The world of the short story is a varied and fascinating place right now. Experimental collections, flash fiction, connected stories that read like novels --all these can be found on the shelves of bookshops and libraries. A check of current on-line journals will show that published stories can be complex prose poems or traditional narratives with conventional plot, characters and story arc. There’s a place for every kind of story.
Where does the novice start? First - read. Read stories in new collections, on-line zines and literary journals and decide if your particular style of story fits comfortably anywhere. It’s important to read at least one edition of a journal before submitting.
Then- check guidelines and submission periods. Some respected literary journals have a short submission window. Submit outside of that time frame and your carefully crafted story will be ignored. If there is more than a token fee to submit, think carefully before paying it, particularly if the journal does not pay writers. (The same applies to competitions: if the prize money is small it may not be worth paying a hefty fee to enter.)
The market has shrunk in recent years for women’s fiction but some magazines still consider unsolicited submissions. Try: – My Weekly, Woman’s Weekly, Take a Break, Best and Yours.
A number of sites exist to help writers find the right markets for their stories. Duotrope is one of the oldest and most extensive. It’s free for a fast check, but for useful information like response time, percentage of stories accepted and payment details a small fee is payable. Well worth it, if you are a beginner.
For helpful information on all aspects of short story publication try writer Tania Hershman’s site “Short Stops". And, for your reading pleasure, her collection “My Mother Was an Upright Piano” is a delight.
Mslexia has just produced a directory of small press and literary journals in the UK. £12.99 directly from Mslexia. The University of Chichester’s “Thresholds,” also lists markets.
There’s a wide word for the short story writer out there. Good luck finding a place in it!
Mary McCluskey’s debut novel, Intrusion (based on a short story of her own) is out now. Available from Amazon here