Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. But the secret to successfully getting a short story published is to add something special to your storytelling mix…something that captures the attention of editors and readers alike. While there are no hard and fast rules for creating a great short story, here are a few industry secrets that will help your writing stand out:
Identify The Heart Of Your Story. Explore your motivations, determine what you want your story to do, then stick to your core message. Considering that the most marketable short stories tend to be 3,500 words or less, you’ll need to make every sentence count. If you over-stuff your plot by including too many distractions, your story will feel overloaded and underdeveloped.
See Things Differently. Experiment with your short story’s POV. A unique, unexpected voice can provide the most compelling, focused experience of the central story. Just be careful that you don’t inadvertently give the story to a nonessential character. Narrating the story line through a character who’s not central to the action is a common mistake many new authors make, often with confusing or convoluted results.
Opposites Attract. Elements that work against your character’s central desire will keep the reader intrigued and prevent your story from getting stuck. You can also try approaching your core idea from an unusual direction. Dialogue, setting, and characterization are all areas that will benefit from an unexpected twist.
Craft A Strong Title. This can be one of the most difficult—but one of the most important—parts of writing your story. How do you find inspiration for a great title? Have friends read your story and note which words or phrases strike them or stand out. These excerpts from your text just might hold the perfect title. Try to stay away from one- or two-word titles, which can seem to editors as taking the easy way out.
Shorter Is Sweeter. Resist the urge to go on and on. With a shorter short story, you will have more markets available to you and thus a better chance of getting published. Here at Writer’s Relief, our submission strategists and clients have noticed that editors consistently prefer short stories that are under 3,500 words over longer ones.
Use these simple tips to polish your prose and assess any potential short story shortcomings. With these insider guidelines, you can increase the odds of your short story being selected for the pages of a literary journal. That’s the best ending any author could devise—or even better, a great beginning to your future success!
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