How to Become a Short Story Writer

Writing a Short Story2

Someone I know wanted to know how one becomes a short story writer (aka someone who submits stories to real markets/bears their soul and waits for it to be ripped to shreds). I think I’ve covered it all in this handy flowchart, if not let me know and I’ll update it.

So how do you become a short story writer? Or, rather, a published one?

I’ve only sold four stories, all to anthologies, so I’m in no way an expert. I’m just passing on what I’ve learned so far.

  • Write a short story

This is the hard one. You actually need an idea that you can encapsulate in around 5ooo words (technically the SFWA upper cap is 75oo but many magazines say up to 6k, while others will let you submit up to 10k. It depends on the market). The subject depends on your own preferences (mine is speculative fiction, fantasy and SF) and Submissions Grinder is an important way to find the right market, as is reading the publication you’re submitting too (many of whom make their content available online for free).

  • Let it rest

Think of your story like a cooked joint of meat, you want to let it settle so that the meat is nice and juicy. In this case it’s so that you can re-read the story and catch mistakes/problems in the narrative. Cat Rambo recommends at least a week (I try for three to four) before revisiting a finished story.

  • Edit

Revisit the story; edit it, rewrite it, fix it. Then let it rest again, or send it out to be beta-read/critiqued.

  • Critique it

If you’ve got access to beta-readers or a crit group, use them. Yes it’s supposed to feel like someone is scooping your heart out with a spoon but don’t worry, all will be the better for it. Just hang on in there. If your crit group are harsh it’s because the story needs it. If they’re actually mean, leave.

  • Submit the story

Submission Grinder is a good way to find markets, as is reading them. You email, they respond acknowledging reciept and then you wait. And wait. And wait. Some markets your submit just because they have a fast rejection times, others take a while. Be patient.

  • Rejected

Rinse and repeat. Then do it again. Break out the wine and chocolate.

  • Acceptance.

Rare and fabled; break out the wine and chocolate.

  • Get a contract

Sign it, celebrate. This makes it real.

  • Rewrite requests

Tinker, accept all changes. Wine and chocolate. Contract.

  • Publication

Go you.

  • Write a short story

Haven’t we been here before?

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