So you have an idea, but you don’t know where to start… and the end seems so far away it might as well be on Pluto. Well, you’ve come to the right place. Follow the 12 Baby-Steps to a Complete Story and you’ll be on your way. Each month, we’ll post a new exercise. Do each month’s exercise and by the end of the year, you’ll have a polished story (or personal essay, if you prefer non-fiction) ready to submit!
The time-line here is designed for a short piece of writing, not a book, but if you’d like to do it with a novel idea, you’re welcome to. If you’d just like to do the exercises as practice, and use different pieces for each exercise, that’s fine too. Adapt the exercises any way you like. There are no rules, just ideas.
December: Cover Letter & Submission
So your story is done. Time to write the dreaded cover letter. Fortunately, one third of it’s already done. Remember the synopsis you wrote back in September? There’s your first paragraph. Stick a “Enclosed please find my short story, “~~~~~~~~” at the beginning and you’re onto paragraph two. You can include the word count in this paragraph if it’s needed for where you are submitting.
Paragraph two is a brief biography. Choose three things to say about yourself that are connected to the story you’ve written. For example, if your story is about horses and you grew up on a ranch, mention that. Don’t include information that has no bearing on the story.
In the final paragraph, mention your writing credits. If you don’t have any, don’t lie, just skip it. Conclude any business in this paragraph: is this a single or multiple submission? How long before you submit to someone else? Have you enclosed an SASE… and is it just for a reply or do you want your story back as well? Finally, don’t forget to say thank you.
Add a salutation (Dear —–,) and closing (Sincerely, —–). Now, post and ask for feedback. Polish it using any suggestions you get. Now print off a fresh copy of your letter and story, pick one market from your five finalists and SUBMIT!