Author Topic: Why Short Stories Get Rejected  (Read 4802 times)

Offline Vogel

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« on: August 01, 2015, 04:37:31 PM »
So, I've been doing a little research today and I came across this article that I thought I'd share. It's called: "Why Did My Story Get Rejected?"

I thought it was kind of funny, the first reason was the exact same complaint several posters had about the last piece I posted for critique. Too many characters, too much going on. Anyway, check it out if you like:


http://www.mzbworks.com/why.htm


It's written by Marion Zimmer Bradley, a novelist and editor, who passed away a while back, though the information is still relevant. Looks like she was part of a scandal. If you're thinking about submitting short fiction to literary magazines, I'd give this one a read anyway.

Offline Mrs N

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2319
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #1 on: August 01, 2015, 05:53:51 PM »
Thanks, Vogel.

The story I'm about to enter in a competition is deliciously full of characters. Guess it'll be a no-win. ::)

Offline Vogel

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #2 on: August 01, 2015, 06:06:23 PM »
You never know. Writing isn't an exact science, unfortunately. Then it would be far too easy. Maybe.

Offline geoffnelder

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1058
    • Geoff's website
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #3 on: August 01, 2015, 07:25:23 PM »
I enjoyed that piece by Marion Zimmer Bradley especially the rejection reason that the ribbon made the type too dim. Hah. Even by 1997 most writers were using computers. Seriously much of what she said rings true, especially the need to write what the reader is expecting even though (the irony) that reader has no idea what they want.

By chance I'd posted a blog on this today. ***Promo alert***

A fellow judge and editor wrote a booklet with me on How to Win Short Story Competitions and threw in a great winning story by Jonathan Pinnock. Chuckle at my blog piece if you will
http://geoffnelder.com/how-to-win-short-story-competitions-2/

Offline MaryRuth

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 260
    • Flotsam and Jetsam
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #4 on: August 02, 2015, 03:14:54 AM »

A fellow judge and editor wrote a booklet with me on How to Win Short Story Competitions and threw in a great winning story by Jonathan Pinnock. Chuckle at my blog piece if you will
http://geoffnelder.com/how-to-win-short-story-competitions-2/


Thanks very much for this, Geoff. I'll get myself a copy! I've had a little success with competitions but the women's magazine market seems like a different thing entirely. I Managed to get one story accepted a while ago but since then, nothing (despite studying the guidelines and reading several copies of each magazine). I'm wondering whether it's simply because I don't really like the kind of stories that most of them publish - too formulaic, trite etc, but maybe there's more to it than that. Any advice on breaking into this market?
--
       
Mary Thompson
https://about.me/mary_thompson

Offline geoffnelder

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1058
    • Geoff's website
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #5 on: August 02, 2015, 06:11:02 AM »
You might be surprised that many of the women's magazines these days want gritty stories. Yet I too am often disappointed  at the actual stories they publish. The UK market is different from other countries but they all say they are looking for new talent yet keep publishing their ready,steady authors. Go for those magazines that publish seasonal extra issues with lots of stories - better chance of getting into those.
A woman writer who has successful broken into those markets and writes for Mills & Boon is Sally Quilford (obvious penname but I've known her for decades and with her real name. I could tell you it but I'd have to...) She has a useful blog here
http://sallyquilford.blogspot.co.uk/
I better not give you her direct email address but you can follow her and message her on Twitter at @Quillers
We quote her a couple of times in our little book and rate her opinion highly.

Best of luck MaryRuth.

Offline MaryRuth

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 260
    • Flotsam and Jetsam
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #6 on: August 02, 2015, 06:45:45 AM »
You might be surprised that many of the women's magazines these days want gritty stories. Yet I too am often disappointed  at the actual stories they publish. The UK market is different from other countries but they all say they are looking for new talent yet keep publishing their ready,steady authors. Go for those magazines that publish seasonal extra issues with lots of stories - better chance of getting into those.
A woman writer who has successful broken into those markets and writes for Mills & Boon is Sally Quilford (obvious penname but I've known her for decades and with her real name. I could tell you it but I'd have to...) She has a useful blog here
http://sallyquilford.blogspot.co.uk/
I better not give you her direct email address but you can follow her and message her on Twitter at @Quillers


Thanks v much for your advice, Geoff. Look forward to reading your book!

Mary
--
       
Mary Thompson
https://about.me/mary_thompson

Offline Gyppo

  • Esteemed Contributor
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 72244
  • I've been writing ever since I realised I could.
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #7 on: August 02, 2015, 07:08:29 AM »
A long time ago I once had a short story accepted by Bella which broke nearly all the rules.  It paid really well too.

Looking at the other published stories, and reading the submission guidelines, I am left with only one possible conclusion.

Sometimes an editor just loves a particular story so much they simply have  to publish it.  Even if it doesn't fit the 'template'.

And then the writer has to accept that it was a 'one off', and the next half dozen you send up, full of hope, just don't fit into the 'normal' run of things.  This can be a hard lesson to learn ;-)

Gyppo
« Last Edit: August 03, 2015, 05:53:03 PM by Gyppo »
My website is currently having a holiday, but will return like the $6,000,000 man.  Bigger, stronger, etc.

In the meantime, why not take pity on a starving author and visit my book sales page at http://stores.lulu.com/gyppo1

Offline geoffnelder

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1058
    • Geoff's website
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2015, 07:57:50 AM »
There's a lot in that, Gyppo. The 'rules' such as they are are a kind of guidance that is best known about but sometimes a story has that factor X even when the editor, writer and readers can't precisely tie down.

Same for rejections. I must have read 5,000 submissions when I was an acquisition editor and a judge. Some stories have all the boxes ticked, but just doesn't feel right. Even so I always wrote a personal rejection slip praising what's due and a reason, where possible, why it didn't fit. It's a bit like as a teacher I wrote school reports - I had to bear in mind that even the bad kids had something to like about them.

Offline Mrs N

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2319
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #9 on: August 02, 2015, 05:01:15 PM »
Just purchased your book, Geoff, shame I'd already posted my entry! ;D Still next time... Hmm, if I don't win is there a refund option? ;D

Offline Vogel

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #10 on: August 02, 2015, 05:35:32 PM »
It seems to me that it's quite intimidating and difficult to the break into the short story market, and it makes matters only that much more difficult if you don't have a platform. I like the idea of being the invisible, anonymous writer, but I don't know if you can really make it these days without having some sort of public social media persona. I'm no expert on the subject and have only submitted one short story for publication in the past. Received a personal rejection.

« Last Edit: August 02, 2015, 05:38:14 PM by Vogel »

Offline geoffnelder

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1058
    • Geoff's website
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #11 on: August 02, 2015, 05:52:58 PM »
Thanks Mrs N (thought you were my Mrs N for a moment!)

Vogel, I think it could be easier to break into the short story market than the novel market, assuming you wish to do so via the traditional submitting to editors route. As long as you are good at writing and have an angle in a story. For example if you have written a short with its main theme in horror involving ancient Egyptians then Google for anthologies who've called for such stories. As a former acquisition editor you'd be amazed how few good stories are submitted to themed anthos.
Good luck.

Offline Vogel

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 1520
Re: Why Short Stories Get Rejected
« Reply #12 on: August 03, 2015, 05:50:49 PM »
Thanks, Geoff.

As a former acquisition editor you'd be amazed how few good stories are submitted to themed anthos.
Good luck.

I would love to be a volunteer slush-pile reader, just so I could see what I'm up against in general. It's nice to hear from a professional that it's not so daunting as I feel it is now. I'm ignorant on the subject, having just now gotten serious about submitting short pieces to magazines. I'm trying to get a few publications under my belt so I can start building a platform. It's daunting though, jumping off the diving board for the first time, if that makes sense. I've been writing for several years now, but haven't looked at publication seriously. I'd say though that there are quite a few newbie writers out there that write something and submit it in, without really studying and practicing the craft, so they have no idea how to really edit their material and judge the quality of it. I wonder what percentage of submissions are these newbie writers.