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How To Write A Good Short Story

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All editors are looking for an element of action, drama or surprise in short stories. It’s what catches their attention and makes them pause to read further; and the key to any editor’s heart is originality. Not necessarily a new departure in style or genre, but a refreshing and original slant on a popular theme. The writers whose work has been accepted for publication, managed to spark the editor’s interest because those particular stories stood out from the rest on a dull, wet Monday morning.
The short story markets – particularly the paying ones – have shrunk considerably in recent years and so it is important to do your homework and find out which magazines are publishing your kind of story before sitting down to write. Many magazines publish submission guidelines on the Internet, so read these carefully before sending any material.
The short story generally comes in three sizes: mini (or micro) fiction of up to 500 words; standard 1000-2000 words, or longer 2500-4000 words. All submissions, however, must be tailored to fit the pre-allocated fiction slot in your target magazine.
The biggest markets are those editors of the weekly mainstream women’s magazines, followed by the small press science fiction and fantasy publications. In between are the monthly or quarterly magazines that are looking for literary fiction. Other markets are few and far between unless you are writing for competition (see How To Enter Writing Competitions).
Short stories require a strong beginning, an element of drama in the middle, and a satisfactory end. The beginning should start with a strong opening (the ‘hook’) that sets the scene and introduces the character(s) without a lengthy preamble.
Don’t introduce too many characters in addition to the main protagonists. There isn’t room for a crowd in a short story and the narrative often becomes confused.
Use dialogue to move the story along and not as a page-filler. Make sure the dialogue reflects the age-range of the readership.
Don’t try to weave an intricate, convoluted plot into a short story. Even the popular twist in the tale stories are usually based on a simple twist, rather than high drama.
All short stories should be submitted on A4 white paper, double-spaced, with wide margins and page numbers. Check to see whether the editor prefers email or postal submissions.
Always include a cover sheet giving the title, author’s name, address, telephone and email – and most importantly – the word count, together with a stamped, addressed envelope if submitting by post.
When sending out short stories for consideration wait for 4-6 weeks depending on the time of the year (i.e. summer holidays, Christmas, Easter, etc) before re-submitting to another magazine.
Short story writing is the most popular form of creative writing and therefore very competitive. Read all the fiction from several back issues of your target magazine and get to know the editor’s likes and dislikes – this will give an advantage over those random submissions of writers who haven’t bothered to find out what the readership wants.
Women’s magazines don’t always publish romance – many of the stories are written by men.
Put the story away for a week and re-read it before sending it off. You’ll be surprised how many alterations you’ll make.
Don’t submit stories that exceed the standard word count or don’t fit a magazine’s guidelines, as these will be instantly rejected.


How to Write a Good Short Story.

I found this piece very useful because you really need to cover all the points it mentions before you submit a short story to any publication, and having it to hand will be a good reminder as regards all the boxes that need to be ticked before the finished article goes in the post box!

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