An excellent opportunity for writers to build or expand a portfolio is publication in literary magazines. This post contains some tips for improving acceptance rates.
Before proceeding to the rest of the post, keep in mind that your submission must be exceptional – you’ll be competing with many talented writers. However, if the person authorized to approve or reject compares your piece with a similar one, your careful planning can put your piece at the top of the queue.
Read the diary
Many magazines offer an online copy. Others sell digital versions through online sellers that preview the first 10 to 20 percent. If you like what you see, you should support the journal by purchasing a copy.
Make sure your piece fits the genre
- If you plan to submit to a science fiction market, do not create an entity with an alien that might as well be human.
- Horror should scare readers. A creepy story that turns out to be funny could be better classified as humor.
- Sometimes genre lines blur. A passionate relationship that develops over 300 years in space can be classified as either romance or science fiction. Is the relationship based or responsive to events that could only occur in the future, or could it just as easily happen today? The first story would be science fiction and the second romance.
- A piece full of swearing and erotic content would be unsuitable for a young audience.
- If a story contains fairies, it can be fantasy – or it can be horror. If fairies turn out to be aliens, this could be better classified as science fiction.
Create an indelible first impression with a catchy title
If you participate under the motto “competition” Last summer days, Do not use Last summer days in the title.
Let’s brainstorm. Words and sentences that come to mind:
Gods, goddesses and deities of summer
Aestas, Aine, Alectrona, Damoa, Electryo, Electryone, Horae, Odur,
Age, Blistering, Burning, Harvesting, Disappearing, Dissatisfaction, End, Final Wheezing, Reading, Gloom, Harvest, Wet, Leaves, Month, Phase, Harvest, Sadness, Season, Sultry
Last breath from Aestas
Sultry season of darkness
After the leaves had fallen forever
Why does it have to end?
If you were a judge, slush reader, or editor, would any of the titles spark your curiosity?
Create unforgettable characters
Are you going to write about an author or a poet? Surely you can do better. Here are some idea starters.
Accountant who cannot add two plus two
Alien that can grow or shrink at will
Arsonist candle maker
Astronomer who discovers __________
Auto mechanic who can neither read nor write
Ballet dancer with six toes on one foot
Beachcomber who finds [a drug stash, an illegal weapon, a severed foot, a message in a bottle — but the message is dated 300 years in the future]
Biker who refuses to wear a helmet
Cook who has no sense of smell or taste
Coalminer with pneumoconiosis
Coroner is studying to become a doctor
Dog groomer hating dogs
Drug smuggler who leads an addiction control group
Dyslexic [bus driver, computer programmer, doctor, teacher]
Farmer coping with property foreclosure after prices have dropped to __________
Fashion designer who insists on natural materials
Film director chewing garlic while filming
Florist with severe environmental allergies
Hairdresser who wants to be [an actor, an astronaut, a social media influencer]
Polygamous migrant farm worker with three families overseas
Interior designer who [buries bodies in clients’ backyards, robs homes]
Jeweler who cannot distinguish a diamond from a white sapphire
Opera singer with [hives, laryngitis, temporary loss of hearing]
Optician with [conjunctivitis, an overly large nose, the sneezes]
orphan [in a relationship with someone who is also an orphan, who adopts several orphans]
Pearl diver who discovers __________
Doctor with narcolepsy
Pilot of [an experimental aircraft, a spaceship, a time travel vehicle]
Politicians too honest to __________
Psychiatrist with [agoraphobia, arachnophobia, __________]
Scientist who is developing a cure for __________
Serial killer masquerading as a police officer
Submarine captain with claustrophobia
Tattoo artist who cannot draw a straight line
Toy maker who hates children
Undertaker with necrophobia (extreme fear of death or corpses)
Tell a complete story
Every story should have a beginning, an obstacle to overcome, and an end.
Your words are limited, so choose strong verbs, nouns and adjectives.
Compare these examples. What do you prefer: the sentence in Roman script or the following italic sentence? In both examples, the italicized version contains far fewer words.
- The little old lady with the gray hair used a stick to get people out of the way as she walked down the street. The gray-haired widow made her way through pedestrians on the street.
- Despite the fact that Tom didn’t really like the taste of coffee, he always got the strongest coffee on the menu every morning before working at Starbucks. Although Tom didn’t like coffee, he ordered Starbuck’s strongest brew every morning before work.
Surprise ending works well in flash fiction, but you have to leave pointers for readers. There is a difference between a surprise and an impossibility.
Before a shot is fired, you must insert a weapon or an indication that it exists.
If a snowstorm catches people in a cave, a snowfall warning or a drop in temperatures should be given beforehand.
When a character proposes to marry someone, you need to provide clues that show the character’s interest in that person.
Review and edit
- Proofread your poem or story.
- Read it out loud.
- Print it, move it to another room, and read it again.
- Let your computer read it to you.
- If you have enough time before the deadline, put it aside for a few days or weeks.
- Proofreading again.
When considering two pieces for publication, which one do you think will be selected: the one with typographical and grammatical errors, or the correct one?
Read the rules
- If the diary wants a story between 500 and 1500 words, don’t send them a piece of 499 or 1501 words.
- If you ask for duplicate text in Times New Roman, give it to them.
- If you are prompted to remove all identifying information from your submission, remove it (including header and footer information).
- When submitting an online form, do not email it to your webmaster.
- Try to submit on time. This helps to compensate for spotty internet problems, website downtime, etc.
Also observe all other guidelines.
Send your cover letter to the editor, the deputy editor or the judge by name
Dear editor is not good enough
Sometimes you have to search for a name.
- First point of view: the submission guidelines.
- Nothing here? Try the diary About our team, Contact, or similarly labeled page.
If you can’t find a name, consider the following: Would you like to send your letter to an unknown person?
Write a cover letter
- Provide only the required details. Editors have a busy life and don’t want to leaf through weak attempts at humor or self-promotion.
- Don’t tell the story again. Your cover letter is not a blurb.
- Do not ask for a criticism unless the journal offers one as part of its submission process.
- Provide short Many publications have strict word count guidelines.
Some journals offer space for a cover letter on their submission form. Some ask you to email it. Others do not offer a cover letter and / or biography until your piece has survived the slush pile round.
Example cover letter
Thank you for taking some valuable time reading mine [_____]-Word [story, poem] “[__________]”([genre]). This is an exclusive one [or previously published] Filing for possible inclusion in [name of journal].
Some of the magazines that have published my work include:
[Supply itemized list of three to six journals. If you don’t have any publication credits, skip this part.]
Brief biography: [biography]
Website: [Provide website URL. Skip if you don’t have one.]
Social media: [itemized list]
Amazon author page: [URL]
E-mail: [email address]
Address: [complete address, including country]
Phone: [complete phone number, including country code]
Check your contact information
It is known that writers misspell their own names.
In my defense, my name is not exactly easy to spell.
This is my story and I will stick to it.
Time to strut your things.
📝 I would like to hear about one of your articles in a diary (including URL if there is an online copy).
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