Submitting Short Fiction
If you want to make a successful career as an author of literary fiction, one of the best places to start is the short story. It can be a stepping stone. As Ray Bradbury said, “You can write a short story in two hours. Two hours a day, you have a novel in a year.” Many bestselling authors got their start writing short fiction and publishing in magazines.
What follows is a step-by-step guide for writers of realistic or “literary” short fiction. I refer to this genre as “realistic short fiction” because I’m not a fan of the idea that belonging to this category somehow makes a story more “literary” i.e. more truthful, more literate, or more serious. If you’re writing science fiction, fantasy, or other speculative genres, check out the genre edition of this article.
This is part of a series of articles for new writers who’ve never sent their work out before. While everyone’s process is different, I hope these tips and tricks can be a starting point for you to figure out your submissions process and start getting your work into the world.
1. Finish the Story
“A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.”
— Flannery O’Connor
Okay, I know it sounds pretty simple. But the truth is many writers fail in their submissions because they didn’t complete the story. A piece of short fiction needs a lot of bones to hold it up — it needs a satisfying ending, a compelling voice, and a structure that’s unique. But the biggest thing it needs is to be complete.
What is a finished story?
A story is finished when you feel it’s ready to get out into the world. You may just be exhausted by it, completely tired of looking at it. Or, you may feel completely nervous about sending it out except for the fact that you’ve gotten a lot of feedback and your critique partners feel the story is finished. Every writer approaches this differently.
As an editor, a story is complete for me when there’s nothing stopping me in my tracks. The “stopping point” could…