Give Your Story a Cold Reading


Whether you’re writing a 6-word story, a 100-word story, or a 1,000-word story, always give your work a cold reading.

So, you’ve written your story, made the umpteenth re-write to it, read it to a friend or had a friend read it for you, and now you’re ready to submit it. Don’t do it. At least not right away. Don’t even think about it. Put your story out of your mind. Put it away for a few days (or weeks) and move on to something else for awhile.

When you finally get back to your story, you’ll be able to look at it critically and creatively from a fresher perspective. You may see things you missed or hadn’t thought of initially. Once you’re satisfied with your story, submit it and move on to the next story you set aside for a cold reading.


Backup Your Writing Even When Posting Online or It Might Get Lost

Just because you had a story published in an online publication or uploaded something to a social media site does not mean that your hard work will be forever preserved in digital format for the world to see indefinitely. Backup your writing and keep it safe. For what you post today may be lost tomorrow.

Even if you’re an active member of a social media group, backup your posts if you want to be able to refer to them later in the future. Of course, if what you write and post is of minor significance, then there is no great need to save what you say.

A few years ago, I was actively participating in an online community of writers of microfiction. I posted stories, read the contributions of other members, and exchanged comments and critiques. It was an active community; then one day it ceased to exist. Everything I had written was gone.

The same thing happened to another writer’s community I was a part of. Fortunately, I had just become a member and had not had time to begin contributing so I didn’t lose anything.

The lesson here: the Internet is ephemeral. Publications come and go, social communities come and go. And if you don’t save the work you submit, it will be lost to time and space.


Can You Write a Story With a Letter Missing?

Take the Missing Letter Challenge and See What You Accomplish

We are all faced with challenges of some kind. As writers, we’re often challenged with what to write, what not to write, is the grammar correct, is the spelling correct, is the punctuation on target, and is what I said what I wanted to say. These are basically outside challenges that come with the territory. But sometimes, there are moments when some of our challenges are self-imposed.

Christopher (aka @shapshifter) over at not only wrote a story containing exactly 100 words, but he wrote it without using the letter L, and he titled it appropriately “No L.”

Use Word Counting Applications for Precise Word Counts

Use a word counting application to help you write short fiction pieces of precise word length. If you need to write exactly 25, 50, 100, 101, or 499 words, a word count feature like Word or Open Office helps. You could use a web-based word count tool like Word Count Tool, WordCounter, or Grammarly.

What you use is purely personal preference. If you already use one and it works for you, stick with it. If you don’t use one, try out a few and see what works for you.

Just remember, not all word count tools count the same.

SmokeLong Quarterly Will Pay $1500 to the Winner of Its First-Ever Flash Fiction Contest

The SmokeLong Quarterly is celebrating its 15th anniversary by holding its first flash fiction contest.

If you think you have what it takes to write a $1500 flash fiction story, then SmokeLong Quarterly wants to hear from you.

Information about contest rules, entry fees, and guidelines are available on its awards page.

Happy Writing!


Learn From Any Feedback You Get

As writers we hear it all the time: The best way to improve your craft is by writing every chance you get. Write! Write! Write! And there is nothing wrong with that, but all of that writing doesn’t help you improve your craft if you never get feedback.

Feedback is fine from friends and family, but the real benefit of feedback is from other writers and especially editors. No matter how well you write or how many times you’ve been published, feedback helps you become a better writer.

That’s not to say that you will always get the kind of feedback you like, but most writers and editors are not out to insult you or your work. They are willing to help you as so many others have helped them.

If you have a thin skin and are sensitive to critiques of your writing, then maybe you should think of another profession, hobby, or passion to pursue.  If someone negatively criticizes your work without the benefit of providing some positive encouragement, by all means, ignore their crassness. They are either simply mean-spirited or they just don’t know how to constructively analyze, but don’t totally discount what they have to say either. Somewhere in their scathing commentary might be a gem of wisdom you can use.

Two publications I have personally received help and advice from are Bewildering Stories and 101 Words. The editors will provide useful comments and helpful advice. At, the writers there vote on and comment on each other’s stories.

Feedback is a two-way street. Don’t just solicit it give it as well.

Use Your Google Calendar App to Stay on Track with Your Goals

According to a study in an article in the Independent, the second Friday in January (known as Quitter’s Day) is when most people give up on their resolutions. An article in the Business Insider says 80% of people give up on their resolutions by February.

It’s three weeks into the new year. How are you on keeping up with the goals you set for yourself? Remember, don’t make resolutions, set goals. And make them realistic.

If you’ve set goals, you can keep track of them by using the Google Calendar app on your phone. Just tap the app, tap the plus sign button at the bottom right, then select Goal. Choose one of the five options closest to your goals. (I chose Organize my life.) Then select Custom. Personalize your goal by typing in the goal you want to reach.

The app will ask you how often you want to perform your goal, for how long you’ll want to engage in it, and what time of the day you’ll want to do it. Make your picks then click the checkmark; the goal becomes part of your calendar.

The app will take a look at your schedule and try to determine the best fit for your goal then ask you if it looks good to you or if you want to adjust the time. If you want to adjust the time, tap Adjust Time, click the pencil edit icon and make your changes. When you’re done, just save your changes.

Are You Really Reading When You Listen to an Audiobook?

Print books versus audiobooks. Is reading with your eyes the same as reading with your ears?

When you read a book, you are essentially following printed words on a page and listening to your inner ear/voice as you imagine what you read. When you listen to an audiobook, you are essentially following spoken words someone else is reading on a page and listening to your inner ear/voice as you imagine what you hear.

Whether you read it yourself or listen to someone else read it to you, whether you agree or disagree with the format and methodology, the end result is the same: you immerse yourself in a world written by a writer for your enjoyment and edification.

James Tate Hill discusses this very issue in a recent article for Literary Hub called “Do Audio Books Count As Reading?” where he discusses his visual impairment and use of audiobooks.

Reading has traditionally been accepted as words on a page scanned by the eyes because it was the only game/technology in town, but as technologies change and lifestyles change, a new form of reading is taking its place on the game field, and its validity as a form of reading will be a subject of discourse and debate for years to come.

Don’t Make Resolutions, Set Goals

The year 2018

We’re a week into the new year and many of us have already broken or severely undermined our resolutions already. Things will only get worse for some as the year progresses. Others will completely abandon their resolutions as unachievable. But there is a way of achieving (or coming close to achieving your resolutions). Don’t make any resolutions.

Resolutions are essentially promises we make to ourselves that we eventually can’t keep. But a resolution can be seen not as a lofty promise but as a set of reasonably achievable goals which can be adjusted based on feasibility and realistic expectations.

Set yourself a goal or series of goals and then set out to reach them. If a goal seems unachievable, re-evaluate it and adjust your outcome/reward. If it turns out you can’t reach it, no harm, no foul, just put it on your to-do list and skip it for the time being. Move on to the next goal.

If you’ve decided to finally write that novel you’ve had bouncing around in your head, then set yourself a goal of writing it. Set yourself a goal of writing a chapter a week. If that turns out to be too much, pare it down to a chapter every two weeks, or a chapter a month. If that’s too much, then pare it down to a paragraph a day. (Think of it as writing a novel in flash fiction installments.)

Get into a routine; it’ll become second nature. Eventually, you’ll be running on automatic and have that novel written and be ready to move on to the next one. And if something happens and takes you away from your routine, the habit of writing regularly will become ingrained. You will naturally be drawn back into a comfortable writing habit.

Just remember, life happens and stuff gets in the way. If you set reasonably achievable goals (baby steps along the way), when you get sidetracked, it won’t be difficult to get back on track. And if you begin to doubt yourself, you can gain some inspiration from New Year’s Resolutions for Writers.

For other resolutions/goals, check out Making your New Year’s resolution stick.