The Horror Zine

A Continuing Series of Chapters


The Horror Zine presents a series of chapters from the chapbook

How to Get Published by Magazine Editors

This is the NINTH in a series of excerpts...a new chapter will be published on this page each month

Chapter Nine



I have been asked many times, “What is the difference between a novelette, a novella, and a novel?”

I always provide this answer: Word count.


The Nebula Awards given by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America defines the novelette as having a word count of between 7,500 and 17,500 words.


The Nebula Awards defines the novella as having a word count of between 17,500 and 40,000 words.


It is widely accepted that a novel should be no shorter than 60,000 words, and 70,000 words as your lower limit is even better.

Despite the definition of a novella ending at 40,000 words, I feel strongly that a real novel should not be under 60,000 words, so I do not know what you would officially call a work that contains 50,000 words.

In my opinion, it is called “not a novel.”

If you spent the energy to write 50,000 words, add another 10,000 or 20,000 words, for crissakes.

That said, how do you write a novel?

Many professional writers counsel to read a lot of fiction before writing. Not your own work, but the works of others. Pay attention to how other writers develop their characters, including secondary characters. Pay attention to their story arc. Pay attention to their technique. See how it is done when it is done well.

That does not mean you copy other writers; it simply means you see examples of how it is done when it is done well. It means you gather instructions for a template.

Before you ever consider writing a full-length novel, it may be a good idea to begin with short story venues. This benefits you twice over: First, because it gives you writing experience. Second, when you get your short stories published in magazines, it gives you a resume that you will need to show a literary agent or even a publisher.

A resume can give a writer credibility. It shows the agent or the publisher (or both) that your work has been considered good enough for publication elsewhere, so your newest publisher might be more willing to take a chance on you. The resume reinforces the idea of legitimacy; that you have earned the agent or publisher’s attention.

Okay, say you have done that. Say you have been published by five, ten, even twenty magazines. Now you feel ready to take the next step: Writing a novel.

How do you begin this feat?

Randy Ingermanson of the Advanced Fiction Writing Ezine ( states:

If you’re like most people, you spend a long time thinking about your novel before you ever start writing. You may do some research. You daydream about how the story’s going to work. You brainstorm. You start hearing the voices of different characters. You think about what the book’s about—the Deep Theme. This is an essential part of every book which I call “composting.” It’s an informal process and every writer does it differently. I’m going to assume that you know how to compost your story ideas and that you have already got a novel well-composted in your mind and that you’re ready to sit down and start writing that novel.

But before you start writing, you need to get organized. You need to put all those wonderful ideas down on paper in a form you can use. Why? Because your memory is fallible, and your creativity has probably left a lot of holes in your story—holes you need to fill in before you start writing your novel. You need a design document. And you need to produce it using a process that doesn’t kill your desire to actually write the story.

Glen C. Strathy’s article “The Story Goal: Your Key to Creating a Solid Plot Structure” ( discusses the beginning of a novel:

The first and most important element of any plot is the Story Goal or Problem. This is the organizing idea around which the entire plot of your novel will be based.

Without a goal, a plot becomes just a haphazard series of events with no meaning or purpose—one that will leave the reader wondering, “What was the point of that story?”

With a clear goal, the reader has a context that lets him appreciate the relevance of each event in the story. It allows the reader to become emotionally involved in your novel and to care about the outcome. In brief, it makes the story meaningful.

Next, write. And write. And write.

Then re-write. And re-write. And re-write.

Consider buying the book titled Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, Second Edition: How to Edit Yourself Into Print by Renni Browne and Dave King.

Also consider buying Nigel Watts’ book titled Writing a Novel and Getting Published.

All of the advice I have given in previous chapters about how to write short stories also applies for writing novels, with a few changes.

Remember my formula for short stories:

1)  start with action
2)  familiarize the reader with your protagonist; make him/her likeable
3)  provide an obstacle for your protagonist
4)  describe how your protagonist overcomes, or at least deals with, the obstacle
5)  provide an exciting chase scene
6)  give the reader hints as to the ending
7)  provide a completely different ending than your hints

For a novel, you would be expected to expand upon that formula.

Peter Winkler says in his article titled “How to Write A Bestseller—According to the Formula”
( below:

In the ‘90s, 53-year-old carpenter and struggling writer John Baldwin determined to write a bestselling medical thriller. He spent several years analyzing the best examples of the genre, consulted with some Hollywood writers and agents, and created a 10-step formula for creating a hit thriller:

  1. The hero is an expert.
  2. The villain is an expert.
  3. You must watch all of the villainy over the shoulder of the villain.
  4. The hero has a team of experts in various fields behind him, etc.
  5. Two or more on the team must fall in love.
  6. Two or more on the team must die.
  7. The villain must turn his attentions from his initial goal to the team.
  8. The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.
  9. All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group: i.e., never say that the bomb exploded and 15,000 people were killed. Start with “Jamie and Suzy were walking in the park with their grandmother when the earth opened up.”
  10. If you get bogged down, just kill somebody.

Ah, so in the above list is something new: Falling in love.

Whereas the characters in your short story may or may not have enough time to fall in love, there is plenty of time for romance in a novel, no matter what the genre. Plenty of time, like at least 70,000 words worth of time.

Once you complete your novel and you have polished it to be its very best, how do you market it?

By writing a Book Proposal.

At the very least, you can do the minimum for a Book Proposal that can look something like the example on the following page. However, if you do the bare minimum, you must include a Synopsis, which is shown on the page after the Book Proposal.

I do not recommend the bare minimum, and I will expand upon that. But first, let’s look at the minimum.

The following Book Proposal and Synopsis is just an example.

Book Proposal:

The first volume in the Cat Daniels Mystery Series

A Young Adult novel

AUTHOR: Jeani Rector   

OVERVIEW: The Unmarked Grave is the first in a series of “Nancy Drew-like” mysteries, except it is much more contemporary. The heroine, a teenage sleuth, solves paranormal mysteries. 

AGE GROUP: Young adults and children between the ages of 8 to 16.

MANUSCRIPT: The first book in the Cat Daniels Mystery Series is complete, and the second book, tentatively titled The House on Miner Street, is one-quarter complete.

FUTURE: The Cat Daniels Mystery Series takes young adults and children into a new direction: teenagers and the paranormal. Everyone loves a good ghost story. And this series deals with the ups and downs of teenage life, both the angst and the triumphs. This book is about a fifteen-year-old girl who solves paranormal mysteries.

AUTHOR BIO: Jeani Rector is the editor of The Horror Zine. The Unmarked Grave was written with the assistance of Jeani’s teenage daughter, whose suggestions and criticisms helped to shape a realistic story line. After all, who knows more about what teenagers think and say other than a real teenager?

INCLUDED: Book Proposal, Synopsis, and Manuscript


Out of gas, the car coasts to a stop right in front of a cemetery. The cell phone is dead. Cat Daniels is hesitant when Brian suggests they walk through the graveyard to a convenience store on the other side where they can use the pay phone. But nobody is superstitious these days, right?

Cat has an enormous crush on Brian and, because she is only in tenth grade and a year behind him in high school, she doesn’t want him to think she's only a “baby fifteen-year-old.” She agrees to the idea. Once inside the cemetery, Brian forges ahead, leaving her behind. And—it is getting dark.

She hears someone in the cemetery, and finds a priest standing behind a grave. Father Santiago tries to tell her about a crime that had been committed over eighty-five years ago. Before she can understand him, the priest disappears. Unknown to Cat, something else remains behind at Creekside Cemetery.

Cat wants to go home and resume her normal teenage activities. But her relationship with Brian is deteriorating, and she experiences the pain of unrequited love for the first time. Meanwhile, she has vivid dreams of another era.

Plagued by her dreams, she decides the only way to stop them is to find the answers to the mysteries that seem to surround an unmarked grave in Creekside Cemetery. She learns about a crime committed in 1935, and of a man who lived and loved during that era. She discovers that this man is determined to protect the woman he loved who was erroneously accused of the crime, to the point where he is still protecting his love to this day, even though both are long dead.

But a stranger very much alive today doesn’t want the information to be learned. That someone is protecting a dark secret of a murder committed in 1935. That someone is hiding the impact of that long ago crime that still affects some people Cat knows today.

On Halloween night, the stranger makes an attempt to stop Cat from finding out the truth of what happened so long ago. Through quick thinking, she narrowly escapes the stranger’s pursuit, but it only makes her more determined to find out what he is hiding.

Finding clues, she finally discovers who is buried in the unmarked grave. A headstone is erected; thereby giving the person buried there an identity. Through Cat’s detective work, the innocence of the deceased is revealed, and the whole, amazing story is finally known. 

Okay, there you have it: the Bare Minimum.

The only reason to write the Bare Minimum is if you already have a relationship with the agent or publisher who receives it. Let me repeat: The only reason to write the Bare Minimum is if you already have a relationship with the agent or publisher who receives it.

But if you are going into someone’s slush pile…if your reception is cold and you want to warm it up, don’t do the Bare Minimum.

Do it right. Consider purchasing one of these two very good reference books (or checking them out from the library):

Write the Perfect Book Proposal by Jeff Herman and Deborah Levine Herman


How to Write a Book Proposal by Michael Larsen

Both of the books mentioned above list easy to follow, step-by-step instructions about how to write a good Book Proposal.

You owe it to yourself (and your future) to do it right.









You can buy the chapbook HERE


(the above is not a photo of Jeani Rector)


What Does it Take to Be a Successful Short Story Writer?

How Magazine Editors Think

Unusual Monsters

Character Development

Substance and Style

Pacing Your Suspense

How to End a Short Story

What About a Full-Length Novel?

Today’s Publishing Market

Do-It-Yourself Publishing: A Viable Alternative

Short Story Examples

Review by Michael Wolf (below):

Jeani Rector has a written the ultimate writer's guide for being published in today's market. Drawing upon her experience as the chief editor for the online publication, The Horror Zine, she gives instruction on what an editor looks for in a short story submission.

Plot, Character Development, Ending Twists, Style as well as numerous helpful examples she gives to help all levels of writers to crack the nut of publication. The interviews with editors of important publications give first-hand insight to what they're looking for.

She has included Tamim Ansary's article 9 Scariest Monsters for all you horror writers. Her own short story, The Golem, and other stories are excellent examples to enhance your own writing.

Any serious writer who is looking to get published needs to get this valuable book.

Review by Morgana Phenix

Considering that I am a struggling writer I am always looking for help to improve. I remember when Stephen King's book, "On Writing" first came out I quickly snagged it with the hopes of gaining insight into the skills I needed. Alas, it just didn't resonate with me! This book on the other hand shall take a place on the top shelf of my desk in my office between the recent APA manual and my trusty, "American Heritage Dictionary" that is over thirty years old. I see the information contained within, "How To Get Published By Magazine Editors" as valuable and insightful and therefore bestow FIVE STARS *****