There are important things literary magazines expect from a good submission. A quality submission is a major key to getting published. Before you decide to submit your story, you’ll need to prepare it. Here are some crucial tips published authors and editors have given me.
Revise, and Revise Again
One of the best (and most surprising) tips an editor has given me is to delete the entire first page of a work when revising. No exaggeration.
This probably sounds horrifying, and it is. But often when we set out to write, our first page is messy. We’re trying to find our voice in the work, set the scene, establish the story. But this first page (or more) can usually be removed. This throws readers right into the start of the action, instead of cushioning them with scene-setting fluff.
Another important part of the revising stage is to make sure your writing is concise. Check your story for overwrought language. Word of advice: forget the thesaurus.
Using a grandiose word is fine if there is absolutely no other way to get the meaning across. But if it’s every other word in the sentence, the whole narrative is unnecessarily verbose. And, quite frankly, annoying to read.
We recently received a submission that had this issue. Sometimes people believe sophisticated words sound smart and impressive. Perhaps they can in conversation, but in writing they tend to clutter the flow of the story. I rejected the story because I could hardly tell what was going on. The sentences were so overloaded with verbosity that I was getting lost in it.
State your meaning clearly and concisely, without flowery language. It is much more impressive when a writer can make an impact in a few simple words. When you’re revising, check how you can clean up those unnecessary words.
Check out editor Jessi Hoffman’s great advice about using a thesaurus.
Don’t Forget the Cover Letter
After you’ve fully revised your story, it’s time to work on the cover letter. Your cover letter is the editor’s very first impression of you and your writing.
While reading submissions, I’ve noticed that a lot of writers don’t put enough effort into the cover letter. The writer will write a sentence, something like “Here’s my story called XYZ”, and call it a cover letter. Not only does this feel impersonal, but it feels like an afterthought.
On the flip side, some writers put a little too much effort. Instead of letting the work do the talking, some writers will explain their story in the cover letter. This is perhaps the worst thing you can do. Your story should be able to speak for itself. If you have to explain it, the story isn’t doing its job.
Avoid cockiness. Some people know that no one likes a cocky person. But some people are cocky anyway. For example, I read a cover letter that had only one sentence. It said, “right on the mark re: your theme”. Not only is this arrogant and presumptuous, but it turns out the story was a flop. Be respectful, thank the editors for their time. And don’t assume your story is guaranteed for acceptance.
A good cover letter says a lot about your work, without saying too much. Read Writer’s Digest’s walkthrough for writing a cover letter for more info.
Find Your Fit
Even if you’ve worked hard to refine your work, it may not be published the first try. Or even the second try. Keep at it! The key is to find the publication that fits you.
It’s even harder for emerging writers to find a magazine that will publish us. Aerogramme Writer’s Studio put together a great list of literary magazines that publish new writers. They followed up this article with yet another list of magazines, giving you a wide selection to research.
If you’ve found your match, read Aerogramme Studio’s detailed how-to for submitting work to a magazine.
I hope you’ve found these tips useful for submitting your story. Have you ever been published? Do you have some tips for fellow emerging writers? Leave me a comment. And to my fellow emerging writers, good luck!