IWSG 51 Avoid Yah-Ha vs Nah-Ha

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group where we share our encouragement or insecurities on the first Wednesday of the month, to join the group or find out more click here.



Erika Beebe | Sandra Hoover | Susan Gourley , | Lee Lowery

IWSG Question: 

What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

I remember being very excited about my writing adventure when I put my first effort together. I hadn’t read any books except Stephen King’s On Writing. It was more of an experiment than a sure-fire novella on its way to publication.

I offered it up for evaluation at Zoetrope. I was excited to find such a site and when I went hunting around for the site today, it still had me on file. Too funny.

What to avoid?

Make sure you have a story with both a protagonist and an antagonist. I swear I was writing a fairy tale (scifi — note the ship — this time too) with a happy group of aliens traipsing through space all chasing a long-lost treasure.

Feedback was kind but clear. The story needed a bad guy. NO CONFLICT; NO TENSION.

Avoid Yah-Ha vs Nah-Ha

I got confused and figured conflict resembled the is-so vs is-not kind of interaction. Well that gets old and repetitive after two rounds. Listen to a couple of kids stuck in the backseat during a road trip and you’ll see what I mean. It’s not any better in a story. Things spiral using that approach

Avoid thinking writing is a lonely business

I found Zoetrope first and then Scribophile & the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. The writing community is huge and ranged from newbies to masters. Join a writing group, face-to-face or online. It doesn’t matter. That’s where the support is.

You might even feel like the odds aren’t against you anymore.

Avoid thinking all contests cost money

There are free ones out there. I am particularly fond of the Writes of the Future. First story was a bust but my second got an honorable mention. It spurred me on and didn’t cost a cent.

Last tip

Some contest have fees, but are still reputable. If you like to write horror and feel like trying your hand at a screen play, Zoetrope might be for you.

Francis Ford Coppola is the finalists judge. There is an entry fee for both the screenwriter’s contest and the short story contest (the fees are new) ranging from 30-50 depending where your work falls.

The deadline is coming up, so I’d plan for 2019 if you’re interested.

I’m off to read some posts. Thanks for dropping by. If you have comments on recommended contests or sites for writers be sure to include them in your comments. I’d love to read about both.

89 responses to “IWSG 51 Avoid Yah-Ha vs Nah-Ha

  1. spunkonastick

    That’s good when you can find a reputable contest that doesn’t cost money.

    I posted some of my work on a site over 15 years ago. The more feedback you gave, the more comments you could see on your own work. Unfortunately, I don’t even remember the name of the site now. LOL

    • Posting my work sure taught me a few things. I kind of feel for my first few critiques because I was more about praise than helping them improve. hehehe

  2. Stories are better with conflict, and there are some good contest sites out there. I don’t think I’ve heard of Zoetrope before.

  3. Thanks for sharing. Always a pleasure stopping in to ‘see’ ya. 🙂
    sherry @ fundinmental

  4. Yeah, the dreaded conflict. It took me a while to figure it out too.
    I need to check out Zoetrope. Thanks for the tip.

  5. Good advice, as always. Regarding contests, I tend to go to long-established writing contests like Writer’s Digest. Even they charge some fees.

  6. I had the same problem with lack of conflict when I started too. And my main character was oh so perfect. Ha! Ha! Funny what we learn at the beginning

  7. I haven’t heard of Zoetrope. Writer’s Digest has been my go-to resource. Thank you for the reference Anna. Happy IWSG Day!

  8. Great tips 🙂

    Ronel visiting on Insecure Writer’s Support Group day: Time to Say Goodbye

  9. It never helps a writer when he or she thinks they’re the lone ranger. Excellent tips.
    Shalom aleichem,
    Pat G @ EverythingMustChange

  10. I usually had conflict/bad guys in my early writing attempts – my favorite characters to write! – but my pacing was a mess and my subplots/plot layers were non-existent. Thank goodness for craft books and critiques and the writing community! 🙂

  11. I’ve been surprised at what a huge online writing community there is out there. It’s been a real godsend for me.

  12. I agree so much with the finding of a community. I’ve said often how much IWSG has helped me and that has spiraled out to me finding other pockets of people to interact with. It makes a huge difference.

  13. This is all great advice – thanks for sharing. I had to laugh about the kids in the back of the car. Yeah, that wouldn’t make for much of a story, would it? 😀

  14. I think I found my gold in the form of critique forums. Perhaps not as organized as the other sites, but at least I found some great critique partners that way!

  15. Conflict is something I continue to have some issues with – although I’ve definitely improved since those first days! 🙂

  16. Thanks for the tip about writing contest. I love the blog http://micascottikole.com which keeps a calendar of free writing events and contest! It’s amazing

  17. Some may think you’re first item (have a protagonist and an antagonist) is humorous. However, I was at a conference once when a “writer” next me ask this question, “What’s an antagonist?” There was a moment of silence, and then a kind sole explained. Now perhaps, this writer just didn’t have the word, but did have the concept. Perhaps his stories were riveting and filled with conflict. That I don’t know, but it made me very aware that there are a lot of people writing who have these kinds of gaps. Connecting with groups like the ones you’ve mentioned is essential. What you don’t know, someone else will. Thanks for post today.

    WordPress.com / Gravatar.com credentials can be used.

    • I was just so innocent and inexperienced. It still makes wonder where I got the nerve to post. I’m glad I did though. It started my most excellent adventure. 😉

  18. All of my stories have a bad guy. Even simple stories have an “antagonist” one way or another, someone who causes problems for the MC. It all helps to create conflict, and conflict is a must.

  19. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.
    You make some really good point. I hadn’t considered a story without real conflict, but I do see now how some could fall into that trap.

  20. Anna, some great tips here. I find it hard to make my heroes suffer but critique partners are good for that!
    Glad you signed up for the WEP!

  21. I really need to start entering contests again, it’s been so long.
    My writing groups are my sanity, great advice!

  22. Great tips. I particularly like the one about how writing shouldn’t be a lonely business. You are so right. Community is essential to our growth as writers. It also helps get the word out about our stories.

  23. I just got lost down the zoetrope rabbit hole. 🙂 Thanks, Anna!

  24. Great tips, Anna! Thanks for sharing. Getting the right amount of conflict can be difficult, but it’s so crucial.

  25. I’ll have to check out Zoetrope. That’s a new one for me. @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  26. Your posts are always so informative and helpful, Anna. Thank you for that. Unfortunately, it seems like tips and good advice grow from experiences of doing it wrong the first time. Not sure whether that’s the case with you, since you are so experienced, but by sharing all these tidbits, you are doing the work for us newbies and avoiding us from making mistakes.

    Yes, conflict is important, but it is sometimes hard to implement. I tried my best in my memoir, just by phrasing my husband, who is the antagonist. 🙂

  27. Great points Anna. I’m amazed at how many books I’ve started to read (50 pages – I’m hooked or I’m out) that don’t have any meaningful conflict and still got published. Contests are not an area into which I’ve wandered. Maybe someday . . .

  28. Great tips.
    I think conflict one of the most confusing things sometimes to figure out.

    I was told once that conflict is not an argument between characters, or something random happening to the character, but a problem that requires your character to work at solving it, or changing something which requires exerted effort put out by your character.

    Makes sense. Not always so easy to figure out. One example given: Nature against man, for instance, happens to the character but the character still has to figure out how to survive or escape requiring effort on their part. Things don’t just work out or resolve themselves with the character taking action.

  29. It’s so care isn’t it. I did a ‘Warrior Writer’s Course’ with Bob Mayer and he works with what he calls a conflict box. Where you have your protagonist and antagonist side by side on two corners, and their goals are on the opposite corners. So for one to achieve their goal it must directly prevent the other from getting theirs. Only when their goals were diametrically opposed would the conflict be real enough. Interesting take on it, huh? 🙂

  30. Thanks for the critique-site ideas! :pondering: (And entirely intimidated by the calibre of contest judges on Zoetrope site.)

    Ah, yes — conflict! Some beautiful books I *started to read* fell flat — while others, perhaps a bit rough around the edges, were _gripping_ due to effective conflict between characters.

  31. Conflict makes a story and I do love putting tons of conflict in my stories. Sometimes I wonder if I put too much!

    Thanks for the tips about the contests. I skim through the Writer’s Digest contest listings but I need to really pick a few and start working towards submitting to them.

    Happy August!

  32. Hey, that is what frustrated me, every competition I fell upon there was a cost involved and not a small cost either. i’ll take a look at zoetrope later

  33. Never heard of Zoetrope but am on Scribophile. Plan to send my YA fantasy to Writers of the Future once it’s complete and polished. I like using newpages.com, Aerogamme studio and Erica Verrillo’s Published to Death to search for contest listings.

  34. Suzanne Furness

    Some contests here (UK) seem to be quite expensive. Always good to hear of free to enter ones, or those with lower entry fees. I agree about the need for conflict and stakes in the story.

  35. Thanks for the tips! I didn’t know much about the resources and links you mentioned, so I’ll be sure to check them out.

  36. Does the WEP semi-monthly challenge work? It’s free and fun! http://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com/

  37. Back when I was writing in the seventies, writing did seem more isolated especially for someone like me living in a less urban area. Now the internet has opened up such a vast realm of possibilities that friends and feedback are much easier to connect with.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

  38. Crystal Collier

    All excellent thoughts. Writings is a lot of lonely time typing out our thoughts, but I find those thoughts tend to solidify and gain strength when I bounce them off my good friends. We all need the support.

  39. That lone-ranger-writerly-image is a thing of the past…
    I wonder how the “average struggling” writers managed back in the day? I’m sure many dropped by the wayside because of no moral support. We are so fortunate today, to live in the era of physical AND online support groups. 🙂

  40. Thanks for the links to the free contests! Much appreciated. So many charge high fees these days. It’s discouraged me from entering them for a while.

  41. My very first WIP had everyone in the story (except for the antagonist) rooting for and helping my protagonist. Fortunately, after reading about conflict and tension, I realized this was boring. Eventually, I had almost every character disliking the protagonist. Although I felt bad for him, the story became a lot easier to write.

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