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  • Writer's pictureSteve Haywood

Writing & submitting short stories

I’ve decided to write a journal to keep track of my writing, rejections, acceptances, what I’ve learned along the way. Rather than just be a diatribe of complaints, I’m intending that each post will be on a particular topic. Hopefully some of what I’m writing will be of use to other writers.

What am I writing?

Although I’m partway through a novel, what I’m concentrating on at the moment is writing short stories, including flash fiction. Until a couple of years ago, I didn’t really like short stories, but I joined a book group that discussed them regularly, and since then I’ve come to enjoy them a lot more.

Why short stories? Well firstly, they are short. I’ve historically not been very good at sticking at a long writing project (though I am improving in this). In theory I can write a short story in one sitting, in practice I can easily write and edit a short story over a week or two. I have lots of ideas, and this allows me to give more of those ideas some air time. The other main reason is that it’s a great way of improving your writing and getting feedback on it. It’s a lot easier getting feedback on a short story than all or even part of a novel. You also get to test your writing by submitting it various places and getting rejections or acceptances, and maybe some feedback along the way. This is vital, as it helps you hone your writing craft and find out what works and what doesn’t.

I’m writing all different kinds of short stories, but they mainly fall into two camps : ‘literary fiction’ and science fiction & fantasy.

Where am I sending them to?

Now in theory, I could just publish stories on my own website, and when I’ve written enough self-publish my own anthology. I virtually guarantee that no one’s going to want to read them other than a few family and friends, and no one is going to want to buy an anthology of short stories from an unknown author without any publication credits. Plus how do you know if they are any good?

Some people submit their stories to competitions. I haven’t done that really, so far anyway. Instead I’ve been submitting my stories to magazines. There are hundreds, thousands even, of outlets that publish short stories; some are print magazines, some online webzines and some do both. It’s a really competitive market out there, many of these magazines receive hundreds of submissions for every one they publish. Don’t expect to get paid (much) either. Most don’t pay, so you’re just getting the kudos for getting that publication credit.

How am I doing?

So far, not great. I have had one short story published recently in an online literary magazine, but that’s it at the moment. It’s worth noting that I am a little bit selective in where I submit to. If somewhere publishes everything, or almost everything, that they get sent, I avoid it. I want a publication credit to actually mean something.

I may not have had many short stories published yet, but where I feel I have achieved however, is in learning and improving my craft. Feedback is gold dust, and I’ve tried to learn something from every bit of feedback I’ve got. I believe my writing quality has improved a lot, and I’ve got more of an idea of what works and what doesn’t. Only time will tell how true this is, of course!

Do let me know in the comments what you think. I’d be interested in hearing other writers experiences.

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