Once again, NIWA is assembling an anthology of work written by its member authors. The deadline for submission is 11:59 pm on April 1, 2019.
The theme for this year’s NIWA anthology is “Doorways.”
The story you submit must embody the desired theme in 5000 words or less. Along with exploring the theme of an anthology, editors only want your best work.
Why is word count limited to 5000 words?
The publisher of the anthology wants to present as wide a variety of stories as is possible. By limiting the length of each submission, they are ensuring that no one story can dominate the book with length. They are also making room for a larger number of authors to have their work accepted.
What is “your best work?”
Your best work is written with the theme of the Anthology in mind, a central facet of the story.
Your best bet is to have a member of your local writing/critique group edit your story to help you make it submission ready. Don’t expect the editor of the anthology to make your work look professional.
Why is theme so important?
In general, theme is what the story is about on a deeper level than what is seen on the surface. It’s the big meaning, a thread that is woven through the entire story, and often it’s a moral. Love, honor, family, redemption, and revenge are all common, underlying themes.
In an anthology, the overall theme is an idea-thread that binds all the stories together, creating a coherent book of short stories.
Without a central theme to connect the works of so many different authors, the anthology will be disjointed and uneven, a patchwork. The unifying theme ensures continuity. If you are all writing to a common theme, the readers who purchase the anthology will stay with it and read your work.
Your story will be up against many entries, so you must make yours as unique as is possible. Analyze the theme and try to think creatively—think a little wide of the obvious tropes. Doorways is a theme with many possibilities, so look for an original angle and then go for it.
To support the theme, you must layer
These three layers must drive the story arc.
The theme is introduced, either subtly or overtly, at the first pinch-point. Many times, we are given a specific word count we cannot exceed. So, with that in mind I suggest you put together a broad outline of your intended story arc, and when writing a short story, it helps to know how it will end. Divide your story arc into quarters, so you have the important events in place at the right time. If you try to "pants" it, you might end up with a mushy plot that wanders all over the place and a story that may not be commercially viable.
Once you are satisfied you have caught all the errors and misspellings, garbled sentences, and plot holes, and that you have had it edited to the best of your ability, you must format your manuscript for submission according to the guidelines as set out by the anthology’s editor.
NIWA has a Facebook page, a private chatroom, and those guidelines are also posted there. If you are not a member of NIWA you can join here at our website:
Sometimes, we find out at the last minute that an opportunity for getting a piece into an anthology is open, and we think we can cobble a piece together in a day or two.
I do advise against succumbing to this temptation, as your theme must be strongly represented throughout your story, and the work must be as clean as is humanly possible, two things that are difficult to accomplish when a story is slapped together. Don’t feel surprised if your sloppy, unedited work is rejected.
The editor of the anthology has asked for your best work. You want the other authors to submit their best work so that your work will be included with the best the industry has to offer. Be respectful and do the same with your work.
Do NOT rush it. Take the time to make your short story the very best work you can, so it represents you and what you are capable of.
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Portions of Writing for an Anthology, by Connie J. Jasperson, were first published here at the NIWA blog on August 1, 2018 and are being reprinted by permission.
Connie J. Jasperson is a published poet and the author of nine novels. Her work has appeared in numerous anthologies. A founding member of Myrddin Publishing Group, she can be found blogging regularly on both the craft of writing and art history at Life in the Realm of Fantasy.