Arouse Your Short Story And See It Published
by Ronnie L. Smith
Are you ready to abandon your short stories? Before you toss
your newest story in the trash, revisit it using many of the
same guidelines editors keep in mind when they review your
work. If you follow these guidelines, you will be many steps
closer to placing your short story in a well-known literary
You can make submissions on your own, or hire some help.
Every story, on average, must be submitted to 100 markets
before it is accepted. For short story authors, these
numbers are sad, but true. Even the best stories must cover
a lot of territory before they appear on the printed page. A
reputable author's submission service may offer you more
time to write while they take care of the submissions.
Remember that a good submission service screens potential
writers for quality work. They don't take everyone.
Once your story has passed the following tests, it's time to
send it out into the world.
- Is there an opening hook that grabs the reader? Does it
surprise/amuse/intrigue? Does it establish the mood of the
- Are the characters interesting to read about? Are their
interactions with each other believable? Are they properly
motivated? Do they each have flaws as well as virtues? (Or
vice-versa in Horror stories.)
- Does each character have his or her own voice? Is
dialogue flowing and natural, not stilted? Does the dialogue
move the story along?
- Are secondary characters, if any, vivid without
overwhelming the main characters? Do they serve a useful
purpose in the plot? Do they add interesting elements to the
- Does the narrative show action, not just tell about it?
Do descriptive passages evoke vivid mental images? Is the
balance between narrative and dialogue appropriate for this
- Is the emotional situation and/or appropriate level of
tension set up between the characters? Is the conflict
- Is the story paced so it holds the reader's attention?
Are transitions smooth? (Does the action proceed logically?)
Are flashback scenes and background information worked into
the plot appropriately for fiction of this length?
- Are facts, figures, locales, believable and/or correct?
Are the language, actions, and attire of the characters
appropriate for the time period and setting of the story?
- Is the writing fresh, free of clichés? Does it show the
author's own unique style? Are viewpoint changes clear and
- Is the grammar correct? Is the spelling accurate? Is the
manuscript professionally prepared?
- Reveal your characters primarily through their actions,
not by telling your reader about them. Keep in mind that
good fiction reveals rather than explains. Your goal in each
piece of fiction is to provide your reader with actual
experience, not merely with concepts and outlines of
- Read each of your drafts carefully, aloud. If you can't
experience a scene as if you were living through it
yourself, work on it some more.
- Your ending must leave your readers satisfied—even if it
is unhappy, unexpected, or inconclusive. Above all, your
readers must feel the piece was worth their time and
attention. Pay special attention to your final sentence,
image and/or line of dialogue, because your readers
- Remember that stories over 4,000 words are very
difficult to place.
Building a list of publication credits in your cover letter
will open new doors for your writing. In addition to your
stories being well crafted, they must be submitted regularly
and extensively. Beat the odds with strong writing COMBINED
with a powerful and tenacious submission strategy.
If you need help building a personal submission strategy,
contact Writer's Relief, Inc.
Ronnie L. Smith is a supporter for women, gay, and other
civil rights. As president, she has successfully been
running Writer's Relief, Inc. for more than 10 years. For
more information, please visit the website: