So I got a few short stories I want to publish. What can you guys tell me about the process? I know about searching for publishing routes, ie: magazines, e-zines, etc. My main question is about how much should I edit? Do I just edit the crap out of it before submission? Or just polish it because publishers have their own editors? Any advice involving publishing short stories would be greatly appreciated. Thanks all.
Posts: 37 | Registered: Apr 2012
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First, get a Duotrope account to search for markets and track your submissions.
As to editing, if your speaking purely in terms of proof-editing for spelling, grammar etc yeah it needs to be in as good a shape as you can get it. Usually when you get critiques people will point these things out making it easy to fix during whatever sort of revision/polishing/editing process you prefer.
Most publications will/do also edit, but almost all submission guidelines you see will specifically say to proof read your manuscript and get it into the best shape possible before submitting.
The common wisdom is to sub to the "best", in this case, meaning the highest-paying, markets first. It can depend on what you write somewhat however.
Posts: 2526 | Registered: Apr 2008
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One other piece of advice, do not get discouraged. A small minority of the stories get considered, we're talking a single digit percentage for semi-pro publications. The big boys (SFWA magazines) can be as low as < 1 percent acceptance rate.
Most publications do not publish the amount of submissions they receive but a place like On The Premises does. They're a semi-pro publication that conducts a contest three times a year. The readers must write based on a trigger - criterea that scares many authors away. They had 237 entries for their last contest and passed 10 of those onto the final round. Typically, about half of those get published. That is about a 3% acceptance rate. Major publications are much, much harder to get into.
So expect rejections - a lot of them.
Also, don't get obsessed too much with editing. I know one writer who rarely submits because his stories need to be 'perfect'. Just get it polished but don't worry too much about the shine. It's going to get rained on anyway, eventually.
Posts: 2989 | Registered: Dec 2007
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Definitely don't obsess too much about editing. Definitely use Duotrope or Ralan to research markets. Submit what you write.
If you need help in finding mistakes in your own work, try reading them aloud. You will find ALL kinds of things if you do this! Little places where a word isn't spelled wrong, it's just the wrong word, places where you misspelled a character's name, or dropped an apostrophe s, etc.
Workshop some stories here on Hatrack or elsewhere, but beware of workshopping too much. I found that I needed to workshop some stories at the beginning of my writing journey just to find where I was weak, what stuff I didn't know much about yet (and what stuff then I went to the library to borrow books on and read.) There was a LOT I didn't know, lol. But after a time, I found I had to avoid too many critiques because I could make myself a little crazy with edits.
These days I do about three passes. I write the draft. I spell check it. I ask some "first readers" to read it (these are mostly people who do not write but read loads. They point out BIG issues - stuff like plot holes, places where I called a character by a different name in Chapters 3 and 11, or places where they stopped rooting for the main character.) I fix those problems, at least as much as I agree with them (sometimes the fix is something different - e.g., someone pointed out that the mc in my latest novel "fell in love" a bit too fast, so I backed up and put in more foreshadowing about how she felt, and then toned down the subsequent inner dialogue about the boy. I didn't actually make changes where the reader pointed out.)
My last run is either a close read of my own or a combination of a close read of my own + some friends who are editors doing a close read. They find comma splices, places where I've lost a dialogue tag, they help me identify things I should be standardizing to create a custom "style sheet" for each story, etc. But then I also try to internalize their guidance as much as I can so that the next story I write will have fewer of the mistakes they found.
This is for long form fiction, btw (novels.) For short stories I stick with a few readers and a close read of my own. I like to read on paper and mark my changes directly on the page, then I have the great satisfaction of paging through the manuscript and marking each completed page with a big X. That feels good.
Posts: 1911 | Registered: Mar 2007
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