The Do’s And Don’ts Of Submitting Short Stories

For those of you who don’t know, I volunteer as a First Reader for Deep Magic, an e-zine that publishes clean fantasy and science-fiction short stories. Last night, I had the opportunity to do a Facebook Live Chat for Deep Magic in which I talked about being a First Reader and shared some of my favorite stories we’ve published. I also discussed some of the common mistakes I’ve seen writers make when submitting short stories to Deep Magic. Here are a few of the tips and tricks I mentioned for aspiring writers to be aware of if they submit stories to Deep Magic or any other magazine or writing contest.


1—Read The Submission Guidelines: This seems fairly obvious, but I have seen several writers submit stories that were not in compliance with the submission guidelines. You need to make sure your story is the correct length, has the right content, and fits the genre of the magazine.

2—Make Sure Your Grammar Is Right: Some writers believe they don’t need to focus on grammar because the magazine will have an editor to fix their mistakes. While this is true, a story with lots of bad grammar tells us that if you don’t care about the punctuation and spelling, then you probably don’t care if the story is actually well done either. Read your story out loud or have someone check it before submission so you can catch most grammatical errors.

3—Tell A Good Story: This will ultimately be your best tool in getting published. In order to help you tell the best story possible, I will share two of the biggest problems I see with short story submissions:

  • The Beginning: You need to make the action rise in your story as soon as possible. While full-length novels are able to dally about a bit, short stories don’t really have that luxury. If I’ve read half of the story and nothing has really happened to make the action rise yet, then I will be bored. You need to engage readers as soon as possible with interesting characters, a tricky conflict, etc.
  • The End: Many short stories I’ve seen submitted to Deep Magic end without a real ending. I believe the writers think this is dramatic, but in reality it leaves me confused and unsatisfied. If I am going to spend the time reading the entire story, then you can’t leave me disappointed with unanswered questions and no resolution.

4—Perserverance: Unfortunately, because of the amount of submissions received and the amount of publishing space available, Deep Magic and magazines everywhere have to reject most of the submissions. So why do you even bother trying if you are most likely to be rejected? Because rejection is part of being a writer, and it gives you the opportunity to try again. You can rework your story or write a new one entirely. Try again and again, and you will probably get rejected again and again, but your writing will continue to improve through this process and eventually your stories will start getting accepted.

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