Thursday, March 03, 2011

Posted by Laurel Garver on Thursday, March 03, 2011 22 comments
I've been on a short story jag lately: writing, revising and most of all, market research. I'd mentioned a few weeks ago that short stories can be a great way to make use of excised material from your novel or to explore periphery characters and plot lines.

It's also a great way to simply stretch yourself. If there's any genre you think would be impossible to write, chances are YOU CAN. You won't really know until you try! I never dreamed I could write for younger kids. I thought I'd have to gut my vocabulary. Not so. I have to temper the Latinate words, but it didn't hobble my creativity in the least. Last month I wrote not one, but two MG stories and I've had positive critiques so far.

I've got two romance shorts in the works. A pretty awesome magical realism idea bubbled up in the process of critiquing someone else's story (thanks, Simon!).

I've largely been using Duotrope's Digest to research markets. It's a great tool, if a bit overwhelming. A few things I've observed regarding markets for short fiction:

Kidlit categories seem to be much tougher at present. Many publications have folded in the past few years. Manuscript lengths need to be very short--almost no one takes stories over 1,000 words.

Fantasy/SciFi / Speculative Fic genres seem to have the most vibrant story markets. More of them seem to pay, also.

Literary fiction is probably the most overwhelming category. Publications abound, and the paying markets are very tough to crack. E-zines have the higher acceptance rates than print pubs. They also respond to submissions and publish accepted pieces much more quickly. The non-paying markets have an enormous range quality-wise. If anyone knows of a good source that ranks literary markets, I'd love to know.

Religious markets take far more poetry than fiction, and many pay quite well for poems--better than many literary fiction markets. As with kidlit, this market has seen a lot of publications fold in the current tough economy. I expect to see some good e-zines emerge in the coming years as younger people bring religious organizations into the digital age.

Have you tried out short fiction lately? Any tips to share? What "impossible" genre might you challenge yourself to attempt?
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22 comments:

  1. I've actually been writing creative nonfiction recently and really enjoying it. I never thought I would be interested in writing it and I didn't think I could do it, but after being forced to write a personal essay for a college class, I decided that I really liked it. :)

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  2. I've never been much into short stories, which is silly since I write PBs and chapter books. *grins* I DID write a new PB recently, though. :-)

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  3. Good luck with your short stories Laurel! I use to only write short stories and tried to get them out there. It's a lot of research and work. I never got anything published. Then I switched to novel writing for the past 4 years. I recently wrote a short story to get back into it and my critique partners said it read more like the beginning of a novel! Maybe I'm not destined to be a short story writer. But it's still fun. I would like to try a comical short story (not sure where that falls in) since I rarely try to be funny with my writing. Thanks for inspiring me to think about branching out into other genres :-)

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  4. I'm working on some short story stuff right now. Some stories want to flow into the novel form and others are shorter than I would like to publish as ebook format for amazon. I'm tackling anything above 3000 words as cool for Amazon or Smashwords to be priced at $0.99 cents. I like the essay/prose and so with some pieces I'm now incorporating dialogue that's required, but at some point I have to watch that it doesn't become a novella or novel. I am going to tackle it once I have stewed a bit. Its a good thing I know how to condense, its just a task and a process. A bit like knitting. Up on my site I have some micro fiction of a 100 words, that stuff really gets your brain working and luckily due to understanding that process of cutting to the bare bones it helps in short stories. Some short bits and pieces almost demand to become novels and I don't want to take it that far as I have enough novels on my desk to re-edit and complete, so I stop to rethink. Hmm, we shall see. After reading some paranormal authors lately, I realised I do have bits and pieces that scream out paranormal in parts, so I'm kind of looking at this Paranormal world again with fresh eyes, without sounding too out of the norm concerning every day life. Good Luck to you all in your process.

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  5. I've noticed the same thing with literary markets. Funny because it seems to be the least popular readership wise. Don't you think? anyway, yeah it's overwhelming. Tips? Nope. Just keep submitting till your ears drop off, and don't shy away from long response times. You never know when one of your pieces is going to be a perfect fit!

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  6. When I was younger I used to write lots of short stories. Nowadays, I find it harder to write them. I think maybe it's because my appetite for words has increased so much that I need to write an entire novel just to get them all out! Thanks for this very informative post! new follower!

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  7. Funny you should post about this because I've been looking at a couple of short story contests over the last couple of weeks. I'm actually finding it nearly impossible to envision a short story. Every time I think of an idea it almost immediately blooms into a long story arc with lots of action to it. I can't imagine trying to tell a story in less than 50K words. Sigh.

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  8. I haven't written any short stories since college. It always bums me out as a reader to fall in love with a character and have their story be over so quickly.

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  9. I've written a few short stories. I don't write them as much as I work in novels, mostly because I always get the feeling they're unfinished when I end them, even if there's a strong conclusion.

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  10. Great post. I've switched directions lately. I just haven't the time to work on the many novels patiently awaiting my return. I've done one or two shorts, more like Flash fiction. But I'm enjoying writing creative nonfiction, and personal memoir style shorts. I'm even in the process of completely revamping my blog to open up the possibilites a bit more. Thanks for the information! Oh, and your blog is beautiful!

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  11. I put some short stories up on Goodreads that are prequels to my novels but I haven't tried to publish any of them otherwise. Good luck.

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  12. I don't do much short fiction (unless you count my day job writing for the paper). But that's awesome the you're getting stuff done! All the best w/your new project~ :o) <3

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  13. Scifi-fantasy sounds pretty intimidating to me. I'd like to try it though, after my rewrites are done. There's a story in my head just waiting to come out. Great post, Laurel!

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  14. KM: classes are great for giving extra motivation to try new things. Good for you!

    Shannon: many kidlit magazine markets take stories for the PB crowd (far more than take MG, in fact). It's something to consider to build up publishing credits.

    Melissa: I've been through several periods of only coming up with novel-length ideas. Every once in a while it's good to switch up one's routine just to stay fresh. Have fun with your humor story!

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  15. I use Duotrope as well. I have two submissions out right now: The Oceans Anthology and Witch's Brew. I usually write fantasy, but I've ventured into scary stories just a little.

    Good luck with your submissions! I'll look for your name in their newsletter!

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  16. Jacqueline: I hadn't even considered the self-publish route for short fiction, but I can see how that could be a good option. The microfiction forms are really cool. It has been hard to find many markets taking them though, partly because Duotrope doesn't separate microfiction from flash.

    Jessica: Have you used submishmash? It's supposed to streamline the simultaneous submission process. And yeah, it is odd that some of the most popular book categories don't have much of a short story market (YA for example).

    Nutshcell: Welcome and thanks for following. I've gone in and out of short story phases. What's nice is you get payoff sooner with short pieces. It's a good change of routine every so often, I find.

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  17. JEM: Imagine writing just one scene that's got a complete arc. That's all there is to flash fiction. Try one of the contests! It could be super fun!

    Sherrie: Sometimes novel excerpts can work as stand-alones, and then you get the bonus of building audience and fan base for the longer work.

    GE: I know what you mean. You start to invest in the characters and wonder what happens to them next? :-)

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  18. Alicia: I'm glad you're blogging again! Trying lots of genres can be very energizing. I've also got a novel simmering on the side. It needs to sit a little longer, I think, before I'll be ready to dive again.

    Susan: I think it's cool that you wrote the prequels. Why not on goodreads? That sounds like a great way to build audience.

    Leigh: I'm finding it a kind of "working vacation" from novel stuff. I may bank a few more publishing credits along the way. Most of all, I'm WRITING. That's what matters.

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  19. Roxy: of those two, SciFi intimidates me most, though I know you don't have to be a physicist or aerospace engineer to write a good piece. I'll bet you could do steampunk--it's SciFi with a Victorian flair.

    Aubrie: You've inspired me with all your anthology pubs! I love that you're willing to try all kinds of things.

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  20. I haven't but I'd love to pull favorite chapters out of shelved novels and rework for short story submissions. Thanks for the links.

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  21. The only impossible genre I can think of, for me, would be the religious market. ;)

    And W00T for awesome magical realism story ideas! :D

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  22. I keep thinking when I finish revisions on my latest WiP and the revisions on my other book, I'd like to delve into the short story market. I've had an idea brewing for 5 years but I just can't seem to get the POV right. And the idea tends to morph into novel form so...we'll see.

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