Uncategorized | April 02, 2004

Since I started at TMR, I’ve read about two hundred stories, and I’m starting to notice some patterns. For the most part, stories seem to fit into one of several categories. Some of the more prominent types are death/going on after a loss, troubled adolescent experiences, bad relationships, work-related stories, and incidents through the eyes of a child. The downfall of these stories is that most of them are remarkably similar. For instance, I have read what I consider to be some very good death stories, but it’s difficult for them to rise above the associated clichés.

Of the submissions I’ve read, I consider some of them among my favorite short stories, bar none, but the difficulty in getting them published is that they are in contention not only with the thousands of other manuscripts we receive each year, but also with essentially all published stories. Why read “Hypothetical Story X” in TMR when you can read a remarkably similar story in a previous edition of some other publication? This is what makes getting published so competitive; a story has to have some unique quality to get noticed. Writers might not like to hear this, but it seems to be the way things are. It’s unfortunate that writing a strong story that engages the reader is many times not enough to get published.

However, if you are serious about getting published, I offer the following advice: once you feel you have written a good story, find and read five to ten published stories that deal with a similar problem, theme, plot, etc. After examining these stories, ask, “What sets my story apart, and what makes it worthy to stand next to next those similar stories?” If you can answer both of those questions, then your story is going to be better than the majority of those out there.