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Stephen Oliver: Anthologies & Genres

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Anthologies & Genres

Stephen Oliver

I’ve decided to talk about two different subjects this time, although they are connected.

Anthologies

Here’s a strange situation.

I’ve written, revised, and edited an episodic novel and three anthologies of dark urban fantasy, science fiction, and horror, with more than one genre and sub-genres often blended into a single story. I have another five collections I’m still working on.

The thing is, publishers and agents, keep telling me that anthologies and story collections are on the way out; no one is interested in either publishing them or reading them, they say. In fact, I ended up writing a space opera novel in an attempt to break into the publishing market. I’m still trying to find an agent or a publisher for that, too.

And yet, I have had eight short stories accepted for seven different anthologies (plus one for a podcast) in the past nine months. Six of them have been accepted in the past four months.

As I see it, there are several advantages of anthologies:

  1. They allow multiple writers to present their work to the public. Getting your name out there can be very difficult for people starting in their writing careers. Anthologies from publishers can be a great way of getting yourself noticed. Writing and publishing credits are extremely useful for showing agents and publishers that you are serious and that you can write.
  2. Even if the anthology has a single author, each story can be an experiment in changing style, viewpoint, structure, etc., allowing the writer to entertain in various ways. From drabbles (100-word stories) to novellas, each story is complete, even though they can also be part of an overarching tale. Think of A Game of Thrones, the first volume of the all-embracing storyline of A Song of Ice and Fire.
  3. They can be specific, where the subject matter of all the stories has a common thread: Cthulhu, Mermaids, Lesbian Ninja Cats, whatever. This “limitation” can be a source of great creativity, I’ve found.
  4. For the writer, it means that you can narrate a story without having to expend huge amounts of thought, time, and effort on plot and character development. You can concentrate on a single event or series of connected events, telling a simpler story. The characters might never appear again, or they could make cameo appearances in other stories, or even be the Main Characters in most or all of the stories.
  5. For the reader, a shorter read can be a great experience. When you’re commuting (remember doing that?), a quick 10-15-minute read is exactly what you want. You don’t have to remember where you are in a novel, and you needn’t go back to the previous paragraph or page to get back into the flow of the story. And you have the satisfaction of reaching the end of the story and experiencing its resolution.

So please don’t tell me that anthologies are on the decline.

Genres

The second theme is what I consider to be the limitations of genres.

Many agents and publishers insist that stories stick within the framework of a specific genre and even a specific sub-genre. And this is where I have a problem.

I write self-help, science fiction, space opera, fantasy, urban fantasy, paranormal, magical realism, horror, fairy tales, fairy stories, slipstream, interstitial, noir, detective fiction, action, thriller, humour, YA, and children’s stories. I sometimes blend more than one into a single story.

For instance, I have a story with a police detective (detective fiction) who is both a psychic and magician (paranormal/urban fantasy) and a cyborg (science fiction). In which genre should it be pigeonholed? Especially since the preceding story is a noir/magical realism blend and the following one an urban fantasy/action blend.

And all of them are part of an urban fantasy/horror/science fiction episodic novel (again, think A Song of Ice and Fire), which also has flashes of horror, humour, and straight fantasy.

How am I supposed to define the novel-length book? Urban fantasy? Science fiction? Speculative fiction? Something else?

A humorous children’s science fiction story? Done it. Lovecraftian humour? Written that, too. A twisted fairytale with a Carollian quirkiness? Yep! These are all from anthologies based in the same narrative universe as the novel.

And, as all of us know, life isn’t neatly sliced into categories. It’s messy and overlaps, blending and merging, splitting apart and diversifying. There are no blacks or whites, merely uncounted shades of colour and grey.

And then there are the crossovers and mixes; Twilight has vampires and shifters (werewolves), for example, which I’ve been told repeatedly are two genres to be kept distinct from one another. People love stories that blend and blur, no matter what the agents and publishers try to sell us.

And that is how I write.

To get around this, I focused on a single sub-genre and wrote the YA space opera science fiction novel I mentioned earlier. Even there, the genre-loving agents and publishers bite me in the backside. One said that my language was too adult for the proposed audience, while another told me that it was too young and infantile a few days later. Go figure.

And remember, these genre divisions are artificial, devised to allow agents and publishers to pigeonhole things so that they can determine whether they will make any money from them.

Sorry if I sound as if I’m ranting, but I’ve just received my 189th rejection since the beginning of this year, from a total of 287 submissions sent during the same period. That’s a rejection rate of 65.9%. It’s only that low because 92 submissions are too recent to have been rejected.

Mind you, as I said at the beginning, I’ve also had two short stories published last year, and another six have been accepted in the past four months. I’m getting noticed, just not as quickly or extensively as I would like.

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Please visit Stephen’s website for more great articles: http://stephenoliver-author.com/

About Stephen Oliver

I’m a ‘Pantser’ (aka ‘Discovery Writer’), meaning that I write ‘by the seat of my pants’.

In other words, I have no idea what I’m writing until I’ve written it. Give me a picture or a writing prompt (a sentence, a phrase… heck, even a word will do) and let me loose. I can come up with something in twenty minutes, 400-500 words to create a new story. I don’t stop there, of course. Those few words can turn into four or five thousand, or more. The next day or week, the Muse will strike again, and I’ll finish it off, creating something weird, wonderful or just plain odd.

Once I’m done, then comes the hard part: turning it into something good. I’ve had to learn that what I wrote initially is only the beginning. Read, revise, edit, wash, rinse, repeat. And repeat. And repeat… There are some stories I’ve gone over dozens of times, and I’ll still find something to improve, on occasion.

So it is that I’ve self-published a self-help book, written dozens of short stories, completed a novel, and am still working on two more. My genres cover science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, humour (very dark), noir, detective fiction, fairytales and fairy stories. Often more than one in a single tale… Oh, and there’s a second self-help book in the works, too.

I came to writing fairly late in life, but that ain’t going to stop me now. As Harlan Ellison once said, “A writer is some poor schmuck who can’t help putting words on paper.” That’s me, because I’ve already written over a million words since I began. I’ll be done when they peel my cold, dead fingers off my keyboard.

Mind you, given the kinds of stories I write, that will probably be because one of the monsters I created finally finished me off…!

Writers Unite! anthologies: Dimensions of the Wild West Volumes One & Two

WRITERS UNITE! ANTHOLOGIES

DIMENSIONS OF THE WILD WEST
Volumes One and Two

Cowboys on dusty trails. Cattle drives. Bank robbers and sheriffs. Whether riding a horse in the old West, a pickup truck in present day, or a mining transport on an asteroid, good fought evil, and tales of the West continued. Enjoy this collection of stories from the authors of Writers Unite! as they take you from the old West into the future.

–Dimensions of the Wild West cover

Preorder eBooks now on Amazon.com!

eBooks and paperbacks available on April 20, 2021

Volume One: https://amzn.to/3sAGHOY
Volume Two: https://amzn.to/3gqKZ9w

WU! Anthology: Dimensions of the Wild West!

Dimensions of the Wild West!

Submissions Close on November 15, 2020

You have less than a week to get your Western on! Once again, the WU! members astound us. You can write anything and write it well!!! Great stories!!!


Guidelines here! https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ImJqsZ-6XBBYGBcz0BY0kfsifE7cTzNFCoNusU8vJyI/edit?usp=sharing

Dimensions of Paranormal

Dimensions of Paranormal

Volumes One and Two release in three days!


Paranormal. Does the word bring a shiver to your spine or cause you to think of ectoplasmic slime? Your favorite group of authors from Writers Unite! invite you to experience their version of shivers and slime.


Pre-order your ebooks now!

Paperbacks available on October 30th on Amazon.com!

Volume One: https://amzn.to/31IVvAr

Volume Two: https://amzn.to/3dXH8NO

Happy Fifth Aniversary, Writers Unite!

“Four score and seven years ago….”

No, wait—the creation of Writers Unite! five years ago was not so momentous to warrant a quote from President Abraham Lincoln. However, the group has had an impact on a large community of writers.

In October of 2015, a few writers, tired of writing groups that offered no writing advice, only social gatherings, decided to create a group named Writers Unite! as a haven for writers to present their work and discuss writing without harsh words or ridicule. Respect and support for each other and the writing process is the group’s goal.

Five years have now passed, and we have certainly had our share of growing pains. Our insistence on keeping WU!‘s focus on the writing process and not self-promotion, we hope, has given writers a place, a haven as described, to share their work and improve their skills by helping each other.

We strive to provide fun, entertaining, educational articles, workshops, and writing prompts to help novice and experienced writers hone their skills. WU! also offers a public Facebook page for non-members and a web presence where we showcase our members’ writing, offer workshops, and members’ guest posts. Our efforts are to help members drive more traffic to their social media and, hopefully, their work.

WU! also sponsors an anthology series to provide members the opportunity to learn the publishing process and become published. The response to the calls for submissions for the anthologies has been exceptional, and we are publishing our fifth anthology, Dimensions of Paranormal, this month. Submissions for our sixth anthology, Dimension of the Wild West, are underway.

As we approach 75,000 members, I remember back to the early days when we were worried we would even get one hundred members. We have certainly surpassed that. Our growth has been phenomenal, and we are fortunate to have support along the way.

There are many people to thank for making Writers Unite! a success. A special note of thanks has to be to Paul W. Reeves, who joined WU! in 2016, and shortly after, asked if we would like to appear on his radio show, “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk,” which at the time was on a terrestrial station in Detroit, Michigan. At the time of our first appearance on the show, WU! had 6600 members. By the time we made our third appearance within three months on the show, we had grown to 23,000 members. With no other marketing efforts to account for the growth, Paul’s show gave Writer’s Unite! a boost among his international listeners. With that growth rate, Facebook’s algorithms kicked in, and we have seen steady growth since then.

Now with his internet radio station, Impact Radio USA, Paul, also a group admin, continues to highlight Writer’s Unite! and many authors (some members) on both “Dr. Paul’s Family Talk” and “Impact Interviews and Music.” We are grateful for his continued support.

As the longest-serving admin for the group, I want to say unequivocally, this group would not be successful without the admin team in place. I cannot begin to explain how hard these admins work to keep this group running smoothly. It would take an exceedingly long post to list their accomplishments individually, but I must single out Lynn Miclea for her exceptional dedication to publishing the anthologies. Her expertise in editing and formatting is invaluable. To the rest of the team, Michele Sayre, Jessica Fisette, Stacy Smith, and Paul, thank you. Your dedication and support for Writers Unite! means everything. All hours of the day or night, they are willing to help.

However, there is one more team member, and that team member is more valuable than all.That member is you. Each of you, who as members, post, teach, mentor, discuss (okay, maybe debate at times), and create the value that makes Writers Unite! unique. Take a bow, you deserve it, and without you, this wouldn’t be fun.

As admins, when you tell us that in any way this group has given you the support or knowledge that has spurred you to write, complete a novel, or publish, you have made us proud. We don’t want accolades. Your success is enough.Thank you again for making this a fun, exciting, and quick five years. Here is to completed works and happy publishing.

The Admin Team

“Writers Unite!” Mission Statement:
To provide inspiration, instruction, and promotion for writers of all levels of expertise.

“Writers Unite!” Vision Statement:
To provide a haven for writers as they hone their craft.

WRITERS UNITE! ANTHOLOGIES: DIMENSIONS OF SCIENCE FICTION

Writers Unite! Anthologies

Presents

Dimensions of Science Fiction

Pre-order Begins Today!

Reserve your eBook copies on Amazon

Volumes One and Two: $0.99 each during pre-order

Volume One: https://amzn.to/3hn6rKm
Volume Two: https://amzn.to/2Cc3EDX

The universe—vast, unknown, mysterious, existing as a playground of imagination. From aliens older than time itself, an archaeological dig that portends the fate of Earth, a sentient planet, developing races, colonization, a world fighting for its existence, these and more stories await you within the Dimensions of Science Fiction. Join the authors from Writers Unite! as they take you on a voyage across the universe.

eBooks will be available for pre-order on June 15, 2020 and will be delivered to your readers on June 30.

Paperbacks will be available for order on the publication date of June 30, 2020.

Writers Unite! Anthologies: Dimensions of Science Fiction

Writers Unite! Anthologies

Presents

Dimensions of Science Fiction

The universe—vast, unknown, mysterious, existing as a playground of imagination. From aliens older than time itself, an archaeological dig that portends the fate of Earth, a sentient planet, developing races, colonization, a world fighting for its existence, these and more stories await you within the Dimensions of Science Fiction. Join the authors from Writers Unite! as they take you on a voyage across the universe.

eBooks will be available for pre-order on June 15, 2020 and will be delivered to your readers on June 30.

Paperbacks will be available for order on the publication date of June 30, 2020.

Writers Unite! Anthologies: Dimensions of Science Fiction

Writers Unite! Anthologies Presents

Dimensions of Science Fiction!

“The universe—vast, unknown, mysterious, existing as a playground of imagination. From aliens older than time itself, an archeological dig that portends the fate of Earth, a sentient planet, developing races, colonization, to a world fighting for its existence, these and more stories await you within the Dimensions of Science Fiction. Join the authors from Writers Unite! as they take you on a voyage across the universe.”

The publication date is tentatively set for June 15! Final date to be announced along with pre-order information for this two-volume set as soon as confirmed.

Thanks to all the authors participating. Each time we published an anthology, we don’t think the next one can be better. We are proven wrong once again! Sci-fi fan or not, you will enjoy this anthology.

WRITERS UNITE! ANTHOLOGIES: DIMENSIONS OF Paranormal

Welcome to Writers Unite!’s fifth anthology volume. We invite all writers of paranormal or any writers interested in the paranormal genre to submit a story to our Dimensions of Paranormal anthology.

If you are interested in submission, you must be a member of Writers Unite! on Facebook.  If you have questions, please email writersunite16@gmail.com. 

Thank you for your interest!  

Submission information: 

  • Submissions open on October 1, 2019, at 12:01 am Eastern Time
  • Submissions close on December 31, 2019, at 11:59 pm Eastern Time
  • All stories must be emailed to the Publisher at writersunite16@gmail.com
  • Please type “Paranormal Submission” plus your name and the story title in the subject line. Each story submission must be in a separate email.

Writers Unite! Paranormal Anthology Guidelines:

Genre:  Paranormal (all subgenres)     

Rating: G, GP, R (no excessive gore or erotica)

Please click on the link below for the complete guidelines.

Paranormal Anthology Guidelines

WU! Anthologies: Dimensions of Mystery

Writers Unite!’s Anthology Dimensions of Mystery will be available for presale on Amazon. com on August 15. 2019 .

Join the excellent authors from Writers Unite! as they take you through tales of murder, mystery, mayhem and well… the tale of a funny thief.

Check out Amazon. com

Presale: August 15, 2019

Published: September 1, 2019