The long and short of it

Yesterday, I spent hours—again—researching literary magazines. My goal is to have at least two stories and maybe a poem in submission by October. I’m not sure I have a talent for writing short stories. I feel more confident in my novel writing ability.

I give story writing a good shot every so often, but somehow, the voice I have when novel writing weakens in my stories. Some feel if you truly have the skills for writing fiction, you should be able to write it long and short. But I know other novelists who either stumble at writing short fiction or refuse to even try.

Story writing is a challenge to me. For some reason, I feel obligated to succeed at it, at least once. I feel the same about poetry—even though that definitely requires a different skill set than fiction writing. Maybe I’m just a bit masochistic.

I have a couple stories I think are worth submitting. But, like querying a novel to the right agent, it’s important to find the right magazine for your story. The few literary magazines I’m subscribed to now, are far beyond my level. Only in my dreams would they accept my work.

It takes an enormous amount of time to read online journals, looking for a good match. And I’ll confess that, like agents, a few mags I thought would be perfect, did not agree with my assessment. A rejection yesterday, came so soon after submission, it seems they didn’t even need to read the whole story. That’s a real confidence shaker. Or maybe that editor’s a speed reader. Yeah, let’s go with that.

Now, your turn. Do you write both short and long fiction? Do you write them equally well? Do you also write poetry?

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46 thoughts on “The long and short of it

  1. Linda, how exciting! With the few pieces I’ve published, I’ve found that submitting the right piece to the right publication is the way to go. This isn’t your question, but I want to share this resource: in case you’re not using it.

    “Duotrope’s Digest, an award-winning, free writers’ resource listing over 3000 current Fiction and Poetry publications…” is the website I use to easily find matches. And you can sign up for a weekly email that sends updates to current markets.


  2. I write both, and I love short stories, I have written about 5 of them but haven’t had the time to edit them, nor do I have the time it takes to do the research to find the right magazine, who to submit, blah blah but it is something that I plan on doing. Oh and I do use Duetrope to look at magazines so Pamela is right.


  3. I second Duotrope as your go-to resource to find homes for your work 🙂

    And yes, I write both short and long fiction. They are very different. I use style and imagery much more in shorts than I do in novels.


  4. I love short stories and poetry, and I’ve been rejected SO many times by literary magazines, but accepted to a small few, and that’s all that matters. Just don’t give up, and remember that most of the time they take FORever to get back to you, if at all.


    1. Oh, Michelle, I’m just so impatient with my writing. I think that’s because I waited so long to put it all down on paper. In my mind, I’ve been writing for SO many years, that it seems I should have published a hundred stories by now. But then, crafting stories in your head is more like making movies than writing. If only I could think these stories into my computer. 🙂


  5. I find I use a totally different mind set for poetry, short stories and for longer fiction (although at this point I only have one novel in progress — I’ve written far more stories and poems).

    I have several short fiction and poetry publications under my belt, and for me, finding regional publications that favor regional writers has been the most successful so far.

    Good luck. I, too, am trying to spread my reach with a couple of short stories and totally agree that finding the right publication to submit a work to is important — and HARD!!


  6. I do write shorts as well as novels but my shorts tend to end up more like prose poetry than anything else. Wonder why that is…

    I totally understand your difficulty – for me, writing short stories is harder because I have to develop my characters in just a few pages, rather than a few hundred. I have to find ways to make them interesting in such a short time that I don’t really feel bothered to do it that often…


    1. Hannah, I’m not sure the length is a problem for me because I tend to write lean anyway. But I’m missing something … and I hope I find it soon!

      Prose poetry is something I think I write, but my d-in-l, who’s both a published poet and a poetry editor, says not quite. 😉


  7. Urgghh! I feel your pain. I haven’t tried to submit a short story anywhere, but I have tried to submit poetry.

    That said, I’m a stubborn old mare when it comes to submitting anything for publication. I read duotrope like a bible. I ignore ALL non paying markets. The way I see it, only when I am accepted and paid will I be confident with my ability. Until then, I assume more practice is in order. It’s a journey, not a race.

    Every once in a while I’ll submit something to a market known for being approachable. Meaning, they often respond with a personal reply instead of a form rejection. The feedback I’ve received using this approach is gold.


    1. Do you care to share your list of approachable markets, Trista?

      You ignore non-paying mags? Gee, I look at those as my best chance. 😀 I do try to find the ones that seem more professional though. If I do get publishing credits, I’d like them to count for something.


  8. As you know, I write long, short and flash but no poetry. I have no idea whether I write them equally well. I’ve published several shorts, so I guess I’m doing well there. Too soon to tell how that compares with my novel(s).


      1. You definitely have a knack for the short, Linda, (as I know from reading one of them!) … just a matter of continuous work while hunting for the right markets. Maybe consider your horror background as that might be easier to “crack” than literary.


        1. I can’t remember what you read, Cathryn, maybe A Beautiful Man? If so, I just sent that one out. Ah, “continuous work” is where I fail with stories; I want to succeed with too little effort, I think. 😦

          If I did submit horror, it would be under a pseudonym. Publication of one or more of those would be good for my confidence, but I’m not sure it would do anything for my “bio.” Aren’t we supposed to only mention published work in the same genre we’re querying?

          And thank you (concerning the new photo.)


          1. Good point about the horror, although note your “supposed to” – remember your posts about rules?! 😉 I mean, really, if you can write and you enjoy both literary and a genre or two, that’s a good thing, IMO.

            And also, I would imagine your horror leans toward the literary side of the scale.


          2. By “supposed to” I meant I could include any horror publication credits, but the agent might not consider them so. Right now, I’d pad my bio with anything. Actually, I watched one author video where she suggested, if your blog is about writing, you mention how long you’ve been doing that. (I haven’t taken that advice … yet.)

            Anyway, I would definitely say my first novel and a couple stories are literary horror. But now that I think of it, I do have a few stories that are dark, but not really horror. Maybe I should do something with those. Hmmm, you have me thinking, Cathryn. Thanks.


  9. I haven’t tried marketing since I was a young mother, at which time my work was rejected. So, until my novel is published, I have no credentials other than the short stories on my blog. I just began writing short stories and I feel comfortable with them. Poetry is an outlet for my emotions. If I were a published novelist, I don’t think I’d worry about writing short stories. I’d write novels. 🙂 Thanks for the link and for sharing your thoughts.


  10. I used to feel that way, especially because my friends (like Cassie) were being so successful at writing short stories and getting them published. I felt like it was something I should be doing as well, and that by not doing it, I was hurting my chances of ever being published. But then it occured to me that I had to look at it objectively: what’s more important to me, my novel or a short story? The answer was immediately obvious that my time is better spent working on something that I have pride in and that is meaningful, than on something that I’m doing just because I think I ought to be. Especially now that I have a job… My writing time has become shorter, at least for right now, and I have to focus on what counts the most.


    1. That’s partly why I feel pressured to write shorts, Chibi. That and all these agents asking you to cite your publication credits in your query. My bio is about two sentences … and neither of them cite publication. 😦

      But if it came down to a choice, novel writing would win for me too. No question.


  11. I always thought I’d write novels and only novels. I didn’t get short stories, or more to the point didn’t get HOW to write them. How can you convey emotions into 1,000 words? Only when I started writing them weekly for Fiction Friday did I realise I can do it. It took months for me to realise it though. Practice, practice, practice 🙂


  12. My short stories are my novel so I can’t answer which is easier. But the few shorts I wrote not already part of the bigger project seem easier to do than novel writing.


  13. I write both short and long… Not very successfully. So far… It is not easy for me to tell a story in 2,000 words instead of 75,000. I submitted my first short story in April and I am up to my 21st rejection. It is a difficult market to break in, but nothing is easy, really. I liked your post! I definitely could relate. 🙂


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