Short Story Writers – How to get published online, in a magazine… anywhere

Short Story Writers - How to get published online, in a magazine... anywhere
| How-To > How-To-Guides

Tips for getting your short stories published: Publishing is a numbers game. You’ve got to keep writing, keep submitting to online / print publishers, and build your author’s bio with published work (not just short stories but also articles and reviews). Mookychick gives you handy writing tips and links to aid your quest.

So it turns out you’re the Carrie Bradshaw / Ursula K Le Guin of the group, and you’ve realised that it’s time to pursue your writing career. Be it fiction, articles, or – hell, if textbooks and non-fiction are your thing, good for you! – we all have to start somewhere, and getting your name out there is a tough job for us unpublished writers. Not only do we suffer the hard task of drafting and re-drafting, but we face the dreaded onslaught of rejection letters too.

We’re all writing in the hope that in some small way it’s going to pay off; in the hope that, someday soon, we’ll get our first acceptance letter. Well, girls and guys, I can tell you from experience that practise does pay off. OK, so you probably won’t be J. K Rowling overnight, but we’ve all got to start somewhere.

So, if you’re patient, passionate and driven, here are some helpful tips to help you get published online, in a magazine… anywhere:

Writing your short stories:

If you want to get started in fiction, the best avenue to take is short story writing. It gives you the flexibility of covering so many creative angles, from writing flash fiction (500-1000 words) to a short story (approx 1500-10k) and even a novella or novelette if you choose (around 10k+). Ideas aren’t always worthy of a 100k novel, but the beauty of short fiction is that it allows for experimentation. A short story is a singular theme or focus, condensed to be read in one sitting. The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll come up with some wicked stuff. Oh, and if it’s articles you want to write, then I doubt there’s any better place to start than Mookychick! It’s a source of research AND a place to get published.

Read lots. Short story anthologies, literary magazines, internet podcasts, blogs, short story websites and online magazines are all perfect sources of contemporary fiction being published right now. Research your chosen market – be it horror, chick-lit or anything in between – and see what they’re looking for. It’s equally important to provide what the market is craving as it is to be original; sounds hard, but once you find your voice you’ll be rolling, and balancing what you want to write with what your target audience wants to read is a major step towards getting published. And remember, if you get knocked back, just try another place.

Edit, edit, edit! Don’t assume that an editor is going to love your super-amazing story as much as you do when it’s a first draft. Try letting your story sit for a couple of days and go back to it with fresh eyes; pick out bits that don’t work and re-write if necessary. It’s imperative that your grammar, punctuation and formatting are all precise too – a poorly written opening sentence is a good way to get rejected fast. Each publishing house will have different submission guidelines, so read them carefully; the general rule is usually 12pt Courier New font, double-spaced, numbered and named pages with wide margins. See the links below for a detailed guide!

We all know the “write what you know” rule, but don’t take it too literally. It’s a good idea to draw from your own life/emotional experiences to write realistic characters, but that counts for all genres. Even sword and sorcery requires believable conflicts, despite the fact it’s a totally imaginary world. Use what you know for starters and rely on your imagination to deliver the rest.

Getting published as a writer is a numbers game. You’ve taken weeks, or months, or years to write a collection of unpublished short stories – or perhaps even a novel (either you’ve put the time in or you’ve been inspired by NaNoWrimo’s Write A Novel In A Month annual writing challenge. You’ve put all that time and effort in – so why only send your work to a small handful of publishers or (if you’re talking about a novel, not short stories) agents? Don’t send your short story to six online magazines or print publications or writing competitions. Send them to fifty. Keep a spreadsheet of who you’ve contacted and when. If you’ve sent your creative work to six people, the chances of rejection are high. If you’ve sent it to fifty people, you are far, far more likely to get published – and the rejections will seem like a drop in the ocean!

If you want to get published, build your author’s bio. Yes, publishers are more likely to look at your work if you do a creative writing degree or attend a writing workshop hosted by a famous author. But these are expensive options. If you gain credentials this way in your writing career, it will certainly help. But you can still become a successful writer without them. It takes luck and talent, of course… but hard work and perseverance are as important.

Be prepared for rejection. At first you probably won’t succeed, so start small and persevere. Personalised feedback is a huge bonus, so be grateful if an editor takes time to explain why your writing didn’t get published this time round. Don’t let it put you off. Just try somewhere else; if a story isn’t working, revise your writing, do more research, and repeat.

How to get started as a published writer and where/when to send out your short stories

Big bookshops like WH Smiths, Waterstones and Borders (when it was around) all stock some form of fiction or poetry magazine. Unfortunately the recession meant that they’ve cut back on some purchases, but Black Static was available when I last checked. Your local supermarket will also stock national women’s magazines like Women’s Weekly, Women’s Weekly Fiction Special, and BEST, which all publish chick-lit and women’s stories. If you wanted to get published in any of these, it’s best to read a few and get a feel for their house style before you send.

Write for your school, college or university newspaper. Whilst their publishing guidelines might not be strict, it helps to keep actively writing and they may even host competitions. Search your local newspaper for competitions, local writing groups and events at the library; fill your time with books and writing-related activities. The Times and The Guardian both host yearly writing competitions amongst other opportunities, so keep a look out. Online writing societies are also brilliant ways to get your work critiqued by strangers who won’t sugar-coat their reviews, and a good place to get involved in writing related debates. you haven’t already, get yourself a blog. It gives you a place to voice your opinions, declare any publications and keep a bibliography of your work. You’ll also link this blog in your bio when you get published, so readers will know where to find you!

Get into reviewing! Websites often advertise for volunteer reviewers for books and DVDs, so keep an eye out and check regularly. Analysing is a great way to expand your knowledge and make yourself more aware of the impact you create in your own work.

Finally, I want to tell you that Google is your friend. Sometimes simply searching (example) “Call for submissions paranormal romance” will bring you great results. I often find that searching beforehand inspires me to write the story, and that way I can tailor my fiction to suit them. Even if it gets rejected, at least you aren’t blindly writing for a market you haven’t sourced out yet.

Below is a list of links to some places to start sending, as well as a website crucial to searching for anthologies and magazines open to submissions. There are also manuscript format guidelines, good blogging sites, writing societies and more. Good luck!

Useful links for writers looking to get published:

Proper manuscript Format:

Online writing workshop forums:

Duotrope’s Digest writers’ resource:

Popular blogging sites:

Anthology presses:

Fiction magazines: (Interzone and Blackstatic; two leading UK fiction mags)


Book review sites: (They have a huge list of other review sites!)

Film and DVD review sites:

Two books on writing I recommend:

On Writing by Stephen King

Writers’ And Artists’ Yearbook


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