Mon 30 Sep 2013
By J. Chris Lawrence
Getting published is a tough business that isn’t for the timid or insecure. While Every Day Fiction’s openness to a variety of genres and daily publishing schedule leave a lot of room for well written stories to have their chance, quite a few still fall short due to common and fixable issues. Like any publication, there are certain steps writers can follow to increase their odds, and one of the keys to success is simply being prepared.
Here are my 5 tips for getting published by Every Day Fiction magazine.
Tip #1. Know Your Publication
Every publication is different, but all of them expect writers to read and respect their guidelines.
Like most flash markets, EDF takes a firm position on word count and is upfront about this. Even if your story is amazing, it will have to fit this very simple rule, yet countless submissions nevertheless find rejection for this misstep.
The importance of following rules can’t be stressed enough. Attempting to sidestep them reflects poorly on writers: it shows they either don’t respect the publication’s standards or lack professionalism.
Another leading cause for swift rejections is submitting a previously published story. This does include your own blog, even if it doesn’t have many followers.
The importance of following rules can’t be stressed enough. Attempting to sidestep them reflects poorly on writers: it shows they either don’t respect the publication’s standards or lack professionalism. But many of these issues can also be accidentally overlooked as well, so before submitting, give the guidelines a second read and stick to them. It might just save your story.
Tip #2. Break from tropes
People love to hate Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga. Many die-hards scoff at her glittery vampires, but love it or hate it, it’s undeniably original, and while classic stories of traditional vampires can thrive (see Anne Rice, for example), the odds of them finding publication are lower than something editors have never seen before.
The key isn’t to avoid common themes, it’s to try to break from the mold and look at them in a different way. EDF is always open to creative takes on classic staples. In May, 2011, Rich Matrunick’s “The Pale Farmer” (http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-pale-farmer-by-rich-matrunick/) gave a chilling tale of a Vampire struggling to overcome his addiction to blood. For religious/end of the world content, Sarah L. Byrne’s “And Though Worms Destroy” (http://www.everydayfiction.com/and-though-worms-destroy-by-sarah-l-byrne/) broke new ground by showing a different side to the story. Likewise, Brock Adams explored one man’s struggle to return to normal life after a zombie apocalypse is contained in “The Former King of Fort Wal-Mart” (http://www.everydayfiction.com/the-former-king-of-fort-wal-mart-by-brock-adams/).
The key isn’t to avoid common themes, it’s to try to break from the mold and look at them in a different way.
When submitting to EDF, ask yourself what’s fresh about your material. If the story is strong enough, overused creature features can certainly still make it, but taking it that extra step into the unknown will make it stand out in a crowd.
Tip #3. Polish Your Prose
A strong story concept isn’t always enough; sometimes stirring works get rejected simply for prose alone. The good news is writing is a craft, and like all crafts, there are tricks of the trade that can help polish your work.
First, try getting a couple of beta readers to comment on your story. This only works if they are going to be honest and constructive (no, Mom doesn’t count). Often a different set of eyes can find plot holes, typos, or other errors that we writers tend to miss.
A fresh outlook helps us view our work beyond fresh-story blinders.
You can also try reading your story aloud or have someone else read it to you. This gives you a strong sense of how it sounds outside of your head, and more importantly, inside the reader’s.
Another rule of thumb is to simply give it time. Once the story is finished, put it away for a week or so. Let it settle, then go back and read it again. A fresh outlook helps us view our work beyond fresh-story blinders.
As a flash and web publication, EDF looks for prose that reads well for the screen and is appealing to its readership. It’s always best to keep your paragraphs sparse and clean, and while stylish prose is good, never lose sight of what’s most important–the story.
Tip #4. Themes and Arcs and Growth, Oh My
A theme is the underlying meaning or abstract concept behind your plot. This is what you are trying to say, the ultimate point of the story. Knowing this can help you stay on track. Yet, a theme is nothing without an arc–the basic structure of storytelling: the beginning, middle and end.
In flash, certain parts of the plot can and should be implied, but without a complete arc, you have a vignette at best. Most arcs thrive on the growth of a certain aspect, such as a character learning something or changing in some way. But all arcs have a very clear point of climax.
Before submitting your story, give it another glance. Ask yourself, is the tension clear, and is the central conflict being resolved? Is the message being conveyed? Does anything significant happen or change in some way? These are, perhaps, the most important aspects of a story. Many submissions that are turned away from EDF lack some or all of these important building blocks of fiction, because without them, you don’t have a complete story.
Tip #5. Watch Your Ending
Often, stories come through EDF’s slush that are very intriguing, but die quickly due to their final lines. The ending is paramount: it’s the final note where all threads converge. Still, while it’s necessary to get it right, it’s also easy to get it wrong.
A common issue I’ve seen is the rushed ending. Whether it’s because the piece simply isn’t meant for a flash venue or the writer hasn’t paced the story well enough to fit the confines, a rushed ending can kill a story. Keep in mind the cadence of your plot as you go, and make sure it comes to a smooth close.
Twist endings are always a pleasure, but they can be difficult to pull off. A good twist story should never mislead the reader or leave them feeling tricked. Instead, it should be littered with clues and foreshadowing, so after finishing the piece, the reader can look back at it and think, “How did I miss that?”
Keep in mind the cadence of your plot as you go, and make sure it comes to a smooth close.
When doing comedy, be wary of the punchline ending. These aren’t stories so much as extended jokes. Sure, good comedy can end in a punchline, but if the entire piece revolves around that single jest, it probably won’t make it into EDF, or most other publications for that matter.
Finally, never let your story cop out. Be very cautious of using deus ex machina to resolve conflicts. Ending a story as just being a dream, or bringing in outside elements with the sole value of resolving the plot will likely lead to rejection. This is also a kind of cheat and the reader will notice. Let the elements of your story resolve their own conflicts.
While nothing here can guarantee you an acceptance letter, following these basic tips can certainly improve the odds of your story finding a home in the annals of Every Day Fiction magazine.
Born in the Blue Ridge Mountains of West Virginia, J. Chris Lawrence spent much of his life traveling and exploring the various cultural facets of American life. Most recently, he’s found himself in Georgia, where he spends his days reading slush for Every Day Fiction magazine, striving to improve his craft, and wrangling his sons, Michael and Ayden. You can find more of Chris’s fiction online at www.jchrislawrence.com.