Monday, October 22, 2018

2019 Writing Competitions

By Emrald Sethna

We're only a few months away from 2019, everyone! Which means you can start preparing for 2019 Writing Competitions! These competitions take place on a national and international scale, allowing you to submit your work and potentially earn a prestigious title, cash prizes, and even publishing deals. Participating in these events could be beneficial to you, whether you are interested in challenging yourself, achieving prizes, or getting your work noticed by other writers and publishers.

Here is a list of highly rated competitions you can participate in:

Fish Publishing Short Story Prize
Genre: Any
Fee: 20 euros
Word Limit: 5,000
Deadline: 30 November 2018

L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy
Fee: None
Word Limit: 17,000
Deadline: 31 December 2018

New Voices Writing Contest
Genre: Children Fiction, Nonfiction, & Poetry
Fee: None
Word Limit: 1500
Deadline: August 2019

The Marfield Prize
Genre: Nonfiction
Fee: None
Word Limit: None
Deadline: 31 December 2018

Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award
Genre: Poetry
Fee: None
Page Limit: 90
Deadline: 1 March 2019

James Laughlin Award
Genre: Poetry
Fee: None
Page Limit: 100
Deadline: 15 May 2019

Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition
Genre: Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction
Fee: None
Word Limit: Not Stated
Deadline: 4 May 2019

Try these competitions out, you never know what may happen!

Happy Writing!

Autumn Inspiration: Writing Prompts

By: The Steps to Getting Published Team

It’s that time of year again! The Steps to Getting Published team is proud to present this year’s autumn writing prompts. We’ve tried to include something for everyone and hope you’ll enjoy the following list. If you’d like, please share some of your stories in the comments section, or feel free to add more writing prompts to the list. Whether you like writing soft or spooky this time of year, these prompts should jumpstart your writing and keep you going through the cold months ahead!

Autumn Prompts

Write a story from the point of view of falling foliage.

You get lost during a long walk exploring the fall foliage in the forest. Nightfall is coming. Write a short story or screenplay about what happens to you next.

Write a horror story within 25 words.

You go trick-or-treating dressed as a witch, but everyone thinks you’re a ghost and comments as such. Write a story about this experience and why this might be happening.

 Create a short story about a Halloween party gone wrong.

Write a poem about finding a box of Halloween decorations in an attic.

Develop a free-verse poem about the peak of Autumn.

Write a 100-word story about nature. You must use all of these words in your poem: orange, apple, rustic, crisp, blanket, leaf, lake, wind, acorn, chill.

Write a short piece about your best memories of Fall.

Write a screenplay about a night when rotted pumpkins come to life. 

Write a poem, story, or screenplay based on the following autumn image:

The story can be scary, serene, or a mystery.

Have fun with these!

Conventions of Horror Writing

By Carla Trueheart

Like many genres of fiction—including romance and mystery—horror writing has its own unique set of writing conventions and story structures. The best approach is to study how your favorite horror writer sets up his or her tales and mimic that with your writing, using your own plots and characters. Readers of the horror genre will expect certain elements, and by studying the top-selling horror novelists, you’ll gain a greater understanding of the way these stories are laced together. 
Outside of that, we can offer a few tips when it comes to horror writing. The following lists break down story structures, literary elements, and conventions of horror writing. We hope you’ll find them useful in your writing. 


Fear is the main emotion in horror novels, and horror writers are eager for their readers to experience it. However, while many writers structure a plot with the intention of frightening their readers with blood, guts, and gore, it is also important to include psychological fears, tension, suspense, and perhaps even a sense of mystery. You don’t want to rely on the graphic nature of a horror novel alone, so make sure elements of suspense are included and revise with pacing in mind. 


The characters that inhabit the dark worlds of horror should be real, relatable, and multi-dimensional. For the reader to be afraid, they must have a personal link and connection to the protagonist and the side characters of a novel. They must be able to feel what they are feeling, and they can only do this if the characters are not cut-outs or one-dimensional. Consider what personal fears the character may have, and weave those fears into the plot. Basically, you’ll want to spend just as much time developing characters in a horror novel as you spend developing the plot. Make it a good balance between plot and characterization, and you’ll have a winning story. 

Mood and Tone

The mood and tone of a horror short story or novel should reflect the plot. A great way to set the mood is through setting. Play upon the fears of readers here, perhaps through isolation: an island, a snowed-in hotel, a maze, a prison, a broken elevator, or a medical event that traps the character(s) in their own house or town. Another terrific way to set mood is through weather, so while “it was a dark and stormy night” is a little cliche, it still works to set up a scene in horror writing. 

Types of Horror

There is no distinct type of horror novel, but there are certainly common plots. First, the traditional haunted house or ghost story is always a good read and fun to write. There are many different ways to go about these types of stories, and because no one is really sure what happens in the afterlife, every ghost story is different. Make yours as unique as you can, and remember to include a lot of suspense and an air of mystery. 

Going along with the ghost theme, another common story type in horror is paranormal/supernatural. This would include supernatural beings such as witches, vampires, werewolves, and creatures or humans you would not normally see walking down the street on a sunny afternoon. Again, be original with these stories, as they are pretty abundant nowadays. Mix and match, introduce new themes, and try playing with settings. A witch in space? A vampire in Italy? A strange creature of the sea in New York City?

Another story type common in horror is special abilities, like in Stephen King’s Carrie or Firestarter. A normal, everyday character has dark, powerful, or psychic abilities which in turn usually end up destroying lives and leaving the reader breathless in fear. Make the characters multi-dimensional: give them both dark and light sides, or perhaps explore them hating the ability they possess. 

Finally, we can also include the classic good vs. evil or slasher type of horror novel. Normal people are thrown into a wild dash for their lives when the bad guy, serial killer, or other-worldly slasher comes calling. Again, make sure you include more than just knife stabs and blood spilling. Avoid cliches here, such as the pretty girl getting murdered, a teenaged babysitter alone in a house, or a stumble-fall kill. 

Story Structure

As with a thriller or mystery novel, grab the reader early on in horror writing. Then, weave in backstory so it doesn’t slow the pace, and introduce the main conflict in the first chapter if you can. The inciting incident should come fairly soon as well. Remember to keep the stakes high, the conflict present, and the character motivation and fears clear. While most horror novels are fast-moving, you’ll want to take a breather here and there, similar to a thriller. In other words, give the reader a pause in the action before upping the suspense again.

The ending should include a high-energy, tense climax, while finishing with your character in whatever state they are in now, after experiencing a life-changing, horrific event. Remember you have plenty of room to explore different types of endings. Study the master writers in the genre, as mentioned in the opening of the article, and find out what works best for you based on your own writing and your favorite writers’ story structures.

Final Note: Do your research. Nothing is worse for a reader than spotting factual errors, even in fiction. If you’re writing historical horror fiction, research is even more important. 

Have fun with your writing and let us know how you make out!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

What is Impromptu Writing? Q&A with Prompts

By: The Steps to Getting Published Team

Q: What is Impromptu Writing?
A: Impromptu Writing is timed writing, typically using a subject you are given on the spot. It involves writing without stopping to edit or revise.

Q: What are the benefits of Impromptu Writing for writers?
A: Impromptu Writing forces you to not only write, but to resist the urge to go back and edit your work, leading to higher productivity and creativity. It also serves as a gauge of your punctuation, grammar, and quick-thinking skills. 

Q: How much time is allowed?
A: Generally, we recommend 15 or 20 minutes, timed. You could try shorter or longer times—like 5 minutes—but it’s best not to go too far over 20 minutes for best results. Here is a fun link for timers:

Q: What happens if I run out of ideas before time is up?
A: Don’t fret! Just keep writing, even if the ideas aren’t directly linked to the writing topic. If you’re writing about the color red, for example, you might start writing about a red object and your memories of that object (a day in the park with a red kite, a day of swimming with a red pool float, a favorite red food, etc.).

Q: How do I start?
A: We have provided a few Impromptu Writing prompts, based on teaching techniques and our experience. It’s best to choose one randomly (with your eyes closed, if you can) without looking ahead first. Just choose a prompt, set the timer, and go. Do not stop!


  • Write a short story about a family who finds themselves in the midst of a long-term power outage
  • Write a romantic short story
  • Write about how you feel on your favorite planet
  • Write a short story about an unexpected reunion
  • Create a character profile. Write about your character’s history, their personality, their relationship with other characters, their ambitions—everything you know about this character
  • Create your own restaurant. Fill in recipes, food, clientele, menus, and info about regular customers
  • Write social media posts from famous people in history (ex: Napoleon, Queen Victoria, Abraham Lincoln, etc.)
  • Consider the point of view of a tree and create a story about what it may observe

Prompts for POETS

  • Create a poem or two about a childhood experience
  • Write up a collection of short poems revolving around the theme of mortality
  • Write about the first color you see
  • Write a poem about a time you forgave, but did not forget
  • Write a poem about berry picking
  • Write a poem about your prom (or a dance). What were you wearing? Who did you go with? What music was playing? How did you feel?


  • Write a snippet of a screenplay about a girls’ or boys’ weekend gone awry
  • Write a short sitcom script that takes place in a fantasy world
  • Write a play about a runaway and a group of traveling actors
  • Write a horror/drama script involving an unorthodox girl or boy with highly religious parents
  • Write a short play about an overly polite pirate with a broken heart


  • Describe a childhood friend
  • Write about a treasured or sentimental item that has little or no material value 
  • Describe an object in the room
  • Pick a news story today. Write about it. What side have you taken? Why?
  • Write about the coldest you have ever been
  • Write about a time you found something that did not belong to you (money, a purse, a backpack, etc.) 
  • Write about the first time you swam in a pool (or lake or ocean, etc.)

Feel free to try out other genres, and don’t forget to post your stories to the blog. We’d love to read them!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Spotlight Publishing Opportunity

Slackjaw Magazine

Accepts: HUMOR articles

Special Note: Please submit 1,000 words or less per article

LINK: Slackjaw

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Spring Writing Prompts

By: Emrald Sethna

Flowers are maturing, the air is getting warmer, baby birds are spreading their wings for the first time, trees are reaching up higher than ever--we're in the peak of Spring, everyone! What a lovely time to be inspired by the nature around us and delve into some new writing projects. Writing prompts are always a great way to get inspired, exercise your writing skills, and take some time to reflect. Here are some prompts for you to utilize as you enjoy this beautiful season:

  • Write a short story from the point of view of a blossoming flower
  • Write a poem about what the season represents to you
  • Recreate your most cherished memory of Spring in a short story
  • In ten words or less, reflect on gardening
  • In a short story, create a character that finds hope in the idea of Spring 
  • Choose one of the images provided below and write an emotional story in two paragraphs

Happy Writing!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Choosing your POV: When to use First-person, Second-person, and Third-person Narrators

BY: Carla Trueheart 

In the planning stages of story writing, one element you want to consider is the POV, or point of view, of your writing project. The POV, in short, is defined by who is telling the story—what is their position in the story or their vantage point? If you’re new to POV, here is a quick breakdown:

First-person POV: Story is told from the “I” perspective
Second-person POV: Story is told from the “you” perspective
Third-person POV: Story is told from the “he or she” perspective

There are also different types of third-person narration, including third-person objective (distant witness, neutral narrator), third-person subjective/limited (stays with one character), and third-person omniscient (god-like narrator who knows all). There are a few points to consider when choosing a POV, including how close you’d like your reader to be to the protagonist, what you would like your reader to know or understand about the story, and how much factual information you’ll be providing them. In other words, if you choose a first-person narrator, your readers are limited to only what your protagonist knows and feels. Each POV has its own strengths and weaknesses, so let’s break them down. 

First-person POV: If you choose this POV for your story, you’ll no doubt have a character with whom your reader can identify with and really know, as the reader will be seeing the world strictly through this narrator’s eyes and know every thought process. Your reader will be super close to this narrator, and in most cases, start to trust them (unless you’re working with an unreliable narrator or a narrator who suffers from delusions, etc.). In short, the strength of the first-person narrator is the closeness. On the flip side, the reader is restricted to only what the narrator tells them, or what the narrator knows from their experiences. An example of first-person POV in a popular novel is The Hunger Games, with Katniss Everdeen as the narrator. Readers experience everything with Katniss and know her well, forming a bond. But we cannot fully know Peeta, for example, because we are not aware of his thought processes or motives. We see Peeta only as Katniss sees him. 

Second-person POV: This POV is rarely used. If you do see it in stories, it is often used in shorter works or just used experimentally. It can have a great impact on the story, as it puts the reader in the “you” position—that’s the strength of this POV. The weak point, however, is that it’s difficult to keep up this POV for any length of time, which is why it’s most often seen in snippets or short pieces, sometimes in poetry. Jennifer Egan uses second-person POV in one chapter of her Pulitzer Award Winner A Visit from the Goon Squad

Third-person POV: As mentioned, there a few forms of this POV. The most common in modern literature is subjective, limited to one character, as in the Harry Potter series. While Harry Potter is written using an outside narrator, the narrator sticks close to Harry throughout most of the story. This is useful as it can be interchangeable with first-person POV, meaning the reader knows the thoughts and experiences of one particular character. The weakness of this POV lies in the closeness of one character at the expense of others. What, for example, was Hermione Granger thinking throughout her struggles at Hogwarts?

Also used quite often is the omniscient third-person, in which the narrator is god-like and knows the thoughts and feelings of all characters. This is a useful POV as the writer can comment on many characters, including their perceptions, fears, thoughts, and experiences. This POV is often used in romance novels, where it’s important to know both protagonists. The weakness of this POV is that writers often tend to head-hop, or switch back and forth too quickly between characters. This confuses the reader and gives them less of a focal point in the story as far as characterization. 

So how do you know which POV to choose? This is the tricky part, but also the fun part. Let’s break this down as well, to help you make a decision. 

1. What do you want the reader to take away from the story? Is it more important that they connect with a main character as the narrator (first-person) or that they are told a story from an outside narrator (third-person)?

2. How much distance do you want in the story? It might help here to think of POV as a camera. In first-person narration, the camera is right on the character’s shoulder, all the time, recording everything they see and do. In third-person, the camera pulls back from that character, allowing commentary and visuals from another source, but still staying close by. And if you choose third-person omniscient, the camera pulls back further still, taking snapshots of everyone in the scene. Consider this when choosing POV.

3. How much fun do you want to have with character voice? While your outside narrator in third-person should have an interesting and unique voice while telling the story, you can’t deny that the voice of a first-person narrator is oftentimes the most memorable element of a story. In first-person, you can be quirky in prose, emotional, silly, edgy, or serious. You probably have a little more room to play with your wording, too. In choosing a more “storyteller” type of narrator (third-person), you might not have a chance to really narrow in on a protagonist's voice, but you also have a chance to assume a “once upon a time” vibe. All of these points should be considered in making your decision. 

One final tip: Do not be afraid to re-write! If your story is not working or you just want to see how it would move along with a different POV, then by all means change it. The story is yours to play with until it’s published and out there, so don’t hesitate to experiment. You never know what will work best!

Advanced Tip (FYI): It might surprise you to learn that there are also two types of first-person narrators: first-person central and first-person peripheral. In first-person central, the narrator is the protagonist (example: The Catcher in the Rye). In first-person peripheral, the narrator is a secondary character, sometimes commenting on another main character (example: The Great Gatsby).  

Let us know if you have any questions. We’re here to help you as you work toward publication!

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Spotlight Publishing Opportunity

Canary Literary Magazine

Accepts: Poetry, essays, short stories (1500 word limit)

Special Note: Focus on environmental issues 

Submissions Link:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Archetypes: A Writer's Essential Guide to Characters

Written by: The Steps to Getting Published Team

Most writers are familiar with the hero archetype in fiction writing, but there are other archetypes as well, ones that might come in handy while constructing characters for your writing. The Steps to Getting Published is proud to present a list of common character archetypes, and we hope you will use these in your own creative projects. This is not a full list, but we encourage you to explore these archetypes and research more at your leisure. There are links provided at the end of the article to get you started, and as always, please feel free to share your experience or knowledge in this subject in the comments below. 

What is an archetype? 

An archetype is a symbol, person, setting, or motif common in literature. The archetype is often recurring in stories, and in looking at character archetypes specifically, you’ll spot some familiar types—such as The Hero archetype—in many movies and books. 

How can learning about archetypes help with my writing?

In studying archetypes and applying them to your own work, you can construct well-rounded characters with identifiable traits, hopes, and fears. Your readers will instinctively know your characters, based on similar characters with similar personalities. You might also gather ideas based on archetype descriptions.  

 In examining character archetypes in this article, you’ll find some of our favorites, such as The Artist, The Caregiver, The Spiritual Seeker, The Innocent, and more. We’ll start off with The Hero archetype, including some examples of popular characters and some facts about the Hero’s Journey.

The Hero
The Hero archetype is one we are all familiar with. These are the characters who are fighting to achieve an ultimate goal despite the often dangerous situations they face. The hero is considered morally "good," and while facing great dangers and obstacles that block their path, they often struggle with their "goodness." Staying true to themselves and their goal despite any calls to "the dark side" is what makes this archetype a popular, heroic figure in literature. Some examples of heroes were know and love are Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen, Harry Potter, Sir Gawain, and Frodo Baggins. These heroes embark on their Hero's Journey. The Hero's Journey itself is an archetype in which a hero plays out their story. It follows a 12-step pattern deconstructed by Joseph Campbell:

1. Ordinary World - Introduces the character, oblivious to the adventure ahead
2. Call to Adventure - The threat or call to attention that prompts the adventure
3. Refusal to the Call - Reveals fears and doubts they must overcome
4. Meeting the Mentor - Finds guidance and or training through a Mentor archetype
5. Crossing the Threshold - Truly begins the quest and adventure
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies - Out of their comfort zone, the hero faces a series of challenges
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave - Preparation to face great danger or inner conflict
8. Ordeal - Where the hero uses all skills learned to overcome their greatest challenge
9. Reward (Seizing the Sword) - After defeating the enemy, the hero receives a reward (either a physical object and/or traits that make them stronger than before)
10. The Road Back - The journey home, reflecting on personal objectives and a higher cause 
11. Resurrection - One final battle where failure is not an option
12. Return with the Elixir - The hero returns home a changed person, for better or worse

The Rebel
The Rebel archetype challenges authority and answers to no one. He or she is a revolutionary, breaks the status quo, and is a firm nonconformist. As such, this type of character will normally leap off the page, as his or her actions will be outside of the norm and will shock readers. There are a few different types of rebels, including those who go against government to prove a point, those who face off against all authority (parents, teachers, police), and those who push the limits of society. On a psychological level, this archetype is usually suffering. At best, they are lost. It’s possible they have a bad family structure or they are having difficulty functioning on a social level. On the positive side, they are usually the ones who bring in change when needed, assuming they beat their own demons. In writing this character, it might be a good idea to explore childhood patterns and social issues. It might also be interesting to write a rebel who does not physically “look” the part of the rebel. A rebel librarian, perhaps?

The Caregiver
Originally known as the Mother, the Caregiver is the character whose goal is to help others. They willingly protect and care for other characters, aiding heroes on their quest through companionship, emotional support, and or medicinal support. Although this archetype is prone to martyrdom and becoming the victim of exploitation, their compassion and generosity is unmatched by other archetypes. They fear selfishness and ingratitude and do their best to keep the ones they love—as well as themselves—from harm. This archetype is shown through characters like Mary Poppins, Miss. Honey from Matilda, and Hagrid from Harry Potter.  

The Intellectual
The Intellectual archetype is intuitive, is constantly seeking education, and is able to keep up a conversation with almost anybody. They can be stubborn and combative, always think they know the answer, and they can even be narrow-minded at times. On the positive side, they are perpetually trying to find answers, so they are a good character for any novel—the Hermione Granger figure—who always knows the best way to do things. They are highly logical, so be aware that they might lack depth of thought (an opposition to The Artist archetype), and they might take failing harder than other archetypes. 

The Lover
We see The Lover archetype in many stories. These are the characters who revolve around the creation of meaningful, lasting relationships. They advocate for strength in intimacy and are also known as the friend, partner, intimate, enthusiast, sensualist, or team-builder characters. They fear being alone or being rejected, rarely recovering from the loss associated with heartbreak. It is their goal to be around the people they love, thriving in situations that bring them closer to their companions, loved ones, or friends. It is often that this character shows commitment, appreciation, and gratitude without being prompted to do so. The weakness of this archetype, however, can include the risk of losing their identity as they strive to please others. Examples of the Lover are characters like Samwise from Lord of the Rings, Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter, and Anna from Frozen. They are passionate people that thrive amongst the people they love.   

The Artist
The Artist archetype does not necessarily need to be defined as a creative who masters art, music, culinary arts, literature, or dance. The Artist might also be seen as someone who appreciates beauty, might be known as a “dreamer,” and perhaps sees the world in different, unique ways. If writing a character using The Artist archetype, it might be useful to explore the inner thoughts of this type of person, including some of the quirkiness and abstract thinking so common with The Artist. For example, an artist sees things like color, light, words, tastes, and textures differently. Basically, you’ll want to avoid setting this character up as merely a man or woman who produces art. Why is this lifestyle so important to them? Why do they produce art and why does it make them happy? What drives them? What happens if they fail?

The Everyman
This archetype is a fun one. The Everyman is a character often depicted as a stand-in for the audience. Although they are not a hero (they do not feel the moral obligations that heroes do), they can be protagonists or supporting characters that are thrown into an adventure. These kinds of characters do not have much control over the situations they find themselves in. They are normal people in the wrong place at the wrong time—or the right place at the right time, depending on the adventure. Rather than trying to overcome great obstacles for a higher purpose or for the common good, as a hero does, The Everyman simply tries to escape difficult situations alive. A great example of an Everyman is John Watson from the Sherlock Holmes novels or Arthur Dent from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. Watson is considered a normal person who finds himself in extraordinary circumstances, being eccentric Sherlock's right-hand man as he solves crimes, just as Arthur Dent is a normal businessman who finds himself saved from the destruction of his planet. These characters reflect the normal lives of ordinary people, like readers, yet are swept into a grand adventure.   

The Spiritual Seeker
This archetype follows a specific path, one they hope will lead to life purpose and a higher level of spiritual understanding. The Spiritual Seeker is often searching for truth and purpose, and they are not necessarily happy, nor will they necessarily be happy when they attain higher levels of truth and purpose. To that end, we might write this type of character as constantly searching but not finding, unfulfilled, or facing an existential crisis. On the positive side, this archetype normally sees the good in most situations, and they normally believe they are happy as they are tossing aside the material world in exchange for something better. To begin a story, consider sending them off to find what they are seeking.

The Innocent
Many characters we adore or are inspired by are part of The Innocent archetype. These characters are ones that—as the name suggests—are innocent bystanders or supporting characters in a plot. They are typically children or women who are pure and unfazed by any dark, evil situations they become entangled in. Their goal is to be happy, do the right things, and they fear being punished for doing something bad or wrong. Some may see these characters as "stupid," though they are truthfully so morally pure that any evil surrounding them does not corrupt or impede them. Prim from The Hunger Games is a good example of this archetype. She is a young girl who is concerned with the wellness of others and is hopeful despite great odds against the ones she cares for. These innocent characters are a beacon for hope, purity, and righteousness in a plot.