Six Reasons Why Duotrope Is A Game Changer For Publishing Short Fiction And Poetry

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As you may know, I offer publishing consultancy services for writers looking to publish their writing.

Here’s a dirty little secret, you can do the job 100% by yourself. Tonight, I am going to expound on why if you write short fiction and/or poetry, you need to subscribe to Duotrope.com. For only $5/month ($50/year), you gain access to a searchable index of over 5,000 literary journals. Without a doubt, Duotrope is the key to finding esteemed literary magazines to publish your short fiction and poetry.

Here are six reasons why any short story writer or poet needs to get on Duotrope:

  1. You can search to find journals that match your writing – Regardless of what genre you write in, you can find journals that will publish your type of writing by searching based on genre, subgenre, style, topic, and audience.
  2. You can search based on acceptance ratio – If you need a confidence boost, you can search by acceptance ratio and find journals with higher acceptance rates.
  3. You can search by average response time – Many literary magazines take at least a month to respond and waiting as long as six months for a decision is not uncommon. If you are looking to quickly rack up publications, you can search based on fastest response time.
  4. You can understand what editors are looking for – For many literary journals featured on Duotrope, there are interviews with editors, allowing you to better understand the rationale behind their selection process and what pet peeves they have about many of the individuals who submit to their publications.
  5. You can get paid – Granted, few literary magazines pay for short stories or poems and those that do rarely offer more than $50, but if money is a factor, you can use Duotrope to find literary journals that offer financial compensation to their contributors.
  6. You can keep track of your submissions – Duotrope is extremely convenient for writers who plan to send out their poetry and short fiction to many publications. Using Duotrope, you can track your submissions. This can come in handy when you need to remember if a poem or short story has been submitted to a publisher already, and if so, if it can be simultaneously submitted.

I guarantee that if you utilize Duotrope, it will be a lot easier to find journals to publish your short fiction or poetry.

Of course, even using Duotrope, finding places to publish does require some time and effort. You can click here for more information about my publishing consultancy services if you would prefer to kick your feet up and relax.

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Writer’s Spotlight: Natalie Hernandez

Today, I’m introducing a new feature to The Literary Game. My whole intention here is to help writers grow. I think the opportunity to switch things up once in a while and showcase talented new writers fits well with the whole mission here, so without further ado…

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Jungle
by Natalie Hernandez

His words replayed in my head the whole ride home, “I hate to disappoint you, but I ain’t shit. Honestly, I’m just a druggy who’s nice with words but suffers from a crazy short attention span.”  The rattling of the subway was the soundtrack to my questions, first one being, What the fuck did he mean by that?

Was that his way of telling me that I had been wrong this whole time? I mean sure, he always told me I was too pure to be held by him, but he loved his vices; and once I remember he told me I was “as pure as imported cocaine,” so I know he’s capable of loving me.

His boys warned me, multiple times; but I confused it for jealousy. They couldn’t wrap their small, drug infused minds around the fact that their King had found a good one. Sure, I endured a couple bruises and punches here and there, but he was high. I was in love. We always met each other halfway, even through detours.

The sudden halt of the train jolted my tiny body and I jumped out of my seat; just three more stops and I would finally be home.  At this stop, people coming in from work rushed into the subway like roaches entering the free world-all in packs, stuck together like a fresh pack of Newports.

Mmm…Newports. That smell always reminded me of the long nights Christian and I had on my front porch when we were seventeen. Crazy, to think that both of us would be nearing twenty five this year; and I’m the only one who kept my sobriety a promise. Christian could never, and I knew that…but I had to be the one giving him the benefit of the doubt. His mother walked out on him and his sisters when they were young; his father was never around—and his “boys,” were more like his children. Sucking him out of his money like leeches, just to feed their vices.

Christian once said he fell in love with me because I was nothing like the people around him; and while he was absolutely correct—he never knew the reason why I loved him so deeply.

He was the exact replica of my father: a drunk. The only difference both of them held, was that Christian fed more into the needles and baggies than he did the bottles. I honestly would not have minded if he were just an alcoholic; I know how to deal with those. But drug addicts? I don’t think I had ever met one until he came along.

Before him, I was just Seline. A 16 year old girl trying to get myself through high school with straight A’s, but the only thing straight about me was my edge. I never drank, never smoked; because I had seen what it was doing to my father. Witnessing addiction first hand was the only sign I needed.

But things changed my senior year. Christian had just transferred from a school in Brooklyn to my school in Queens, and I could tell it wasn’t by choice.

“Yo. What’s good love? I’m Chris.”

I looked around, making sure he wasn’t talking to me.

“Yes you, Ma. What’s good? Talk to me. Fuck with me, what’s good?”

“Class, please turn in your papers when the bell rings. Enjoy your day.”

I picked up my books and walked to the front of the class as quickly as I could, trying to avoid him.

Damnit, I remember thinking. This kid moved like Spider-Man, and he was definitely up to something…something nobody at Newtown was ready for.

When I arrived at my locker, he was standing close by. I decided to break the ice, giving him a cold stare.

“My names Seline. I’m 16, and whatever the fuck it is you want, I don’t have it. “

He looked surprised, but his lips curled into this very sexy smirk.

“Oh. So shorty has a name huh? Well, I think Seline should come chill with a real one, let me show you around my city.”

I scoffed. “Excuse me, YOUR city? You’re not even from here, shut the fuck up.”

He laughed. The sound of his laughter brought me back to my favorite summer, it was refreshing; yet…terrifying.

Weeks went by, and Christian and I became closer. I introduced him to my parents; under all the pressure in the world.

Me lo tienes que traer a la casa por lo menos una vez, para conocerlo bien./ You have to bring him home at least once, so we can get to know him better.”

My poor mother. She had no idea that she’d be reconnecting with the teenaaged version of my father all over again. His clothes constantly reeked of marijuana, but it slowly became my favorite cologne.

After school one day, we walked to my house; hand in hand. He was doing something he’d never done before—playing with my fingers.

“Babe, you good? We don’t have to go if you don’t want to; I’ll just tell her you got sick or whatever.”

He shook his head, and straightened his jacket.

“Nah, it’s all good. I just haven’t done this shit in a while, meeting a girl’s parents or whatever. You don’t get it yet babygirl, but I’m no good for you.”

I laughed it off, and continued to walk.

To my surprise, the night went insanely well. We ate, talked, laughed. My mom seemed to really like him, constantly giving me smiles and nods of approval whenever our eyes met.

Gracias Senora Ruiz, esta comida le quedo diivina/ Thanks Mrs Ruiz, the food was amazing.”

I had never heard him speak Spanish before, but I felt my eyes fill up with delight.  After he went home that night, my mom and I sat down for a talk.

“Mija, I like him for you, a lot. He reminds me of your father.”

She nodded in his direction; where he was sitting on the couch; nose buried in a Dean Koontz book.

“I know Ma, that’s why I was afraid of bringing him here. I knew you’d think that.”

She looked at me, shocked. “Porque dices eso?/ Why do you say that?”

“Because Ma, he’s a lot like Daddy. He has vices. He drinks, smokes, he’s not the ideal guy for me, Mami. But I like him.”

My mom shook her tiny head of blond curls in disbelief. She kissed my forehead and said, “Goodnight mi vida, te quiero.”

I’ll always remember that night like it was yesterday….and next month would be seven years since that day.  I’ll never forget he’d write me poems and raps and slip them into my bag every morning on our way to school. He’d buy me anything I ever wanted, and I never had to ask twice for anything.

His mom said I changed her son into the man she’d always knew he would be. But what she didn’t know, was that he was the exact image of my dear father. An addict, dependent on vices that would probably kill him, sooner than later.

When I got home, I showered and slipped into my  favorite pair of leggings and an oversized hoodie, one which I’m sure belonged to Christian.

I heard my phone ring from the other room, and ran to get it.

The name Adrian displayed on my screen.

“Seline? Seline…Seline!….Christian’s dead.”

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You can follow Natalie on the Web and social media:
Twitter: natstradamus__
Instagram: redlipstikandhiphop and natstradamusss
Website: redlipstikandhiphop.com

If you would like your short fiction or poetry to be featured in The Literary Game, send over your writing by clicking here.

In success,
Alfonso

Six Ways to Write Creatively

If you’re an aspiring writer, you may find yourself drawn to one specific type of creative writing. This post intends to be a quick guide to different types of writing. Feel free to play around, and see what may happen if you try a different direction.

Poetry

If you have a background as a musician, write lyrics, or in rapping, you may want to try poetry. Contrary to what you may have heard, it doesn’t have to rhyme, in fact, rhyming poetry is pretty much passe. If you can make your writing have a musicality to it, give poetry a try!

Short Fiction

Have you tried to write a novel and got stuck somewhere along the line? Are you a part of the ADHD generation? Try short fiction! Just keep in mind that short fiction requires a different approach from a novel. In short fiction, you aren’t telling a whole narrative, but merely presenting a snapshot. If brevity is a strong point, give short fiction a try!

Novels

Do you have patience? If your answer isn’t an unequivocal yes, beware of the novel. The novel is often seen as the only “real” type of writing by many aspiring writers, but that’s simply not true; all creative writing has merit. While practically all writers love reading novels, please note that this is an ambitious goal. If you have the patience, desire and the organizational skills to tackle a novel, then go for it!

Creative Nonfiction

Is your life so interesting that you don’t need to even make things up? Why not try writing creative nonfiction? In creative nonfiction, you take the same approach as you would to a novel or short fiction, but the difference is you draw from your own real experiences. Remember this though, just because it happened, doesn’t mean it’s interesting. Make sure to write in the same way you would approaching something fictional!

Screenplays

Be honest, do you prefer watching a good movie to reading a good book? If so, you might want to try writing a screenplay. Remember that writing a screenplay is different from a novel or short fiction, as you are writing with a focus on the visuals. If you’re less a “pure” writer and more of an all-around creative, you may want to give writing a screenplay a try!

Plays

Do you have a flare for the dramatic? Are you an actor? Do you find writing dialogue to be remarkably easy, but description and introspection to be harder to execute? Try writing a play! Just remember to keep focused on the fact that this will take place on a stage, and write accordingly.

I hope this post has helped you. If you already have started on a literary project, and need copy editing, intensive editing, or publishing assistance, simply email me. I’d love to help you reach your literary potential!

Short Fiction: Why Is It Important for Novelists to Publish?

Hi friends. It’s been a few days since my last post. Thanks for your patience. Life can get pretty hectic sometimes, but I always strive to publish valuable tips for aspiring writers on a regular basis.

I want to start this post with a few announcements:

1. A flash fiction piece of mine was recently accepted for publication by Pretty Owl Poetry. I’m quite grateful to publish with them, for they are, in my opinion, one of the finest new literary magazines around. The artfulness of their work really speaks to me. I’m honored to have my piece, “Riding in Cars with Girls,” in their fourth issue, which is slated for publication in January 2015. I hope that my readers will check that piece out when it is published, and enjoy the magazine on its own merits today.

2. In regards to The Literary Game’s Publishing Contest, due to a lack of submissions (only three), I must extend the deadline. This contest is intended to find the best untapped talent around. The contest deadline will remain open until thirty submissions are received. It was an error on my part to assume that this blog was popular enough to generate a massive amount of submissions. However, you can help make that happen by sharing the link to my blog on your social media feeds. All help in that regard is appreciated!

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Many writers question the necessity of publishing short fiction in literary magazines. From a financial standpoint, anthologies of short fiction are far less likely to be purchased by a press or lead to representation by an agent. If they are sold, the advances would most likely be quite a bit less. Additionally, short fiction can be quite a bit more difficult to write than a novel. While in a novel, readers can forgive some sloppiness in execution (editors can handle most of that, but in all but the best novels, there are some points that drag, which can be expected in an 80000 or so word piece); short fiction pieces need to be flawless to get published and recognized.

My cousin Jerry Mallach has a great question whenever my creative mind comes up with a new idea: Where’s the ROI (return on investment)? He’s a business-minded, practical man, and a great inspiration. Look, writers love writing, but none of us want to starve or be miserable because of our love. Some of us may have day jobs to get by, or find other ways to get money, but if you show me a writer who’s so committed to their work that they have no concern for having at least a bare minimum of money for survival, I’ll tell you that you’re showing me a fool of the first rank. No one wants to be a homeless writer. No one wants to be a writer on the dole.

So, why is it so critical for novelists to publish short fiction in competitive literary magazines? Simple: it gets your name out. If you publish short pieces (or poetry) in enough strong literary magazines, when you pitch an idea to an agent or publisher for your novel, you will already have a track record of success. Just like an MFA, having an assortment of publishing credits will allow you to be taken seriously by publishers and agents. Your idea could be great, but showing your commitment this way can not only enhance your platform (which is critical for writers looking to avoid being doomed to the obscurity of the vanity press route), but also remove much of the risk for an agent or publisher.

I hope this post was helpful. If you would like personal assistance for any of your publishing needs, please click here.

A Critical Mistake to Avoid When Writing Short Fiction

Don’t treat short fiction as a novel.

Whatever you do – DON’T treat short fiction as a novel.

What I mean is this: when you are writing short fiction, it takes a different approach than if you’re working on a novel. The key is brevity. You have to say just as much as you would in a novel, but you have to do so succinctly.

A good rule of thumb when writing any piece of short fiction: stick to as brief a period of time as possible. The story can take place in 15 minutes in one location. It doesn’t have to be wildly ambitious. 

Of course, in writing, as in all art, rules are meant to be broken…once you’ve achieved mastery. There are short fiction writers like Isaac Bashevis Singer whose short stories read like mini-novels in the depth and complexity of their plot. In my opinion, Singer was one of the best short fiction writers. He could get away with flouting that rule; and once you grow as a writer, by putting in much time and effort, you can too.

However, for now, as an aspiring writer, I suggest adhering to the following acronym:

Keep

It

Simple

Stupid

And I guarantee that your short fiction will be a lot easier to write, and have a much greater chance of getting published by a literary magazine.

Do you have any other tips for short fiction writers? Feel free to leave a comment!

Can’t Get Your Novel Published?

Platform. Do you know what this word refers to in conjunction with the publishing industry? Platform is the reason why Lena Dunham landed $3.7 million for her book proposal. If you want to sell a manuscript, more than the quality of your content (though it should certainly be up to snuff), you need to develop a reputation. If you’re thinking that your reputation is going to come from your book, you’ve got it backwards.

There are many ways to develop your platform. If you have public exposure in some way, you’re already set. Unfortunately, that doesn’t apply to most of us, and it can be hard to generate (I’ll leave that to others far more qualified than I am if your intent is to get famous). However, a solid portfolio of writing in other forms can do wonders for establishing a ready-made audience eager to read your book (which any publishing company would love).

A novel is a huge undertaking. I certainly think all writers should attempt one, but consider the following diverse forms as a way to gain exposure and increase your chances of selling your idea for a book:

Poetry – Whether it’s traditional or free-verse, avant-garde or transparent, there are tons of poetry journals that always are seeking quality expression.

Short Fiction/Flash Fiction – Scale back your world building and capture a photograph. That’s the art of the short story. Again, there are tons of literary magazines that are always in search of quality fiction. Regardless of your style, there’s a market for everything (of quality).

Plays – Why not write a play, send it to a contest, or work with your local theatre to have it staged?

Screenplays – Think with an eye for the visual. There are some excellent television programs and films that are quite a bit more literary than most fiction (e.g. Mad Men, my favorite program). If you want to sell your script, there’s an excellent book written by Blake Snyder called Save The Cat! that gives an insider’s view into what kind of scripts sell in Hollywood, and how to write them.

Nonfiction – Do you have expertise in a subject? It’s so easy to write an E-book and publish it on the Web. While fiction can be harder to attract an audience, with nonfiction, there’s always a built-in audience for just about every topic.

Freelance Journalism – Yes, the pay is terrible, but your name can get out there with some rather influential people.

If you need assistance with publishing your novel, please click here.

6 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Submit Your Short Story or Poetry

You wrote a great story/poem and now you’re all ready to submit it for consideration in your favorite journal. Before you click send, make sure that your submission doesn’t have any of these six common red flags by asking yourself:

1. Did you format your submission appropriately? Here are the guidelines for poems and here are the guidelines for short fiction. Note that some journals may have their own formatting guidelines, which you should always follow. However, you should default to these guidelines unless a journal explicitly notes otherwise.

2, Did you proofread your submission? Spelling and grammatical errors are a huge turn-off to editors. Run a spelling and grammar check on your word processing software, proofread your writing yourself, and have a friend look over your work before you click send.

3. Are you sure the journal is an appropriate fit? It may be your favorite journal, but do they publish the same kind of work that you wrote? Does your style fit with the magazine? Does your content? Your genre? Most journals have very narrow parameters of what kind of work they publish. You can find out through reading a few issues if your work is an appropriate fit for publication in the magazine.

4. Did you find out the editor/publisher’s name? Make sure that you browse the publication to find out who is likely going to be reading your work and making the final decision. If you place the wrong name, or no name at all, it will give the impression that you are not a regular reader and/or do not think the editor/publisher is worth your time.

5. Have you read the magazine? Editors can tell when writers send a submission without reading the magazine first. These result in rejections. Familiarize yourself with the work published in the magazine.

6. Did you compose a cover letter that can win an editor over? Is your cover letter professional, or is it a hard sell? Is your cover letter professional, or are you begging for publication? Is your cover letter professional, or is it a form letter?  We’ve all heard of writers and their antics, but if you are an aspiring writer, edgy as your work may be, a cover letter is not the time to show anything less than your professional side.

Should you need any help with publication of your short fiction, poetry, or novel, please click here for personalized help with the submission process.