Submitting a Short Story the Same as a Novel?


     WHEN WRITING A novel, the editing process is extensive and we all know about beta readers and getting opinions on the piece before continuing, before eventually submitting it to a publisher or literary agent. In other words we know what needs to be done.

But what about short stories? How do you ensure they are submittable? In an ideal scenario we would repeat the process from above, but if you’re like me your beta pool is very limited and becomes even more drained when people have been reading full drafts of a book. So what do you generally do to make sure they are as polished as possible?

So far all I can feasibly do is to edit out all the grammatical issues and punctuation, not too difficult as they are quite easy to fix due to their length, mine typically go between 500 words of flash to 3000 words with the occasional longer piece. Also, I’ll leave them lying around before editing them, I spot sloppy writing far better once I’ve put a distance between myself and the story after the initial elation of thinking it to be a masterpiece (rarely is that the case…). But I’m often questioning my work when I click send on an email or submission form. I get a horrible feeling, like I’m dirty, because I’m never quite sure how the piece reads beyond my experience, even if I have let it breathe for a few months.

What’s the solution? Is there one?


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25 thoughts on “Submitting a Short Story the Same as a Novel?

  1. What’s a beta pool?

    1. I kinda made the term up, its just the pool of beta readers you can draw on.

      1. Kinda like a swimming pool.

  2. I think you already have your solution. You have a ton of beta readers on your blog. When I post short stories.on my blog, they are skeletons of my
    intended piece. I keep them short on description and dialogue. I want to see the reaction of my followers. That is how I gauge if a work warrants more effort. The writing sample that I would submit would be fleshed out with more details, characters (and much larger word counts); in other words, a fuller story,

    1. Thanks for your input. I tend to write stuff I will submit separate, however everystory on the blog has potential for a collection etc.
      The main issue with stories is nearly all short stoey publishers will only accept unpublished material, doesnt matter if it is on here or not, its still technically published. Some do accept reprints, but not so many.

      1. I know publishers won’t touch work posted on blogs. There are ways around everything. Best of luck.

      2. Put it this way, if you or inposted a story on our blog then edited it a lot, adding to it, then in my mind that is unpublished as the piece has changed ☺

      3. That is my thinking as well. My blog posts and stories for submission are so different. With that in mind, I think of my followers as beta readers. Their feddback lets me know if something is worthy of fleshing out.

  3. The only true short story I have written we did in a writing group where we edited each other’s group… I still think that beta-readers are needed, not so much for the language, because that you can probably manage yourself, but more to capture how the narrative works, the timeline, flashbacks, is there a twist or conceit… does your voice work for the writing… maybe also things like tense or use of adjectives…

    If you’re doing it all by yourself I think the biggest thing you can do is read it both on screen and on paper… (you find different things). Maybe also see how it works on different number of words per page… hmm

    1. Cheers for your thoughts.
      I always print stories off now, makes a big difference. And yes, readers are essential for the stoy itself, I cant catch the grammatical issues myself near 100%, but I cant be another human being and analyse my writing objectively ☺

  4. I always write everything longhand first. This is very labor intensive and probably a bit stupid and takes more then double the time of putting it straight into my laptop. The advantage is that when I do type it up, the story changes. I add bits and cut the fat from existing bits. Then I do an edit immediately.

    I then put it away for a week or so (okay maybe months) and then I do another edit.

    Then it goes to my long suffering husband for his edit.

    Then I edit again, usually while reading out loud. I kind of figure that if after all of that I miss something, then I was supposed to. (Wow that was more drawn out then I thought!)

    As long as your story is solid, minor editing issues will not affect it. Don’t be mean and put editors out of a job… They love correcting grammar and syntax!

    1. Seems you have it sussed ☺
      Writing longhand is definitely a different experience, typing it up is a hassle but not tooooo bad for short stories.

  5. Fair-trade, I have no news for you, but I liked reading your question. I will come back to see if you got an answer 🙂
    ❤ Dajena

  6. I let my work sit, if there is time. If not, I sit every day and read it over and over again, changing a word, sometimes deleting a sentence, until that feeling in my gut that it’s not right, is gone. Then I hit send.

    1. A good way of doing it. But dont you find you go story blind after reading it so much?

      1. Yes! You’re right, I do!

  7. In the absence of beta readers (and you’re right about not overloading them), the best thing is just to let the work sit for a week or two before sending it out. You’ll always question it when submitting; there’s no getting around that. But if it comes back, that’s another chance to re-read it and see if you need (not want, need) to make changes.

    1. Thanks for the advice Brian. And that questioning isn’t something I always have but it’s like the seasons, it turns up from time to time.

  8. I use a two-stage process (I only occasionally show my stories to anyone else before publishing at the moment).

    First, I type them up – I write longhand, but if I typed the first draft I’d print it off and type up from the printed version. (This is anywhere from weeks to months after the first draft, in which time I work on other stories.) This helps me catch any plot holes or bits I got bored with and skipped over in the draft.

    Second, I read it aloud. This catches other plot holes, clunky phrasing, etc.

    It’s not perfect, but it seems to be a decent process for someone who works alone!

    1. Cool, along with ninevoices that seems to be a good bit of advice.
      Than you.

  9. Sometimes if helps to print out your piece in a slightly weird script – like Comic Sans – which can make it look like someone else’s work. I’ve also (haven’t admitted this before) done a video of myself reading a piece to the cat – with one ear cocked for the arrival of the men in white coats. Reading to a group can help, though you may have seen a recent posting about my experience of this on our blog…


    1. with one ear cocked for the arrival of the men in white coats. – haha!
      I hadn’t thought of the different font, that’s a nice idea, I might try reading a story aloud when no one is home too. Cheers.

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