How to get your short fiction seen

Mo Harber-Lamond
29 June 2016

At the Professional Writing Academy we love short fiction — it’s a great form that allows you to experiment with ideas, and above all else is enjoyable to read and write. With the rise of digital media, there are so many more opportunities to get your work out there. But therein lies the rub — how do you decide where to submit your work? Mo Harber-Lamond shares some of our favourite publications and short fiction competitions.

  • Learn how to plan your short stories
  • Discover the importance of creating unforgettable characters
  • Find out how to pitch your stories and which competitions to enter
Writing Short Fiction course

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the resurgence in popularity of short fiction. In our increasingly digital age, it’s becoming the go-to form for people on the move. The problem for many short-fiction writers, though, is where to start in terms of getting work published.

Have no fear — we’re here to help. Here are two key ways of getting your work seen: competitions and magazines.

Competitions
As a budding writer, you’ve got nothing to lose by entering literary competitions. Being shortlisted — or even winning — is a huge honour, gives fantastic publicity for you as an author, and boosts self-confidence no end.

The Bridport Prize is one of the most long-established competitions, and caters for both short story writers and poets. It offers a very healthy reward to the winner of each category, and smaller prizes to a number of runners-up. Entries for this year’s competition are closed, but that just means you’ve got plenty of time to write next year’s prize-winning story.

Published both online and physically, Sixfold is a literary magazine with a difference. All the work included in the quarterly publication is reviewed and voted for by fellow writers, who are also in the running to be published and potentially win the $1,000 grand prize. Not only is the process entirely transparent, it is an experience in itself: you have the chance to read work from writers around the globe, and each person who encounters your work gives you feedback. As you may know, at the Professional Writing Academy we consider group learning and peer feedback an essential tool for improving your writing, and this is a great way to receive some, coupled with the chance of publication.

The Sean O’Faolain Short Story Competition is an international prize, awarded annually. A winner and single runner-up are chosen, both given a cash prize, and published in Southword. The real attraction, though, is the winner’s prize of a week’s stay at the Anam Cara writing retreat. If there’s a more beautiful place to spend a week writing than Coulagh Bay, I’m yet to find one.

Other great competitions include The Bristol Prize, The Bath Short Story Award, Aesthetica magazine’s literary prize, and Glimmer Train.

The first thing you’ll want to do when you finish a story you’re really pleased with is get people to read it.

Mo Harber-Lamond

Publications
The first thing you’ll want to do when you finish a story you’re really pleased with is get people to read it. There are countless options — here are a few of the best.

Comma Press is a small, not-for-profit publisher that specialises in the short form. Based in vibrant Manchester, they produce full-length anthologies of short fiction, and while studying in the city I met with founder Ra Page, learning a lot from him about the publishing industry in the process. Comma Press is definitely worth a look, and always looking for new talent to let loose upon the world.

From the small and underground to the huge and mythical, Granta is one of the most prestigious literary publications in the world. The quarterly magazine focuses on a specific theme for each issue — currently new Irish writing. If your niche comes up this really could be your big break.

Interzone is a bimonthly literary magazine that focuses on all things science fiction and fantasy. Often, genre fiction isn’t quite right for publications like Granta, so authors have to look somewhere more specific. Interzone has a great track record of helping to establish new writers, and is part of a genre-fiction triad that includes horror magazine Black Static and crime and mystery magazine Crimewave.

Mslexia is another quarterly publication, this one solely focusing on women authors. As a magazine, they encourage their readers to submit work, and proudly boast 12 methods to do so. They also offer four competitions that run separately throughout the year.  Mslexia is published physically and digitally, so there’s no reason not to have a browse — whatever your gender.

Other worthy publications include The People’s Friend, Asimov’s, The New Orleans Review and Scottish magazine Chapman.

For every writer who wins a competition or gets published in a magazine, countless others don’t feel yet ready to take the plunge and would like to hone their craft further. That’s why we created our Introduction to Short Fiction online course — to help writers practise and become more confident in short-form fiction. You’ll work on practical ways of using point of view and playing with different story structures, learn how to develop compelling characters and effective settings, experiment with handling time, and ensure your writing is as concise and powerful as possible.

With all the opportunities available, I think it’s time to get writing.

Mo Harber-Lamond

Mo Harber-Lamond is an editor and proofreader from Cornwall. He graduated with a first in English Literature and Creative Writing from Manchester Metropolitan University in 2014, and acts as editorial assistant with Professional Writing Academy.

His interests include short and literary fiction, poetry and songwriting. He is also a keen musician.

Writing Short Fiction

Begins: 5 October 2020