I have been reading a lot of short fiction recently. Call it research if you will, albeit research with a (mostly) enjoyable slant to it.
On and off – and then off and on again – I have been adding stories to this site. Although I hope that the stories I publish on this site are worthy of your time, I am also conscious that they are a particular form of self-publishing. I am not asking for your money. There is no need to involve Amazon (boo-hiss). But, all the same, there is no independent editorial involvement. I write it and then I publish it here.
Writing for this website is a good start, but I have recently decided that I need to do more. I also need to submit myself to the scrutiny of others. To that end, I have started sending off stories, and the occasional piece of flash fiction, to competitions and to magazines. Hopefully (and I stress the first four letters there), I will see some success. But whatever happens, I will be opening myself up to external assessment. It is not a question of whether I think it is good enough for you to read; it is a question of whether the editors and judges think a story of mine is worthy of inclusion. And that can only help my writing. I hope.
Through this process I have discovered that there are many, many magazines out there. I had no idea. Online, in print, downloadable. Monthly competitions, annual ones. One-off events, regular readings. There are so many people producing stories and printing magazines and holding events that it is both scary and exciting. Scary because it means that there are already thousands of other writers turning out pieces of short fiction, to fill all of these pages, and I am not sure where I fit in that world. But exciting because it means that there are blank pages to be filled with words, and maybe my words might make it onto one or two of them.
It also means that I have discovered brand new avenues of reading to explore. My credit card may have suffered – as have the postman’s arms – but I now have a stack of magazines and short story collections on the pile by my side. Not to mention (and whisper it quietly) a handful of downloaded-from-Amazon e-zines. I feel so grubby.
Some are good, some are great. One or two are execrable. Generally, though, I have been really impressed by the quality and variety of stories that I have read. Plus, these are surprisingly professional publications; the print quality of some of these magazines is really impressive. I am not there yet, but it would be quite an honour to be published in some of these magazines. But to do that, I need to keep writing, to keep submitting and to learn from any rejections I receive.
I await the editors’ responses with bated breath and, in the meantime, it’s back to the keyboard: there be stories to tell.