Columns > Published on December 31st, 2019

Storyville: Ending 2019 with a Bang

So, as we usher out 2019 (thank GOD, what a mess) and welcome in 2020, here are some ways writers can end the year with a BANG, and set themelves up for success, next year.


I know you’ve been writing short stories, and I’m willing to guess that you have at LEAST one that is ready to go. So, quit screwing around, and send out that work! Ideally, you should send out a FEW stories. Quit being so precious with your work. I mean, how long have you been working on the same stories? Days, weeks, months, or more? If you’ve put in the work, and then shared it with your friends and peers, maybe workshopped it—and you think it’s good, can’t figure out what more to do with it, how to make it any better…then send that bad boy out into the world. You can use my BIG LIST, if you like. But I want you to start the year with at least one story out for submission, if not a few. I also use DUOTROPE, which you may want to utilize. Right now, for horror at semi-pro to pro pay, there are a few places open—The Dark and Black Static are two I like a lot. For fantasy and science fiction, try Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Clarkesworld, The Dark, Reckoning, and Bourbon Penn.


It’s important for you to read the publications you want to submit to, so why not sign up RIGHT NOW for a cool magazine, and then start reading? I really like Black Static, as they have excellent artwork, wonderful fiction, and Ellen Datlow just called them the “best, most consistent venue for horror fiction.” I’ve been trying to get into BS for years now. Gotten really close. I think they are still semi-pro rates, but they constantly get nominated for major awards, and get stories into the “best of the year” anthologies.


Speaking of, go pick one up right now. It’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the top markets, the editors that are running these publications and presses, as well as the authors and stories they are publishing. The Best Horror of the Year is usually my favorite, though I also like The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy, as well. I finally got a story into The Best Horror of the Year (Volume 11) out now, a co-written novelette entitled, “Golden Sun.”  In my Advanced Creative Writing Workshop that I teach online, I use those two, plus The Best American Short Stories anthology. There are many more out there, so see what genre you write, and pick the latest version up today.


Take some time over the holiday break to read, watch television, go see films, and generally fill your creative well back up with imagery, music, ideas, and thoughts. If you’re as exhausted and burnt out as I am, then you need to reboot. I just watched a very interesting movie on Netflix, Hold the Dark, and it gave me a page of notes for my upcoming novel. I also read (and re-read) stories by Neil Gaiman, T.C. Boyle, Karen Russell, A.C. Wise, and Rich Larson. It’s really helping me to not only study up for this next book, but generally fill my head with interesting ideas, images, and thoughts.


Another way to evolve as an author is to figure out where you’re lacking, and then improve that aspect of your prose. There are a ton of great classes right here at, and I don’t just mean my Short Story Mechanics class (which runs again in January). I think LR has more bang for the buck than just about any other online writing community.  


Well, New Year’s Eve is coming up, so maybe there are some parties going on around you. I want you to get out of the house and talk to people, see if you can get them to tell you some stories. Listen to how people talk, look at the way they dress, the sexual tension between people, and the way others avoid each other—tamping down anger and violence. Study the human condition up close and personal. If you’re working on a particular story (such as a ghost story) see if you can get people to talk about weird stuff—ghosts they’ve seen, the unexplainable, folklore and myths, etc. When I was teaching in Transylvania I saw all kinds of strange things—faces in doors, a presence outside my room every night at the same time, screaming peacocks, red eyes on the hills at night, the sound of something moving up and down the valley, etc.


Consider doing some research as the year comes to an end and 2020 gets started. I’m working on a new novel, and it has taken me in some very strange directions. It started with a post on Facebook about Barrow, Alaska and the 60-80 days of darkness they have up there every year. I’d been thinking about an older male protagonist—some mix of Stephen King’s Needful Things paired with The Thing, with a dash of Adam Nevill's The Ritual. So my research this month has included man stories about the cold, and the Arctic. I’ve also been watching a lot of television shows and movies—Hold the Dark, Fortitude, Babadook, etc. I’ve been reading about sin eaters, and all of the myths and folklore around them. I also scheduled a Skype call with my friend, and extremely talented author, Repo Kempt—he’s been living and working up in the Arctic. Already he has given me several really compelling images—everything from black ravens flying at night, the darkness overhead moving, to the way people chip off pieces of the icebergs up there and keep the chunks on their front porch, for drinking. I mean, of course it’s the most pure water you could imagine, but I also though immediately of something being IN the ice, right?


To end 2019 with a bang and set up 2020, really dig deep and think about what you need to do as an author to take that next step. If I can help in any way, please post up your questions here! Onward and upward, my friends.

Get Hold the Dark at Bookshop or Amazon

Get The Ritual at Bookshop or Amazon

About the author

Richard Thomas is the award-winning author of seven books: three novels—Disintegration and Breaker (Penguin Random House Alibi), as well as Transubstantiate (Otherworld Publications); three short story collections—Staring into the Abyss (Kraken Press), Herniated Roots (Snubnose Press), and Tribulations (Cemetery Dance); and one novella in The Soul Standard (Dzanc Books). With over 140 stories published, his credits include The Best Horror of the Year (Volume Eleven), Cemetery Dance (twice), Behold!: Oddities, Curiosities and Undefinable Wonders (Bram Stoker winner), PANK, storySouth, Gargoyle, Weird Fiction Review, Midwestern Gothic, Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Qualia Nous, Chiral Mad (numbers 2-4), and Shivers VI (with Stephen King and Peter Straub). He has won contests at ChiZine and One Buck Horror, has received five Pushcart Prize nominations, and has been long-listed for Best Horror of the Year six times. He was also the editor of four anthologies: The New Black and Exigencies (Dark House Press), The Lineup: 20 Provocative Women Writers (Black Lawrence Press) and Burnt Tongues (Medallion Press) with Chuck Palahniuk. He has been nominated for the Bram Stoker, Shirley Jackson, and Thriller awards. In his spare time he is a columnist at Lit Reactor and Editor-in-Chief at Gamut Magazine. His agent is Paula Munier at Talcott Notch. For more information visit

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