creative writing / humor

Crafting Writing for the Literary Mags

How about those swanky, erudite, fancy-pancy literary magazines?


I have been busy lately submitting my masterfully crafted writing, ok then, maybe it’s just typing, but suffice it to say….I have been busy. I am absolutely amazed at the requirements of some of these publications. I mean, there are just all these rules, sometimes they are vague…and sometimes they are just telling of themselves. For example, Genre Magazine would like: “Anything that trips our triggers”….whatever that might be. Many other magazines want “risk-taking fiction” “stories that illuminate the various layers of characters and their situations with great-artistry.” Well, I guess that leaves out my guy, Claude.

Another good tip from Analog Magazine: “Read several issues, but don’t try to imitate what you read.” That’s right, make yours totally different. While you are at it, be sure and submit fiction that is: “unique, urgent, accessible and involving….” I like this tip from Art Times: “Looking for quality fiction that aspires to be literary.” I am always aspiring to something. The goal of short fiction should be to “tell a good story.” Well duh! Maybe all I have are bad ones. If you want to write for spiritual magazines: “Stories should teach the value of morality and honesty without preaching.”

Bugle is a publication of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. That’s right, you heard, Elk, those deer-like creatures with horns. They want you to talk about hunting. And humor. I don’t know…is that funny? “Hunting stories should celebrate the hunting experience, demonstrating respect for wildlife, the land, and the hunt.” Okay, here goes, how about “An elk, a rabbi and a hunter walk into a bar…” I’ll have to think about what comes next.

The Burnside Review is deep, it sorta scares me. I think you have to be really smart, and here’s why: “We like work that breaks the heart, that leaves us in a place we didn’t expect to be. We like the lyric. We like the narrative. We like when the two merge. We like whiskey. We like hourglass figures. We like crying over past mistakes. We like to be surprised. Surprise us!” Umm…ok then: Claude and Annie were both drunk and riding a bus. The driver was drinking whiskey. Annie wanted some donuts. The donuts were going to ruin her hourglass figure. The driver swerved the bus abruptly. “Dang Elk!” he screamed. There was a flute player in the back of the bus, writing songs. With lyrics.

Any horror writers out there? Well Chizine Magazine may be for you. A few words of advice: “Does not want tropes of vampires, werewolves, mummies, monsters or anything that has been done to death.” What is a trope anyway? So in a word maybe just one vampire, I don’t think that has been done, unless you consider Dracula of course. And you really should consider Dracula. The Connecticut review advises: “No entertainment fiction, though we don’t mind if you entertain us while you plumb for the truth.” Being from the south, one of my favorites is from the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature: “No good southern fiction is complete without a dead mule.” I don’t know, maybe the flute player in the bus could be writing lyrics about his dead mule?

Who could forget those wacky English professors? “We value the insides of things, vivisection, urgency, risk, elegance, flamboyance, work that moves us, language that does something new, or does something old – well. We like iteration and reiteration. Ruins and ghosts. Mechanical, moving parts, balloons, and frenzy.” Vivisection? Does that hurt? I’ve really got to work on my vocabulary.

How about variety? Check out Eclectica Magazine: “We pride ourselves on giving everyone (high schoolers, convicts, movie executives, etc.) an equal shot at publication.” Those adult writers who sometimes like to be exotic, can try: Exotic Magazine: “Read adult publications, spend time in the clubs, doing more than just tipping and drinking. Look for new insights in adult topics.”

Tired of the same old thing? Need to break out of your tired old role? Try Hobart: “We’d love to receive fewer run-of-the-mill relationship stories and more stories concerning truck drivers, lumberjacks, carnival workers, and gunslingers.” Hey I’m in luck….I know plenty of gunslingers!

I think my favorite advice might be from The Real Beyond: “If it’s a story about a 13 year-old girl named Mary coping with the change to womanhood while poignantly reflecting the recent passing of her favorite aunt Gertrude, we don’t want it! Now, if Mary is the 13-year-old daughter of a vampire cowboy who stumbles upon a government conspiracy involving aliens and unicorns while investigating, hard-boiled style, the grizzly murder of her favorite aunt Gertrude, then we will take a look at it….”

Nth Degree wants to scare writers: “Don’t submit anything that you may be ashamed of 10 years later.” What about Pank, that’s a great name for a magazine, by the way, “To read Pank is to know Pank.”

Then there is a general thread that runs through many lit mags:  Be brave…don’t be discouraged by rejection. Listen to how people talk. Many stories say nothing…they are “happenings.” “It’s a brutal world, wear your helmet.” For the over 50 crowd, “No geezer humor.”

Running Times advises: “Thoroughly get to know runners and the running culture, both at the participant level and professional, elite level.” Lastly, don’t be expecting anything, particularly cash, as per the Tattoo Highway: “We’re sorry, but we don’t pay contributors. We don’t pay ourselves either.”

Happy literary magazine submitting out there!


3 thoughts on “Crafting Writing for the Literary Mags

    • Sure thing! I did spend some time going through my Writer’s Market book attempting to figure out literary magazines to send some of my stories too…I sent a few, but I’m not terribly optimistic…we’ll see 🙂

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