Short story writing is a good way for writers to break into the publishing world of storytelling. With each published story, you can add to your finances, increase your experience and writing exposure, and add successful writing credentials to your curriculum vitae.
You may choose to submit to magazines that have a fiction section – this applies to both print and electronic options. Not all publishers will offer payment for published stories, so make sure you read their publishing terms. This is ultimately your decision if you want to pursue financial rewards as well as recognition. Writers who are well known will have a better chance of receiving payment or a better payment, but don’t be disheartened. We all have to start somewhere, and then building on that.
Remember your audience
Newspapers and magazines are read at cafe’s, on trains, in waiting rooms, and over breakfast and in short periods of time. It’s now a common sight to see people with an electronic device pouring over the screen. In some ways, people are probably reading more than they did a few decades ago, but be aware of the changes that the electronic world has brought us and the times when people are reading. When people are on the go, travelling from one place to the next, or looking for a little distraction for a short period, those people’s mindset is not geared for the big read as they are when settling in with a good book.
These short breaks are the perfect time to read a short story – maybe your short story.
Content to suit
Content is expected to be light-hearted, entertaining, and to the point. If the short story is too intense, then it could cause the reader’s attention to be lost and – unlike a book – a turn of the page or tap of the screen will serve to lead the reader away from your piece to someone else’s.
This doesn’t mean that people don’t read about intense subjects. It’s all around us and in the news daily, and this is why people delve into short stories – to get away from the real world for a few minutes and get lost in the imagination of the writer.
Surprises, twists and turns
Short stories with a surprise twist or ending used to be the normal formula along with choosing the right words and telling the story. These days, it’s more about the crafting of words and story without the twist. (I read a review recently where the critic didn’t like the story simply because it had a surprise ending.)
There are magazines that cater to all readers so writers can find publishing opportunities that suit their short stories, but make sure you read the submission guidelines and that your style fits.
A good story is one that can introduce characters, create and establish a storyline, and wrap it all up with a good ending leaving the reader feeling pleased they took the time to read it.
You can infuse your story with humour or thought provoking content. The importance of writing a short story is the ability to make an impact. Don’t underestimate the expectations of the reader. While a reader who is pressed for time will not want to be bogged down with too much reading, there’s still the expectation of being kept entertained.
Publishing and competitions
Many magazines (both print and electronic mediums) specialise in five-minute fiction or flash fiction. This is a great opportunity for writers, even those early on in their careers, to see their work published. Content is generally upbeat and easy to read. Those that are savvy, modern, and abreast of current issues will be viewed far more favourably than the traditional ‘Mills and Boon’ style of writing. When writing love stories, the happy ending can still be there, but it’s how you get there that matters.
If you’re considering writing a book containing a collection of your short stories, unless you’ve hit the big time, your book may not sell. Usually this type of book works best for well-known authors, but not necessarily for those still trying to break into the publication world or trying to make a name for themselves.
Competitions are another good source for your short stories. They help to establish your name as a writer, and the winning prize money is always a nice bonus. Some authors have made a career out of winning competitions and then go on to holding lectures, writing books on how to write short stories, and guest appearances at writing functions.
Don’t give up, keep writing and chasing publication. Hard work, skills, determination and motivation will get you there.