spurred on by the challenge of pitting their wits against those of other dedicated writers. Cash prizes, publication and recognition for their endeavours entice many writers to submit their stories in the hopes of securing one of the top prizes. There are numerous creative writing contests available and a scan through any writing magazine will highlight some but for a more detailed search, simply type creative writing contests into a search engine such as Google or yahoo and a vast array of results will appear.

Finding a contest that inspires is the key to doing well. There is no point entering if the topic fails to stimulate as the resulting entry would lack enthusiasm and passion, something that a judge would clearly see. Writing with passion is important but writing with a controlled and sustained passion is even better, a good writer will be able to impart all the information needed a little at a time, unveiling unique aspects about the characters and the plots at just the right speed to tantalise the reader. When submitting fiction for creative writing contests, the writing must be tight and yet highly compelling.

For greater results in any creative writing contests, adhere to the following points:

o Find a contest that appeals and sparks off that all important imagination trail

o Read the rules several times. Most writers fail simply because they do not pay attention to detail.

o Don’t just start writing, think. The thinking process is an integral part of being a good writer; they work hand in hand so allow time to mull over potential ideas and then eventually, when happy, make your choice and start writing.

o Plan the story. Decide where to start within the plot itself and create a compelling introduction by starting off at an exciting point, then draw the reader in with carefully crafted words.

o Know those characters. If your characters are under-developed and uninteresting, the judge’s interest will wane, so invest some time to create strong, exciting and 3 dimensional characters that appear larger than life. It helps to really get inside the skin of the characters and make them believable.

o Try to live through the story as you write it, feel every emotion and witness every event that unfolds. This gives your writing an extra and most important winning element.

o Edit ruthlessly and ensure that the specified word count has been adhered to. Editing is vital to ensure that any unnecessary words are eliminated. Never pad out a story unnecessarily, every word should be important.

o Develop your own style and a confidence in your work.

o Don’t leave it until the last minute to write your story. Whilst determination and a ticking clock can kick-start that all important creative process, having time to re-read and edit is paramount. Don’t waste a great storyline and a well-written piece of fiction through starting your story too late and submitting with spelling mistakes or grammatical errors.

o Check out previous winning entries if available, then you are able to judge the standard and the types of stories that won and consider why.

o Think from a judge’s perspective, could your submission be improved and achieve greater winning potential?

Creating a winning story in creative writing contests is easy, but it takes great determination and forward planning to write original and well-thought out storylines that stand out from the crowd.

Annette Young
Freelance Writer/Editor

The Creative Competitor – The Writing Competition Specialists.

Freelance Writing Made Easy

freelancingby Annette Young

If you are passionate about freelance writing and you would love to make it your full-time career, then you need to learn what works and what doesn’t, so that you can stand out against other writers. Freelance writing can be tough especially if you are just starting out or learning the ropes whilst trying desperately to make a living. My personal advice is that you prepare your mindset so that your focus is in place first and you know just what you are trying to achieve.

Here are my top tips to help your freelance writing journey become a whole lot smoother:

1. Don’t just give up the day job even if your burning ambition is to be a full-time writer. Do it the proper way, learn your craft and get a few published credits under your belt. Most importantly if you really want to go for it have at least six months money behind you so that you can pay your bills and you won’t starve.

2. Create an ideas file. You can get ideas from anywhere and everywhere if you keep an open mind and absorb life as it happens to you or around you.

3. Create a personal writing space. It doesn’t have to be big or grand; it just needs to be yours. An attic room, a quiet corner in your house or a sheltered garden glade, it’s entirely up to you as long as you can concentrate and become inspired.

4. Recycle your ideas, even those that have been published.

5. Don’t be down when you get rejections, learn from them. If you get a personalised comment with the rejection, take heart, it’s not usual. Use each rejection as a way to learn the freelance writing craft even more.

6. Designate set writing hours where possible. If you’re an early bird, capitalise on that and write your heart out. If not, write in your lunch hour or after putting the children to bed. Freelance writing means making sacrifices and allowing time to study your craft.

7. Meet other writers where possible because writing can be a lonely occupation. You might be the most gregarious person but when you are writing, you become introspective.

8. Read, read, read. Find time to establish what is current. Learn writing styles; add new techniques to your repertoire.

Your freelance writing may not always be easy, but it will be eventful and ultimately, satisfying.

Indulge in a little romantic suspense


by Annette Young 


When I’m writing fiction, I often try to conjure up exciting and intricate plots that will captivate my readers from start to finish and also keep my own interest in the developing plot throughout. One way that I have found that works for me- especially if my story is character driven, is to add in a little romantic suspense.  We all enjoy a little romantic indulgence in our lives from time to time, it lifts the spirits, motivates us and life becomes fun and let’s be honest, those who are experiencing the romantic joys become almost transparent  as their eyes shine and sparkle and they send out an intense happy vibe.

Transfer your own experiences of any romantic interlude to your characters too and this will increase their capacity to evoke emotion within your readers and this naturally adds an extra layer to their fictional make-up.

Fiction after all, works best if we use everyday experiences so that our readers can relate to events and character growth. I find that romantic suspense adds new elements to the mix because intrigue and suspicion can bring gripping  tension to the storyline.

 There is nothing so emotionally distressing in real life  than when those rose-coloured spectacles become suddenly tainted with fears and doubts about that loved one. Probably most of us have experienced betrayal in our lives, I certainly  have and the fear is often worse than the reality and this can really hook the reader if written with conviction. When I use my personal experiences, I find it adds confidence to my writing and it also makes it easier to write about those situations or emotions if I have already experienced them. 

 Romantic suspense breeds intrigue and couple the uncertainty and doubts with a few carefully placed red-herrings and you will have the reader wondering just what is going to happen next. You might experience a temptation to make the plot too complicated, resist that urge, it really isn’t necessary. By adding in romantic suspense, you will be naturally exposing the characters weaknesses, fears and making them sometimes react in an ‘uncharacteristic’ way. Providing you have a clear vision of your plot, the uncertainty of the characters will simply add depth to the story.

 To make your fiction work, put a little of yourself  into your story and capitalise on your own romantic suspense experiences for greater impact.


Annette  Young

Freelance Writer/Editor:

Writing Short Fiction that Keeps the Reader Guessing


Annette Young


There is no doubt in my mind that writing short fiction accelerates the learning curve for writers when it comes to wordiness. We are all guilty of it,  expanding our thoughts by adding in an extra little word here and there, padding out a story line to make the required word count or to describe a person, place or thing just that little bit more. But when writing short fiction, the luxury of additional words is eliminated because the stringent requirements of the short fiction word count does not allow for waffle, therefore our writing must be tight. If writing short fiction has appeal, then be sure to establish what you are trying to achieve first of all, otherwise, your word count will meander aimlessly resulting in mass editing at the end, and no one likes to cull a perfectly good story.


A tight focus and a clear aim is a necessity when writing in this genre and the plot must be firmly embedded in  your mind before even typing those first few words. When writing short fiction, you need to establish the desired word count first of all and then consider your starting point fully. If you only have a few hundred words to introduce the plot, characters and to have that dynamic finish, then you can’t afford to start at the beginning and build up slowly.


Teasing the reader en-route is one fun aspect of writing short fiction. The first short fiction competition that I entered was using a given photo for inspiration and I choose to write a story with a twist ending, (trust me to add to the pressure)it was very successful, ok, forget modesty, I won the competition and I was hooked on the delights of short fiction thereafter. Having such a reduced word count made me think carefully about what I was trying to achieve and yes, it took a bit of editing because I was determined to not ruin my chances by going over the word limit.


 Try deliberately misleading the reader although it must be in context and use my personal favourite for inspiration….. ‘what if’s’,  as this will help you to look at the story from different angles.  Writing short fiction that keeps the reader guessing will be an exciting writing project to immerse yourself in,  but don’t cheat the reader, hook them and keep them dangling.  When you are writing, think about your aim but then subtly push the reader in another direction. Having a surprise ending, really adds to the impact and  it only takes a little careful thinking and you will have a story that is well written and appeals to many.


Annette Young

Editor/Freelance Writer

Writing with ease?



We all know the scenario, after fighting tooth and nail to find time to write, we sit down in front of our PC’s and ……nothing! The brain dries up, creative stimulation flies out of the window and we are left fighting frustration as the precious available minutes tick away. Sound familiar?

If this happens to you, you are not alone, it is the age old curse of the ‘creative’s and it strikes at the most inopportune times.


So when does writing with ease and creative flow coincide? Sometimes rarely, unfortunately and this is why every opportunity that we have to write should be taken advantage of. Writing with ease on a regular basis can be as simple as setting aside regular blocks of time and sticking to the schedule irrespective of which little problems crop up, if we can only focus on the goal at hand and work through the brain fog, our ability to make the words flow on demand really can improve.


If writing with ease is consistently elusive, then in addition to setting aside some regular times, it might be worth planning the projects a little more in-depth the night before. If planning is insufficient to get those words flowing, then start your projects off so that you are merely picking up the threads and your train of thought will kick back into gear- essentially becoming more obedient to your demands and I have to say these tips work for me. Ensuring that you have a definite idea of which projects will have your complete focus can also make a big difference to your productivity and if you’re anything like me, without that idea firmly cemented in my mind, I would procrastinate like an expert.


Writing with ease does come, but we have to tease and coax our creativity into submission so that we decide when and where we are going to write and the creative process then starts on cue.

by Annette Young

Freelance Writer/Editor

Video – Take the Challenge


 You are watching Creative Competitor Editor – Annette Young

Can’t see the video? Click here to watch it on

Enter our Free Mystery Writing Competition and win either our fantastic ‘Write, Enter and Win Writing Competitions’ course worth £80.00 or our ‘Creative Inspiration for Writers’ course worth £65.00. Both courses will inspire and teach key techniques to take your writing to a new level.

Entry is FREE to all.
Simply complete the story in a maximum of 1000 words. (not including the supplied opening paragraphs).
Send your completed story to and add video mystery to the subject line.

Closing date is: September 5th 2010

Here is the opening paragraphs to your mystery story.

It was cold and the shadows were steadily encroaching on the decaying summerhouse which had once added splendour to her family home.

She shivered as the cool breeze played with her hair and the ivy rustled with malice as it scratched against the aging wood.

The note had said to meet at 6pm. It had said to come alone.

And now she was here, obedient, alone and nervous, just waiting and wondering what was going to happen next……

Become a Writer….Today

Annette Young

I’m often asked how to become a writer and the answer is simple; dedication, commitment and passion. These are the key components but link those with a heightened sense of imagination, an ability to visualise and a great deal of enthusiasm and you are onto a winner.  If you really wish to become a writer, then you need to start thinking like one, allowing your life to change dramatically and also, by expanding your mindset so that you see a potential for stories in everything around you.

You can become a writer by thinking outside of the box, exploring opportunities, taking risks and by playing with the technical aspects of writing. It is only through a continued exploration of various writing genres and the practical application of your own creative skills that can make a difference to your writing future.

My writing journey began by reading voraciously (I was reading Agatha Christie novels at five years old) and although I didn’t know it at the time, even then I was trying to work out how a story was put together although to be honest, Enid Blyton was also a massive inspiration at that time. I loved her simplistic view of life and envied her characters that could explore exciting places and face hidden dangers because my own childhood was so restricted. She had the ability to be able to connect on the same level as a child and connecting with the reader is something all writers should aspire to do.  I also had a vague idea that I wanted to write exciting stories and I wanted to illustrate those stories too and as my two creative passions were writing and art, it made sense to me that I would use both..

To become a writer, you need to have a natural sense of curiosity, a need to be able to pick a successful work of creative writing apart, so that you can see just what the author has done and…why. Writing is a vast learning curve that never ends, especially not with publication. There are always better ways to write and to create but that is what makes it exciting and if you want to become a writer today, then get started.

Banish Writers Block Creatively

Annette Young 

Writers block may be the curse of the creative but if you are a determined writer, you will always find ways to overcome it if you can understand why you are struggling.  

 To give you an example, writing has always been a passion of mine, even from an early age and words used to flow like the proverbial river  as I had so many ideas, thoughts and feelings and I never once used to suffer with writers block at all.

In fact, I couldn’t understand why those articles published in writing magazines seemed to make  such a drama about writers block. My views at that time were that surely if you wanted to write enough, then writers block must only affect those whose writing convictions were not as deeply embedded.

Of course, I was writing therapeutically, recording events that happened to me on an intrinsically personal basis (especially through my teenage years) and capturing all that angst on paper was a creative relief. When there is that much new and exciting emotion cursing through the veins, it is easy to channel it consistently.

 Years later when I was experiencing the break -up of my marriage, I suddenly realised that writers block was a REAL problem and for once, instead of being able to relinquish my pain through words, everything felt frozen inside. No longer a steady stream of eloquent words, they were disjointed, forced and there was no pleasure to be gained by trying even to link static sentences together to make a paragraph of sorts.

 I have to admit this went on for some time….a few years in fact, and deeply rooted inner angst is a powerful barrier against creativity. I was traumatised and numb. One day, the creative spark ignited again, ably abetted by my dreams and inspiration surged through me for days.  I then began to write feverishly to make up for lost time. The release from writers block is overwhelming and intensely pleasurable and when that frustrated state has been experienced for some time, it is like shedding layers of oneself, all those experiences come flooding out.

 Knowing that writers block was real, I learned how to avoid it as much as possible and to channel those days when writers block threatened to rear its head once more. It seemed that if I kept my mind open to fresh new writing challenges, I could keep writing even on those days when the words became slow.  I realised that if my mind became frozen due to facing difficulties on any one project,  I simply had to start something new and that project had the ability to overwhelm any inadequacies.  My brain would freeze and then relish the joy as new creative ideas would send any frustrations spiralling….

If you suffer with writers block, keep the brain open but allow it to flirt with as many new ideas that emerge, half formed and let them play with your subconscious mind until viable ideas take root. Most importantly, keep writing, the very act of capturing those words …whether good or bad….will keep writers block at bay.

Writing – 2010

Judith Barrow

The dog is snoring on my lap; she’s used to these hours of immobility as I wait desperately for the next paragraph, the next sentence, even the next word (letter?), to inspire me; to move my writing on. I re-read what I have already written; alter a word here and there, marvel that I have created a wonderful story, despair that the work I produced yesterday now reads so deadly boring; blundering its way to an ending that is so obviously uninspired.
I haven’t blogged before.

Until this last year I didn’t understand what it was or why anyone would want to write one. After all writing time is precious, I thought, why spend it doing this rather than producing another manuscript to hide away in the filing cabinet; neatly typed, spell-checked, double-spaced, edited ten times and protected in a folder. But then I started reading other people’s blogs and I realised I wasn’t alone. Other writers suffer from the same self-doubts and fears; scared of rejection, of being proved that the poem, the short story, the novel they have created is something that no one else would want to read.

So, eventually and with great trepidation, I bundled up my manuscript and, giving the envelope one last pat, posted it. Of course it came back – numerous times.

But 2010 is my year. I know, I know, as my family and so called friends tell me so often, I said the same about 2000,200I, 2002 and so on and so on. But I have persevered and even had some small successes, But this year it’s all coming true; this year my book will be published; this year I will be the one doing book launches and book signings. So what if no-one turns up other than me and a representative from Honno (my publishers): I will be there!


Judith Barrow BA MA

email ja.barrow@ btinternet .com

Write about what you know

Mike Dale

“Write about what you know.” It is a piece of advice much used, and abused, in the teaching of writing techniques to beginners. As an exercise pointer it might be fine, but when it comes to getting published it may turn out to be far too limiting.


I prefer “write about what interests you.” What is the difference? Let me give you an example.


A while back I was thinking about a story involving scenes at an auction of fine art. The problem was as a starving artist I had never been to an auction except to buy a second-hand car. So I contacted the Society of Fine Art Auctioneers (yes, there really is one for everyone!) and spoke to several of their members. They were extremely helpful and provided me with lots of background and procedure; some of it even finished up in the story.


Generally, when you tell people that you are an author doing research they fall over themselves to help. This method has uncovered some fascinating areas for me, from poisonous plants to seafood cookery, and even an interview with a smallholder on the tribulations of country life. None were areas that I knew, but they were interesting and made it easy to write something fresh. And they got me published.


I have two works in progress at the moment. One revolves around computer fraud, of which I know a little from my time in information technology. The other is about a serial killer, and I assure you that I have no experience whatever there! But that is what makes research so much a fun part of the writing.


So remember, rule no topic out just because you are not an expert. There are so many fascinating things in this world. You wouldn’t want to miss any of them, would you?


Mike Dale


Mike Dale a freelance writer, lecturer and critic, and lives in Manchester, UK, with his wife Sue.

His background is in senior business management, but he now writes both fiction and non-fiction on a range of topics. He has been published in magazines as disparate as Twisted Fairy and The Countryman. He has also had published many short stories and has won several prizes. None have been the Booker.

Mike is working on a novel, but the need to eat is slowing down progress. He persists.

writing and new year resolutions

Mike Dale

The big problem with New Year resolutions is that, by definition, they require the presence of resolve.

I have read widely on this topic and it would appear that this is a rare commodity in the oft-published writer, so what chance do the rest of us have? However, undiscouraged and foolhardy as only the ignorant can be, I have presumed to establish the following personal resolutions for 2010.

  • I will get a non-fiction article published by someone other than an aspiring web-site publisher who can’t yet afford to pay me.
  •  I will begin to write stories and articles for a market that exists, rather than for one that should exist if there was any justice.
  • I will not get cross when I am rejected by some spotty youth who clearly does not recognize the next Iain Banks. (NB, not Iain M. Banks – don’t do that Sci-Fi stuff. Good Lord no!)
  • I will write a minimum of 5000 words per week and thus complete my novel. No, really. Yes, I know I haven’t but I intend to give it my full and undivided…
  • I will stop having one-sided conversations with my muse. Maybe then it will be able to get a word in and the big idea will gallop, cavalry-like, over the horizon.

All that is missing now is a large helping of self-motivation and we are on a winning track. Writing? Easy; don’t know what all the fuss is about…

Murder Mystery Books – Read, Absorb and Write

by Annette Young

Murder mystery books are always a popular read and if you take a look in your local bookshop, you will see what I mean. We can learn a lot from published authors of this genre if we take the time to do a little research. For me, browsing through a bookshop is always a delight, in fact it’s hard to get me to leave once I’m browsing the selection of novels and there is without doubt, something so addictive about wandering down rows of published books, reading book covers and getting a feel for the stories within.

Take your time, but once you have chosen any murder mystery books that appeal, then the fun can really start.

Settle back into a comfy armchair and immerse yourself in the plot. Allow yourself to notice how the author spins that intricate murderous web around the characters, the plot and cleverly draws the reader into the story. Re-read the opening sections of the book and those all-important first paragraphs, how did the author capture your attention? Vivid imagery? Murder or a sense of intrigue? Why did the opening section work so well?

As you are reading, try to analyse how the author has kept your interest throughout and how they carefully dangled any red-herrings to throw you off the true plot that has been carefully concealed. A good writer will keep you guessing and this is what makes for a good page turner.

I can appreciate that sometimes it is difficult to analyse whilst enjoying a cleverly crafted plot, and if this is the case, then simply settle back and enjoy the craftsmanship as the plot unfolds.  There will be time afterwards to re-read and analyse then.

We should never try to emulate the style of another writer but we can put their published efforts to good use by taking a section of their work and re-writing it (whilst trying to improve it in our own style) or  we could even use their characters in a plot of our own.

This is for personal use only and not for publication  and it helps you to absorb the necessary skills by using characters or plots that you are completely familiar with now. It’s fun, useful and can give you an insight into the skill of the author and allows you to ascertain your own technique.

As writers, we have productive days and we also have those days when extracting words from our brains is akin to pulling teeth.  But researching genres that we instinctively love will help us get past writers block or just churning out fiction without ever progressing fully. Why shouldn’t we learn from those who enjoy publishing success? I know that when I have been writing a story that I have totally enjoyed, the words flow, the ideas strengthen and the time flies by.

So if murder mystery books do it for you, then create a murderous plot of your own and have your own avid readers analyse your skills. 


Horror Stories – Feel the Fear

Annette Young

One of the main reasons that writers fail when writing horror stories is that they are not able to immerse themselves into the plot totally and by this I mean, that, irrespective of how the plot is constructed, the writer should feel the ripples of trepidation in a similar way to the reader.

Writing horror stories in a convincing way means having to scare yourself.

You might be asking yourself how you can do that, considering as the writer, you will be crafting the plot so therefore would know exactly what is going to happen and when, but it’s simple, you just need to see through the eyes of your characters.

Horror stories should incite fear wherever they have been set: A creepy, derelict old mansion or a brand new block of flats …for example.

Whilst the first example sets the scene for the reader, the writer simply needs to work that little bit harder to instil the same sense of foreboding in the second example as the reader has no preconceived idea about what could happen in a brand new flat and therefore you need to build up the tension.

If you want to write horror stories that literally terrifies the reader, then you must imagine that you are actually ‘witnessing’ the events that unfold and hearing every creaking floor board, every menacing whisper and feeling the thudding of your heart as the anticipation rises.

If you struggle with this, then try a little experiment.

One night when you are home alone, turn out the lights in the house and sit quietly. Even if you are not scared of the dark (and I admit I am) you will immediately start to hear lots of strange noises coming from all directions. Depending on how nervous you are, you will even start to imagine manifestations and make odd shapes out of the blackness. Try to sit in the dark for a while or to accelerate the tension, light a candle and walk around the house, noticing the strange shadows on the wall. Imagine that you are your character and that something evil is lurking.

The point to all of this is that if you can feel the fear yourself and let your imagination run wild, you will be able to portray that sense of apprehension and dread to the reader and your horror stories will have the reader hanging on to every word.

Annette Young


Kate Williams 

My Inner Critic has decided to out itself. No longer is it content to just whisper vile negatives to my every written word – now it is engaged to Procrastination and a wedding seems inevitable. The two together have gobbled up my muse (a green tree frog); belched in my face and said “Delicious. Any more?

It isn’t that I haven’t the stories demanding to be told; there are just so many that they have constipated my fingers. As they are stuck halfway between my throat chakra and my emotional centre, it seemed reasonable to try and shift them by a session on the Zen-chi machine. All that achieved was wobbly legs and the realisation that I had forgotten to do any Tai Chi exercises. Standing meditation as if I am hugging a tree fills up about ten minutes. Then it’s back to the page.

I polish my computer and stare at the white blank screen. Then riffle through the thesaurus as if my life depended on finding that perfect word. Which of course it does. I can’t find it and in any case, I need to check on the progress of the Sun-birds nest. I couldn’t sleep let alone write if anything prevented the eggs from hatching.

I must Google and see what can be done about eradicating Indian Mynah birds.

Deciding to sneak up and perhaps catch the betrothed couple sleeping; I cycle to the beach with notebook and pen and the intention of letting a character emerge and speak. There are dozens. Voracious in their need for centre stage.

In the end, we all gaze out at the Coral Sea looking for dolphins then admire the lacy patterns made by sand-crabs.

Tomorrow, without fail, I am going to write my Christmas list; and plan what I’ll wear to the wedding.


Writing – Nothing to Fear but Fear itself

Author/Editor Annette Youngby Annette Young

I can remember when I first began writing seriously. I wrote completely on instinct and adhered to creative muse allowing that to guide me. My writing was precious, like a new-born baby and I wrapped and coddled it, correcting it, re-writing it and nurturing it through to completion.

I then kept it safe and warm and away from everyone else.

Why did I do that? What possible use is saving your writing in a computer file or tucking it in a dark drawer and thinking …one day?

Having experienced this strange protective process in the early stages of my writing, I realised finally when I could no longer squeeze another manuscript into the drawer, that I had to rethink my writing goals to ascertain what I really wanted to achieve. The answer was simple, I wanted to be a published writer of merit but I also knew that was impossible for as long as I kept hiding my creative merits . What was I scared of?


Sadly, rejection is likely to be  inevitable…….

Many writers fear rejection until they have learned to face it a few times, some writers fall by the wayside and decide to keep their writing as a hobby whilst others, grit their teeth and learn to brush off their bruised egos and they start writing again.

Steely determination is the best way to overcome fear and determination to succeed eventually will have the writer…i.e. you, sending out the best possible work in the hopes that someone will see the merit within your creative endeavours.

Once I had overcome my sense of fear and faced the fact that in order to grow and develop my writing, I was going to have to dig deep and send my prized possessions out into the big, wide world,  I began to acknowledge my position on my writing journey, knowing that my destination might still be some way off, but at least I was heading in the right direction.

I saw rejection as a way to spur me forward and it worked because I learned to analyse why. Four steps forward and two back may seem a painfully slow way of reaching publishing success but, it also helps to build the strong foundations that is needed and when success is finally obtained, boy, is it ever worth the wait…!!

Good luck on your journey.

Annette Young

Author’s note: This was originally written some years ago and I am now a full-time writer with 13 books currently to my name and I have ghostwritten numerous books for others. So, you can see that fear can restrict and limit your success, but facing your fears provides numerous opportunities.

Editing Work

Annette Young

One of the good things about having a blog is that you get to rant occasionally and vent your frustrations and one of my all-time writing hates is when writers submit sub-standard work to publishers. Frankly I don’t understand it.

 Editing work is an essential part of the writing process and it reeks of unprofessionalism if the writer does not make that extra effort to polish their work. It certainly doesn’t bode well if the writer does not have the ability to see a project through to completion and most publishers would reject work received that is inundated with errors.

 We all make the odd mistake when editing work, especially if we have been immersed in a writing project that is long and intense and have read and re-read every word over and over again. No wonder the odd spelling mistake sneaks through our careful checks but mistakes should be few and far between and not littered throughout each paragraph blazing a trail of carelessness for all to see.

As a writer, I try to edit carefully but I’m only human and I have spotted an odd mistake after sending work out (imagine the mental berating) and the reason it happens is because we have read our work to death and the brain, following this repetitive process, knows just what word we were supposed to have written and chooses to see that word and not the one that we actually typed. The mind can certainly play tricks and one tip to avoid this scenario would be to read your work aloud as this will highlight obvious errors. Imagine you have an audience and are projecting your words for maximum impact; this can often bring silly errors to light. Alternatively, if someone else is available, ask them to check it for you.

As a writing coach, I know that I will often read first draft work with many barely concealed mistakes and although the errors scream at me, I don’t expect it to be flawless as the writer is focussing on learning new techniques and the polishing takes place later but as a publisher, I get fed up when final drafts are sent to me and these are still riddled with errors. It does seem as if sometimes apparently professional writers expect me to polish and edit their work for them. The same goes for competition entries, I can understand writers wanting their work to stand out but sending crumpled, poorly checked submissions only stands out in a negative way.

Whilst there are many writers who will spend a great time editing work and who care about their submission, there are sadly those who won’t commit to the full process of writing and take time and care over their ‘baby’ before sending it out in to the world, so if this is you, take a moment to rethink your processes and reasoning, do you really want to be a professional writer? If the answer is yes, then editing work is vital and calls for a commitment from start to finish.

Rant over.

 Annette Young

Creating Characters

One of the most important aspects of fiction has to be creating believable characters. It is also, I believe, one of the most difficult aspects of writing for many writers. We can all learn the correct techniques and formulas of fiction writing but creating characters that almost live and breathe require more than just following certain techniques, it requires an intuitive belief in those characters that we can visualise in our minds eye.

Many writers believe that character development starts on the page, I believe that it starts long before and those characters of the future may even be buried deep within our subconscious minds as we instinctively begin the process of their creation.

As writers, we owe it to ourselves to produce our best work always, and we should always strive to master our skills even if that means working harder on those areas where we are not quite as adept.

Consider for a moment how much better our writing will be perceived if those characters can reach out to the reader, draw them into the plot and make them care about the outcome.

Many years ago, I struggled to control one of my own characters who was pulling in a completely different direction to where I wanted him to go. My plot had been painstakingly defined and whatever I did, I could not seem to get this character to perform as he was supposed to.

Unsure of what to do and in frustration, I wrote him out of the story.

I then spent hours feeling emotional and actually found myself (to my horror) feeling remorse, guilt and a real sense of loss. Most importantly, I realised that my story was not going to be as good without him, it had lost its focus and was certainly less dynamic.  My character was larger than life and there was an intensity about him that was compelling. 

When I realised my mistake, I deleted the latter pages and he was instantly back in the centre of the plot, a strong, slightly irritating, infuriatingly demanding character who was an integral part of the whole story.

I then adapted my plot around him and realised that this made my story so much more believeable because I had been trying to make him act out of character previously. In doing so, I  learned to become much more flexible realising that when characters start to lead, as writers we have achieved something special.

If you find creating and developing characters a difficult process, then why not sign up for the writers e-course ‘Create Living, Breathing, Characters? It really can help and is designed for those busy writers who need quick and easy projects to focus on.

Don’t forget to sign up to the news feed on this page as I will then be able to send any updates directly to you. Also, feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you think about the act of creating characters.

Until next time, enjoy creating new fictional life.

Annette Young

Time to Write

Why Fast Fiction Projects Work

We have all moaned about having so little time and in this modern, fast-paced society we live in today, I guess that it could be true. However, there are too many demands on our time which do not fulfil us in the creative sense, so it is important that we do not let the pleasure of our writing time pass us by.

Fast fiction works well because it takes so little time to do. Yes you really can write something whilst waiting for the bath to run ( only don’t forget that it’s running) or whilst waiting for the iron to heat up. Only got fifteen minutes to spare? That’s plenty of time to put pen to paper. Challenge yourself. It’s also a fun way to pass a little bit of time.

Think of the times when you are having to wait for somebody. Perhaps you are in the dentist waiting room or sat in the car waiting to pick up the children out of school? Waiting is boring, use that free time to your advantage and you will be amazed at the writing achievements that lie ahead.

In my free book Quick and Easy Creative Writing Projects, I show you how to maximise your free time with inspirational and creative tasks, best of all, it gets you writing regularly. To pick up a copy of the e-book, simply sign up for the free writers newsletter at

Find a Writing Buddy

If I said that writing can be a lonely occupation, I doubt there would be few who would disagree with me, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

We all tend to think of a writer as someone who is locked away in a study for long periods of time, typing away feverishly and only emerging for sustenance and perhaps rare social events.


Whilst some writers do live a more introverted lifestyle this is only because it suits them to do so and so if we wish to live a normal and sociable life then we should make every effort to do so, because the benefits can actually be great. Interaction with others can often spark off great ideas that may have lain dormant within our subconscious minds, if ever to emerge at all. Writers need fuel to burn that creative stove, the more fuel we give it, the greater our output essentially and this is why finding a writing buddy can be a wonderful thing and can deepen and intensify the need to write.


 Motivation can be made easier, words of encouragement are there endlessly, ideas generated and passed from one to another and of course there is that much needed feedback and reassurance from time to time. Take care when choosing your writing buddy though as it must be someone who you are instinctively in tune with. Connecting with the wrong person can have the opposite effect on creative output and just increase stress levels substantially.

Writer’s Block

Why it happens and how to overcome it…….

I am always being asked what writer’s block is, why it occurs and how to overcome it quickly and easily and those new to writing appear to become especially concerned about suffering with this creative affliction. Quite simply, although it can be caused by any number of reasons, the negative aspects are that it can substantially halt any creative output because the words do not wish to flow.

The first thing to be aware of is that writer’s block is simply an annoying aspect of the creative process and that it affects writers with varying degrees of experience. The main thing is not to panic and let it become a bigger issue than it is.

Realistically, it is usually no more than a temporary problem and understanding this and accepting that it has happened  is usually enough to prevent it from becoming a real issue. Times when I have experienced it personally have been when I have not planned my writing schedule enough so that my mind was unfocussed or when I have been experiencing a large amount of stress and emotional problems.

These deeper rooted issues affect us on many levels anyway, not just the creative ones, but because writing can be therapeutic it is even more frustrating that the words do not want to form. Writer’s block caused by emotional problems is without doubt harder to overcome but the same rules can still apply, the more angry and frustrated we become, the tighter the grip on our creative muse . Accepting it, relaxing and trying not to worry about it is usually best and remember that it will usually improve when any ongoing pressure is lifted.

Transitional writer’s block can be helped by adopting the following:

  • Write anything even if it is just a complete jumble of words, the simple act of writing will help force through the block and free up the mind.
  • Try timed writing – five minutes of furious writing can eradicate block and because it is only for five minutes, it lifts the pressure of having to struggle through hours of minimal creative activity.
  • Change the project you are working on and start something new.
  • Need any research doing? Then do that first and ease the pressure from yourself. Discovering new information to help with any writing project can fire up the enthusiasm again.
  • Do some quick writing projects (Quick and Easy Writing Projects or Challenging Creative Writing Projects e-books for example).
  • Write up a schedule for the following day. Focusing the brain is an important weapon in alleviating writer’s block.

These are just a sample of tips to help you overcome writer’s block quickly and easily. I have devised them and used them for myself and they really do work. I also teach my writing students to do the same.

Writer’s block seems to be an integral part of the writing process and as annoying and frustrating as it is, consider it a temporary intrusion into your writing progress.

Procrastination – the Harbinger of Creative Destruction!

It’s true – procrastination destroys the opportunities for writing success!

From amateur to professional, procrastination delays and prevents writers from…well…writing!

Ok, it is fair to say that we are creative beings and that for many of us, the sheer joy of writing is aided and abetted by that creative muse striking and a need to capture words to paper, the problem is that when we find those precious free moments, it is often procrastination and not creativity that strikes.

One of the most important things that I have discovered since writing seriously for a living is that having an agenda for the day is paramount as it helps to focus the mind and sharpen the wit. I believe that writing productively means giving ourselves as many opportunities as possible in the act of writing and having a detailed plan helps us to achieve our goals more readily. Procrastination has less of a fighting chance when we are organised.

Being organised and not having enough time to think are two different things and an efficient writer uses every opportunity to conjure up ideas whilst carrying out the mundane chores that plague us each and every day. From my perspective, thinking about my writing projects whilst wielding an iron through the mountain of clean and wrinkled clothing, makes an unbearable task……bearable, plus I get the added benefit of having spent a pleasurable amount of time investing in my writing.

Stop procrastination in its tracks by writing a simple list of jobs that needs to be achieved the following day. This simple process helps to identify the important areas and also details the ‘nice to haves’ if there is time plus, it helps set the brain in a more organised manner and therefore will be quicker to tackle those all important writing projects that you have set yourself.

My simple message here is to not allow yourself to indulge in procrastination, be efficient, be focussed and be successful instead!

Annette Young

Break Through the Frustration Barrier

Sometimes writing can be pure pleasure, watching how a story unfolds and develops especially when the words flow onto the page in a seemingly effortless manner.
Unfortunately, all writers also have to experience the downside to being a creative person, when the words seem to dry up and tie your brain in knots…
I was feeling that way this morning. I wanted to write – actually I needed to write. But my brain just stopped in its tracks and refused to budge. This is what I call the frustration barrier when the words are there but they cannot get through. In the early days of my writing career, I thought it was just me who suffered from these creative mental blocks but as I progressed and got to know other writers, I realised that this is a natural (although annoying) part of the writing process.
Now that I teach creative writing at workshops or in college, I’m only too aware that other people feel that way too. There can be a number of reasons for it as well….a hard day at work, emotional problems, too much on your mind or it could be as simple as feeling lethargic due to a beautiful summers day. The difference between amateur and professional writers however, is that they know they have to work through it and whilst it’s not easy to continue writing when your head feels like it is full of cotton wool, it is possible.
For example, this morning I wanted to write an article but I couldn’t think of a unique angle and the more I sat and thought about it, the more the barriers came down. So instead, I choose to write this blog because it required a different type of creativity and because I have changed creative direction, the words started to flow again.
So if it happens to you – it’s not so much about breaking down the barriers perhaps but as finding a way to wriggle around them.

Find That Fictional Voice

Much of my work these days is spent writing non-fiction- such as e-books and articles etc….however my writing life started as a writer of fiction and I remain hooked still on the realms of fictional creation and pure bliss for me is losing myself in the pages of a good novel.

When I first started writing, I tried every genre possible, and became fascinated by how the great writers made their stories flow so well and seemed to invite the reader in to follow every twist and turn. I tried to emulate some of the great writers and found a fatal flaw in this action, I realised that I was spending more time trying to be someone else and hadn’t started to develop my own writing voice and this is an essential part of becoming a successful writer.

Lesson learned, I started to write in my own style and even though, I still received rejection slips for my many efforts (like any self-respecting and serious writer) I learned to pick myself up from my disappointed heap and glue myself back in front of the computer again. I figured by the law of averages, I was going to strike it lucky at some point.

Finding my own style was essential and I would encourage any struggling writer to do the same. If like me, you love creating new realms of possibilites and enjoy painting a picture with words, then let your personality and style develop naturally.

Of course it is good to read as much as possible and to try to write in genres that appeal however, learn to write as you so that the world can discover a fresh new talent.

Once I had my first work published, more publishing achievements followed and it can for you too. It is only a matter of being dedicated to the cause and continuing to absorb new techniques en-route.

Annette Young

Write Through Lazy Days…

We have all had moments when we want to write but for some reason the words won’t emerge and the brain is a bit fuzzy. This can happen through lack of forethought but it can also be because we feel the effects of lethargy. If we have allocated that all important few hours for our creative pursuits, it can become distinctly irritating if words start to fail us and in a lethargic state, it doesn’t take much for us to change our mind about writing and to switch to some less important task.

Writers block may happen less to me nowadays but that doesn’t mean I don’t still have lazy days and these can be the most frustrating of all because the only thing stopping me from writing is me. Starting the day off badly can stall that creative action and if I feel a bit tired, naturally, the last thing my brain wants to do is to be used in an imaginative way.

If a lazy day strikes and you feel yourself making numerous excuses to stop your writing practice……stop right there.There is no real excuse for not making the most of that important writing time and you simply need to stimulate your creativity by focussing on some fun projects. If you are sat at home, there are numerous items around you that can be used to conjure up some interesting story ideas.

Collect an assortment of items that should be able to trigger off a an imaginative response and arrange them in a manner that appeals, then simply sit back and gaze at the items:

Pen and calendar lying on the table

One glove and a red lipstick on an oak desk

A newspaper with a red encircled ad and an empty matchbox

Allowing the mind to gently weave possible storylines around these items, keeping the mind open and the thoughts free-flowing will certainly help. If you can persist gently and just consider these scenario’s without any expectations or pressure but simply a mild curiosity, results will start to occur. Quite simply relaxing the mind will allow the brain to use the items as triggers and some creative gems may emerge

Dreaming Up New Ideas

Constantly creating new ideas or conjuring up whole new environments in which our fictional characters can live and play can be a difficult challenge sometimes but what if we could use our dreams to stimulate creativity or at the very least to inspire us?

We all dream, albeit sometimes we wake up and our dreams are but a hazy memory, but training ourselves to recall dreams before they fade can be done. Sometimes our dreams can be vividly intense and crammed with twists and turns and characters that are larger than life, and those are the dreams that usually feel as if they have been visibly imprinted on our minds. Sometimes they feel so real, that it takes a while for normality to filter through our muddled dream state.

I believe that I am fortunate to have consistently been able to recall those multi-coloured exploits in fairly vivid details and even though may not remember all of the facts, have been able to weave aspects of any remembered dream into my own fictional tales. Our dreams do not have to be relayed in full remember, if necessary, tiny aspects can be used to enhance an existing plot or perhaps introduce a characteristic or a flaw to enhance our main characters and help them stand out in the reader’s mind. Even those dreams that appear in full as if an interactive 3 dimensional film show do not have to be used in their entirely, we can pluck key moments from the scenes with dexterity, recycling specific aspects so that they work for us.

Using our dreams means that we maximise the opportunity to deliver unique fiction all without having to force ourselves to conjure up those ideas manually. They are there for our taking so let’s use them.

Annette Young

Writing Competitions….and the Winner is……

Writing competitions can be great fun and financially rewarding too.

Few writers, who have entered writing competitions, cannot help but become addicted to the thrill of trying to outwit other competitors. The buzz of striving to produce the best piece of writing possible can be quite enthralling and the sheer act of writing and pitting your wits against others is that it has the added benefit of helping the writer to achieve focus on the end goal.

I started seriously entering writing competitions many years ago, and although I didn’t think that I had much chance of winning, was quite surprised and then extremely proud of the fact that my work was short-listed and some submissions also won. This sense of achievement spurred me on in my own writing endeavours and I often wonder whether I would have been so successful now in my freelance career if I hadn’t of entered different competitions and got that first, early taste of success.

Since those humble beginnings, I have judged various writing competitions and then set up my own. I try to stimulate the minds of the writers by providing a variety of themes so that writing remains exciting and not a chore. Favourite competitions include those with a restricted word count because I know how difficult it can be to produce flash fiction in a minimal amount of words, of course the harder a competition can be, the more the seasoned competition writers like to enter, because it pushes the creative boundaries back yet further.

Think about stories that you could conjure up in just 100 words? Difficult isn’t it? Where do you start the story? How do you finish with a twist ending? Or perhaps you would like to enter the first chapter of your novel in a competition? Put that creative entity out there and see what feedback you get.

Competitions – exciting, unpredictable and addictive and next time you fancy a challenge, you now know what to do.

Annette Young