A small number of short stories are picked up by literary magazines every year, but thousands upon thousands get rejected. And most of those rejected stories are set aside because of mistakes that can be easily avoided if you are aware of them. This is not meant to discourage you, but to get you thinking about the reasons why an editor may put your story down.
There are numerous reasons why. I have listed four big reasons below that would be easy for you to fix either yourself or with someone elses constructive crisicism. They could make the difference between you getting published and not.
1. The Beginning is Boring
This is important to remember when writing novels, but even more so with short stories. Because it is a shorter work, an editor will have even more reason to set it down when it does not intrigue them right away. Editors have hundreds, if not thousands, of short stories to rummage through and most editors are trying to find anything wrong with your story so that they can quickly set it aside and move on to the next one.
Sad, but true.
It’s important to have an interesting beginning so that they don’t do this immediately, with the assumption that the rest of your story will be just as numbing. The beginning sets the standard for the rest of the work. If you take anything away from this first reason, remember that last sentence.
2. There Are Punctuation Errrors
Did you catch that? Anyways, your story could be Pushcart Prize worthy, but if there are errors throughout it, the editor will most likely not be interested. It’s more work for them to correct all those silly errors and besides, they have a thousand more stories to search through and will find a different story that will be just as good, but with little to no errors.
You need to go through and edit your short story properly. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you don’t feel that you have the expertise to give your story a professional look-though and edit, then send it around a writing group or give it to a few trusted friends, parents, etc… You don’t have to pay a copy editor, though that is ideal. The more eyes you can get on your story, the better.
3. The Climax Is Disappointing
The editor reading your story could be excited about it even pages and pages deep, but it could all be undone with the Climax if it does not live up to the readers/editors expectations. For instance, if you spend the majority of your story building sexual tension between two characters and then do not satisfy your reader during the most crucial part of the story, then you have broken their trust. You have created expectations and then not delivered on them. The editor will feel this broken trust and dissatisfaction also and then with great satisfaction, reject your work.
4. You Leave Issues Unresolved
This is also something that will make or break your readers/editors trust. It is so important that you think about the promises that you are making your readers throughout your story. Resolve the main problem, resolve the side stories problems, resolve anything surrounding your characters feelings towards something, etc... Any question you stir in the reader must be addressed. This differs from novels because many times there will be a sequel to a novel so it is important that you leave a question, something that will compel them to read the second book. A short story doesn’t usually have a sequel. You must satisfy the reader and not leave any loose ends.
These are just a few of many reasons an editor might reject your story. Sometimes an editor will reject your story simply because it is not the type of story they’re looking for at the time. Sometimes they're looking for a story that fits within a certain theme. The reasons listed above are things you can easy fix either on your own or with the help of others. If you don’t feel like you can see your story objectively then find someone who can give you constructive criticism that will help you polish your story before submitting it.
Don’t get discouraged and keep writing. Keep rewriting and editing your short stories until they shine like the brilliant gems they were meant to be.
And just for the heck of it… this was what my husband came up with when I mentioned this weeks blog topic. Your challenge is below his silly, incredibly blunt response.
1. Boring Intros
“Don’t be boring. If your beginning is boring, the middle and end are probably boring too; therefore not worth reading. Life is too short to read a boring story.
2. Dumb Story
Some stories are simply not good.”
Get some eyes on one of your short stories. Send it to a few friends, send it around a writing group, give it to an English professor. I know it can be nerve-racking, but do this because you love yourself and you want to become a better writer. This is by far one of the best ways to improve your writing.
Make sure these people are giving you constructive criticism. If they are just being mean about it then you’re better off ignoring them and finding someone else to take a look at it. You also want to make sure they are not being too nice. You want to know what you are doing wrong. I know, it can be challenging just to find the right person/people to read through your stories, but this is a writing challenge after all.
Remember, our dreams require work and effort and a little courage. Happy writing my friends.