Six Tips for Submitting Fiction - if you want it to get published

You can learn a lot about what it takes to place a story in an ezine by starting up one of your own.

Last month I started work on a new ezine for writers, which I intended to use to publish high-quality, contemporary fiction, from writers all over the world. We placed a few adverts asking for submissions of just that. What we got was a revelation.

As a writer myself, I know how competitive the market is. Even non-paying markets are deluged by wannabe writers desperate for a by-line and some publicity. Competition, I had thought, would surely lead to a high quality of submissions, with every writer determined to submit only their very best work. Not so.

Of the handful of submissions we received the day after the adverts went out, only around four were fiction. One was a "how to write" style article. One was an essay on "the day my gran died". Two were stories about vampires. One guy just sent us his CV ? in Arabic.

Tip one, then: read the guidelines carefully. If the market you're aiming at publishes fiction, then no matter how brilliant your essay or article is, it's not going to be accepted. Neither is your CV?.

Tip two, I hardly even need mention: If the publication is in English, don't send your submission in Arabic, on the off-chance that the poor, beleaguered publisher will understand it. Simple. Having deleted the non-fiction submissions, I moved onto the "good stuff". Or so I thought. Of the four remaining pieces of writing, none had been proofread too carefully. One story made reference to a businessman "clenching the deal." One made frequent use of the word "teh" and had apparently random. Punctuation. A bit like. This. The other two were ? stories about vampires.

Tip three: Proofread. Or, ideally, get someone else to do it for you. Any writer knows that once you've worked on a piece of writing, you become blind to its mistakes. You can "proof" it as many times as you like, but you'll still just see what you think is there, rather than what actually is there. In any artistic endeavour, a fresh pair of eyes is essential in providing a little bit of clarity and perspective. For this reason, I present:

Tip four: constructive criticism is your friend. There are a lot of aspiring writers our there. Get together with one, even if it's only by email, and swap stories with them. Chances are they'll be able to point out something about your story that you've missed. They may have some knowledge about your subject matter that you lack ? for example, the fact that it's called a "bass" guitar, not a "base guitar", as one enlightening submission had it.

Tip five: let your writing do the talking. When it comes to biographical info, less is more. I want to read your story, not a breath-by-breath account of the last twenty years of your life. Keep it simple, keep it short.

And tip number six? Well, if you're thinking of submitting your writing to a publisher, visit our online writing community first for tips, articles, and our popular manuscript appraisal service.

Amber McNaught runs Writing World, a new agency for freelance writers. Writing World provides a free agency service which helps writers find work, and helps employers find the best writer for their project.

Writing World also offers a range of service such as proofreading, edting and manuscript appraisal services to new and aspiring writers.

Visit the Writing World website at http://www.writingworld.org

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