5 Tips for Getting Published in a Lit Mag

Most writers of short stories and essays follow a set pattern for getting their stories published – write, revise, find markets, submit. Writers often find themselves submitting stories only to receive endless rejections. There are a few additional measures that writers can adopt if they wish to increase their chances of acceptance into a literary journal of their liking:


  1. Target your story to the journal

This subverts the usual trend. Writers usually write stories and then find markets for them – I propose that you try the reverse. When you find a journal that you like, write a story seemingly as if it were only meant for that one magazine.


I came across the guidelines for GreenPrints journal, which features primarily gardening stories. I wrote a short story that centered on the relationship dynamic between two elderly men, one of whom was an enthusiastic gardener. My story was accepted and I received a cool $150 plus two complimentary copies.


  1. Read recent issues

Do not send a story to a journal if you have not read even a single issue of the magazine. To improve your chances, read at least two or three recent issues to get an idea of the style, tone and subject matter. This will help to identify if your work is an obvious misfit.


  1. Get your story critiqued

Join a critique group and send out your story. Actively seek out critiques from writers or editors only, and not relatives or friends who are more likely to simply respond that the story was ‘wonderful’.


The comments from fellow writers might spark new ideas and help fix the issues in your story. Listen to your instinct when reading the comments. Weigh them carefully, and if the changes do improve your story after multiple readings, apply them before sending.


  1. Send in a revised story

Do not send a first, second, or even a third draft. Set aside the story for at least a week. Then, when you return to it, make one pass through it for checking the plot (any inconsistencies, logical flaws etc.) and another to pick apart the writing. Eliminate clichés and make sure each sentence is as beautiful and original as it can be, while also being clear to the reader.



  1. Adhere to the guidelines

Editors provide submission guidelines because it makes it easier for them to read through the slush pile. It also simplifies the process for writers who harbor a hundred questions in their mind when submitting. Editors won’t turn away a good story if it doesn’t arrive in their prescribed format, but why risk irking them when following the rules doesn’t take much of our time.


Most journals pay at the time of publication. Here are a few paying journals that send out feedback along with their rejections:

Freeze Frame Fiction

They accept flash fiction and sometimes include themed issues. They include feedback from three different readers.



This is a market for science fiction, fantasy and horror.


Page & Spine

Editor N.K.Wagner is looking for poetry, fiction and even essays related to writing for a section called ‘The Writer’s Table’.


Spark: A Creative Anthology

Like Freeze Frame Fiction, they too include feedback from different readers.



They accept stories in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. Their rejections typically include a reason why a particular story did not work for them.


Remember that it’s our job to push our story to the top of the editor’s favorites list. Do submit to some of the venues listed above and share your tales of triumph!


Next week I’ll be honoured to host debut author Anne Goodwin! Her debut novel Sugar and Snails is being released this month. Do stop by – we’ll have a lot to learn from her guest post on fictional research!


Writing Resources

Over the last few years I’ve built up a set of links that help me with my writing in terms of advice as well as markets. Given below are a few of my go-to sites that sit prettily bookmarked in my browser:


Resources for Markets:


This is a veritable treasure trove of paying markets for your poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Updated daily, we report on editors and publishers who are actively seeking submissions, pay standard or competitive rates, and do not charge reading fees.


Aerogramme Studio

This website was established in Melbourne, Australia and publishes news and resources for emerging and established writers. Check out one of their recent posts for competitions of June and July 2015.


New Pages

An online database of literary journals of all stripes and hues. A worthy alternate for Duotrope which now requires a paid subscription.


Writer’s Relief Calls for Submissions and Contests

The classifieds section features a slew of listings for all kinds of writing, including competitions with and without entry fees.


Authors Publish

This relatively new zine for writers lists markets in every issue, including for publishers and small presses.


Speed up your writing output with these great posts:

1000 words a day by Mridu Khullar Relph

Mridu outlines a few concrete steps to achieve the target, which can easily be done by most of us.


How Writing 1000 Words a Day Changed My Life

An interesting perspective on the habit of writing regularly


How the Hell Buffer Creates So Much Content So Quickly

Though not directly related to creative writing, this offers a valuable look at how the team of writers and editors get their work done in record time.



Hope you found these useful! Do you have any favourite writing resources you’d like to share?

The Red Ants

I’d thought I’d try something a little different this time and post one of my stories on the blog. This one was published last year in eFiction India. I am reprinting it here for your reading pleasure. Do read and tell me what you think.


“Let’s play football.” Tina chases the ball around the lawn, squishing it past the muddy patches.

My arms brush the plaster off the pillar in the corner of the clubhouse. From my cocoon of shade, I watch Tina trade kicks with the big boys at a game I can barely spell, let alone play. I picture myself trotting up and tackling the ball like Messi. But they don’t even notice me standing there in my sporty dress. I rub my forearms and wait for her to join me for the walk back home.

The boys hound her out soon enough. She jogs back smelling of musk and sweat, her damp ponytail swishing behind her. “Anita, why didn’t you join us?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know how to play.”

“What’s to know? You just kick the ball into the other team’s goal.”

I want to grab her sweaty shoulders and ask how do I do it? What if I send the ball spinning way outside the field? My teammates would totally pummel me, and my opponents would point and jeer.

Tina dribbles a ball as we shuffle back to Magnolia building. Outside her door, I raise my finger to ring the bell when Shetty Uncle disrupts our day. “Hello, girls! Enjoying your play?”

I narrow my eyes at him as he stares at Tina. Sweat fastens her vest to her skin. She wears real short shorts, the kind that wedges up and jams the butt cheeks in the middle. I often warn her to ditch the hip stuff and wear decent dresses like me, but who’s listening?

“Yes, Uncle.” Tina is careful to stress on the word Uncle. A giggle escapes my lips.

He shakes himself out of his leering. “Hey, you girls can take part in the football game we’re organizing next week!”

Tina stops twirling her hair, and snaps to attention. “Football game? In our clubhouse?”

“No, silly girl. We will hold it in the grounds next to Jogger’s Park. All teams from our apartment complex – adults, kids, ladies, mixed teams, everyone is invited to participate!”

“That’s great, Shetty Uncle! Please note down our names for this.”

“No, no, my dear.” He wiggles a pudgy finger at our noses. “First, form a team of eleven, think up a name for your team, and then tell me.”

Shetty Uncle huffs into the elevator. Tina nudges my elbow and drags me to her house. For the next hour, she spews out names like a phone book.

“How about Mala? She’s into sports and her brother’s cute too.”

I shake my head. Girls like Mala exist only to count my pimples and declare the total in full view of their hunky brothers.

Tina glares at me for a second. “What about Rimi?”

I smile. “Rimi’s nice. We can ask her.”

The next day at school, Tina corners Rimi after our basketball class. Rimi’s eyes widen at the thought of founding a football team and she promises to rope in her fellow tennis-players. She’ll drag her boyfriend into this too, I’m sure.

By evening, we assemble our team. It includes both boys and girls, but mercifully no adults. Tina’s dad has formed his own team. They’re calling themselves something crazy like Fan-chester United.

Now our team is all set, we charge onto the lawn to grab a couple hours of practice. The battered soles of my sneakers kiss the ball, but it only bounces off the low brick wall that runs around the lawn. Rimi bursts into laughter and staggers off to the restrooms for a pee break.

The others head off the grass to catch their breath. I grab this chance to practice in one corner. I place the ball right in front of me, and as if in slow motion, throw a hard kick at the ball. Instead, I hit something that looks like a brick squelched into the mud. I let out a yelp and clutch my feet in despair. Tina dashes to my side. The socks and shoes reek when they come off. Neither my feet nor my toes bear any marks of damage.

“It will be fine. Just put some ointment on it,” Tina says. I glare at her – what does she know about a sports injury?

Later, when we’re soaked to our skin in sweat, we sit cross-legged on the lawn in a circle and toss around names for our team.

Someone suggests ‘Delhi Teenyboppers’, but a chorus of ‘Nah!’ knocks it off the list. ‘Kids Kick’ treads the same path of rejection. Shetty Uncle drops by and suggests ‘Junior Jocks’ but we just roll our eyes at this.

Rimi’s boyfriend Samir throws his arm around her, and addresses the crowd. “Which house are you in at school?”

Everyone yells out different names all at once, but even in the melee, the word ‘Red’ stands out. I holler out ‘Blue’, but it dissolves in the racket.

“I have an idea,” he says. Rimi glows at him. “Why don’t we wear our Red House t-shirts and white shorts as the team uniform? Those who’re not in Red house can borrow from others, right?”

“Sounds great! And how about we call ourselves The Red Ants?” Tina says.


He high-fives Tina. Rimi strokes his arm possessively.

The name is settled but my nerves are jangling. Come Saturday evening, when the referee blows the whistle to start the game, I might just puke out all the stress bottled up within me.

For the next three practice sessions, I run around but not always after the ball. I learn that one thing well. Just darting around the lawn convinces everyone that the goal lies in my crosshairs. My heart beats a little faster every time I sight the sphere. It’s like a loaded gun about to fire. It will be the death of me, that football.

On the day of the tournament, I battle match nerves and eat nothing. Ma concocts an awful gooey dish filled with vegetables. One bite suffices for me to push away the plate.

At five, I throw on my borrowed red tee and shorts. Tina rings the bell and together we stroll down to the grounds.

They announce the rules – four games, forty minutes each. A lottery system will decide the opponents of the four games.

My heart sinks to my chest as Tina draws out a piece of paper from the bag. Shetty Uncle makes her shake hands with a hulking fellow wearing a sleeveless tee. Tina smiles and says what looks to me like ‘Best of Luck.’

She trots up to us. “Number four. We’ll play last today.”

I heave a sigh of relief. Two hours of breathing time will help me come to terms with the fool I am about to make of myself.

Two teams of adults storm the field first, one of them composed of older women wearing demure track pants and sparkling white sneakers they must have bought especially for the day. I doubt they ever slip their feet into anything but ballet flats.

We fan across the edges of the ground and watch. The game must be close. Rimi, Tina and Samir cheer and hoot every few minutes. My heart keeps popping up to my mouth and I face a tough time shoving it back down.

As the seconds tick down, my pulse quickens. Between games, Samir, Rimi and I scamper about the grounds flattening the sludge.

Tina’s father and his team swarm the ground. They are up against another group of hefty men from the Marigold building in our complex. This is the first game that pits two all-male football teams against each other. They charge after the ball and yell instructions at each other and at some point, even curse their opponents, just like the games on TV.

Tina’s father tackles a yellow-teed bodybuilder, and falls to the ground. For a minute, time stops. In a blur, I see Tina darting down to the center of the grounds, where her father lies on one side. He wraps his fingers tight around his calves, his face screwed up in agony.

A crowd encircles him, until someone tells people to back off and let him breathe. He tries to move but his legs do not cooperate. Shetty Uncle and a spectacled man wearing an ugly checked shirt jog down to the grounds. The ugly-shirt man claims to be a doctor. He kneels by Tina’s father, cups his shins.

The proxy-doctor curls his lips. “It might be a fracture. We should call an ambulance.”

Shetty Uncle nods. Nobody notices the concrete slab caked in slimy mud. Rimi takes me by the hand and draws me away from the scene.

“So, you feel secretly relieved you don’t have to play? I know you were dreading it,” says Rimi.

“No way,” I say. “I would’ve played great. Football’s a piece of cake for me now.”