Sunday, June 24, 2012

Finding a home for a long story

For the most part, the length of stories that journal editors will consider has shrunk over time, in keeping with cultural attention spans, so if you write a story in excess of 6,000 words, it can be tricky to find a place to publish it.  This past spring I wrote a story that weighs in at just over 11,000 words, and it does take some digging, but you can find editors who are willing to consider the longer short story or novella.

In a moment I'll share some of my discoveries regarding editors who are open to lengthier submissions, but since I brought up the word novella, let me say a few words about that somewhat misunderstood form.  The terms short story, novelette, novella, and novel are often distinguished by their word count.  There are no strict rules (in fact, there are virtually no rules at all), but short stories are perhaps in the 10,000 word range as their limit, the rarely mentioned novelette 10,000 to 20,000 words, the novella maybe 20,000 to 50,000 words, and the novel, of course, any length beyond that.  I readily acknowledge that it would take you no time at all searching online (or, heavens, in some sort of reference book) to find definitions disagreeing with the number limits I've offered here.

It should be noted that length is a distinguishing factor, but other factors should be considered, too, like the number of major characters and the sleekness of the plot (elements that are even more open to interpretation than word count).

Nevertheless, if you do find yourself in need of placing a story that runs in excess of 6,000 words, here are some possibilities.  When I was searching for my own purposes, incidentally, I made use of a site that I've referenced several times in this blog:  Duotrope.  Duotrope has a search function that allows you to plug in all sorts of criteria, like genre and form, but also length.  So I searched for venues taking stories more than 10,000 words long, and while I didn't find a lot, I did find more than I'd expected.

One such venue is the aptly named Big Fiction magazine, which is interested in "long shorts and novellas of 7,000 words and up."  The editors, however, stress in their guidelines that they want more than length; they want "substance, texture [and] urgency."  Their reading period for the current issue closed at the end of May, but if you have a longer story, keep Big Fiction in mind for when it reopens to submissions.

Another option -- and one that is currently accepting submissions -- is Caketrain and its editors' chapbook competition in fiction, which allows for the entry of novellas and longer stories within the context of a collection of stories.  The editors are looking for manuscripts between 40 and 80 pages.  As with virtually all contests,  there is an entry fee and specific guidelines for formatting your entry, so read the competition page carefully.

A brand-new and exciting option is Pshares Singles, a digital-only extension of distinguished Ploughshares journal.  The editors are looking for fiction between 6,000 and 25,000 words that will be available for download in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as in digital text from the Ploughshares main site.

These are just a few options.  So don't be afraid to write that longer story or novelette or novella:  there are editors with stamina who are interested in these more substantial forms.
Men of Winter

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