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