Stuck in the middle of your novel? Characters losing their luster? Plot not believable? Wondering if you can no longer write? Take a break and "think short."
Since walking off a government job into full-time writing in 1978, I've had 150+ books published. Dozens have been reprinted. Yet long before most were in print, magazine sales (1300+) helped me accumulate writing credits and gain credibility.
What I discovered from and about "writing short."
1. Our lives are treasure chests filled with golden nuggets to be expanded into magazine articles and stories. Personal experiences inspire and entertain. Things you know can help others. Pitfalls avoided warn readers, etc. In the last few months I have sold true stories ranging from the appearance of a friend when desperately needed to several answers to prayer, including money arriving from an unexpected source.
2. Don't overlook the smaller markets. Payment is often modest but income from reprint sales adds up. Example: "My First 'Store-Boughten' Christmas" sold 15 times after appearing in a small monthly magazine in 1978. Now, 40 years later, a local newspaper for senior adults picked it up a for their December issue. The $50. payment for one-time reprint rights brings the total earned to over $600. Note: My first inspirational novel sold for $250. but taught me how how to work with editors--and much of what I needed to know about writing--including what to watch for in contracts!
3. There is more than one way to sell to magazines. (a) True stories, exactly the way something happened. (b) Faction, a fictionalized story of a real event. (c) Nonfiction, such as a how-to piece. (d) Fiction, "made up" stories.
4. Know your rights. (a) All rights.You may not sell elsewhere, or even put in a story collection, without the magazine's permission--and they don't have to give it. (b) First serial rights. Magazine has the right to publish first, no matter how long it takes. (c) One-time or reprint rights. Magazine will publish whenever they choose. In the meantime, you are free to sell elsewhere as long as other places accept one-time or reprint rights.
5. Fringe benefits of writing short. (a) The original "My FIrst 'Store-Boughten' Christmas" was 1000-1200 words. The just-sold version is 650. (b) Over 3,000,000 readers have been inspired/entertained. (c) Telling it as it happened was easy. So was polishing and submitting. (d) Magazine pieces normally are responded to much faster than book submissions. (e) Receiving even modest checks is an affirmation that someone out there likes our writing and thinks it is good enough to merit payment.
6. A huge fringe benefit of writing magazine stories and articles is later being able to collect them in book form. Red alert: You must be sure material in anthologies no longer belongs to a magazine. No problem if you only sold first serial rights or one-time or reprint rights. Otherwise, you must get written permission that returns copyright to you.
Some of my most popular collections.
Dad, Mom, my two brothers and me find fun and excitement at home and on trips throughout the western states
Christmas Caroling Classics
Children learn how we got many of our favorite carols.
Storybook House: Timeless Tales for Fun-Loving Families offers true stories from my childhood.
Timeless Tales for the
Young and Young at Heart .
True and based-on-truth short stores.
Going Home Again:
An Award-winning Author's Best-Loved Stories
In addition, many entries in my co-author niece, Julie Reece-DeMarco's and my Joy to the World: A Treasury of Christmas Inspiration, were originally published elsewhere.
Digging for GoldOur lives are an unending source of material for magazine submissions. Take a trip through your family photo album. When I did this, I ended up with a long list of ideas. The photos brought back memories that ended up selling as "Missing Easter," "Families, Flags, and the Fourth of July," "Threat to Thanksgiving," "The Gift of Wishing," "My First 'Store-Boughten' Christmas" and many more.
Colleen's books available at