Getting published is easy as launching a small boat.
Getting published is easy as launching a small boat.

The Five Myths That Prevent You from Being a Successfully Published Writer and Five Realities That Change This Around. 

1.     Myth: Only the best writers get published.

Reality: This will be true only when only the best readers read books. Have you been to a book store lately?

2.     Myth: It’s impossible to make a living as a writer.

Reality: Maybe writing poetry, but how about business stuff for the local paper or for trade magazines (Have the businesses pay you to write about them). The one thing every business (big or small) needs is someone who can communicate their message internally and externally.

3.     Myth: A good piece of writing sells itself.

Reality: Nothing sells itself any more. Persistence, blind persistence and then deaf and dumb persistence. You have to get their attention first before an editor, publisher or agent will read what you’ve produced. There’s as much art to this as there is putting words on the page. Also, know someone whose name you can use.

4.     Myth: Work your way up from the bottom.

Reality: Free work leads to more un-paid, free work. Use what you’ve done as credibility to get to the next level. And use that to get to the one above that.

5.    Myth: It’s harder to succeed than to fail.

 Reality: You are a writer, like it or not. It might be more fun to direct movies or be on TV, but  this is what you are. To not do it is failure. That’s what is impossible to accept.  

“Where we are is who we are.”—Toni Cade Bambara 

Setting as Mirror

  • Setting as Backdrop
  • Setting as Atmosphere
  • Setting and Believability
  • Setting as Situation
  • Setting as Motive
  • Setting as Metaphor 


Walk through some familiar places and describe what it feels like; portray the sights, scents, sounds, textures, earth, trees, walls, view out the windows, etc. If you had a strange experience in a place this reminds you of, make a story out of it and augment it with the perceptions you are feeling now. If you didn’t have a strange experience, imagine one and use these perceptions to support your imagination. 

Share stories and challenges

The first rule for the writer is simple, painless and even fun: Read before you write—fiction, that is both short and long. Read to the point of intoxication, if you will, so that your bloodstream is changed by the alcohol of fiction, and then believe in the visions that fill your head. The sober and important fact about deep and wide reading of other short-story writers is that one begins thinking in fictional terms, and does not lapse into propaganda writing, or merely expository writing, or any other kind that does not contribute to that single, intense and limited effect that is the short story.—Hallie Burnett  

Titles (make a list of five)

Now Write a Sub Title (tag line) for each

Queries—What to send magazine/book editors and publishers along with your best piece: 

            Marketing Exercise (S.T.A.R.T.) 

Story Idea (put this in one sentence)

Treatment (Genre, Dramatic Shape, Characters, Locations)

Audience (very important this match the market the publisher is trying to reach)

Research (go to a large bookstore and look around at what is out there like this. You need to state there  is an audience looking for what you offer, but also tell how you are unique from what is now available)

Timeline (of Delivery) 

A story is not putting one sentence after another. It’s a series of aimed sentences. 

“Fiction deepens feeling…if it doesn’t do that it isn’t fiction.”—Richard Bausch

 Write a Movie Trailer for Your Story


Have a person think about three unrelated incidents in his or her life while something else is going on now. Perhaps the person is undergoing surgery or going on a date. Once you decide what these apparently unrelated incidents are, write approximately a page about each incident and three pages of current action. Then mix: one paragraph of present action, followed by one paragraph of one of the incidents, then present action, then another incident, and so on. Orient the reader enough for each incident with different names and places.

Exercise (Choose One)

A. Begin a story with a scene of public humiliation from the point of view of the humiliated person. think of something truly embarrassing. This is an exercise in kicking off your fiction with emotion. An opening like this will immediately give you the passions and pain of a character and hence, a strong motive force for revenge or to comeback in glory. 

B. Open a story with a scene in which someone or something is discovered  missing. Who’s responsible? What does this mean? What’s to be done next. You are opening with a problem so right away there is something to be solved. 

C. Open with the summary of a story. Tell what the story is going to be about and who’s in it, in the most straightforward terms. Sometimes storytelling can start the old-fashioned way, with the telling that’ll raise questions, ask for explanations; the details will come in the evidence of what we are talking about. 

Personal Timeline What?  When?  How?  What happens if you do it?  What happens if you don’t do it? Put this on a half sheet of paper and tape it to your computer screen. Next thing you know it will be accomplished.

 Know everything.—Isaac Babel 

Next: An editor analyzes a short story submission paragraph by paragraph. Don’t miss this.  

Macabre Short Story Formula

  1. Think quicksand
  2. hypnogogic state
  3. Believe in the subject
  4. Use reaction instead of tags
  5. Make the reader the central character
  • a rejection that leads to wanting something else
  • an idealization of this unreachable person or goal
  • circumstances that reinforce this
  • details that make the reader uncomfortable
  • push it to extreme
  • false resolution
  • someone is on to him


  1. The clue shell-game
  2. Smell and touch
  3. The climax—physical things described in maddening detail (and short sentences/rhythm)
  4. Ironic twist


“That which hinders your task is your task.”  –Sanford Meisner 

Five Steps to Getting Published

1. Discover what you’re good at, what makes you unique.

2. Find an audience (your focus group).

3. Think about how you can expand upon it.

4. Do market research.  (How do magazines/publishers make their


A.   Writer’s guides

  1. Bookstores
  2. Advertising Standard Rates & Data (demographics) at all libraries
  3. Publisher catalogs
  4. Position your writing (in terms of audience) or yourself.
  5. Know your competition
    1. Why not to self-publish (trouble getting stores to carry without a distributor)
    2. Courting Publishers and Agents
    3. Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc., 10 Astor Place, Third Floor, New York, NY 10003 ($2 and self addressed stamped envelope)
    4. Proposal—Concept, Market, Competition, Book, Methodology, Qualifications, Delivery, Sample
  6. Have an organized way of communicating this. Evaluate results and reward success. 

A Few Extra Hints 

Treat getting published as part of the creative process

  1. Look for back doors (get to know people)
  2. Go to readings and make contact
  3. Have a writing marketing partner
  4. Go public with your effort
  5. Help someone else get published 

Recommended Books 

How To Get Happily Published, Judith Appelbaum, HarperPereneal (1992)

The Self-Publishing Manual, Dan Poynter, Para Publishing (1996)

Guide To Literary Agents, Donya Dickerson, Writer’s Digest Books (1999)

Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, Barbara Kuroff, Writer’s Digest (1999)

Be Your Own Literary Agent, Martin P. Levin, Ten Speed Press (1995)

How To Write A Book Proposal, Michael Larsen, Writer’s Digest (1985)


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