We’ve all been there as writers. You knock out a short story, crack yourself a celebratory beer and know – just know – that you are getting this piece published in that e-zine (like Grimdark Magazine!) you’ve been targeting. There’s no way they can say No this time. No. Frigging. Way.
A few weeks later: rejection.
Because Grimdark Magazine’s finances aren’t quite at the level where we can afford a large amount of stories (yet!), we’re restricted to buying a select few. Perhaps 15 per year at most. With guys like R. Scott Bakker, Mark Lawrence and Adrian Tchaikovsky jumping in to take a few of those slots, the available positions are even less. We’ve had to say “Sorry, but no thank you” to some stories that I nearly cried to let slip through my grasp.
The Grimdark Magazine team and I got together over a Facebook post one day and thought about what else we could do to help The Lifeblood – submitting authors being The Lifeblood of the short fiction e-zine industry (I’ve coined the term. Let’s make it spread.) – get into our heads and know what we’re after to increase their chances of getting published here. We’ve put together a few little hints and tips based on what we’ve seen in the last 6 months since we opened for submissions.
- For the love of the writing gods, please read our submission guidelines before submitting. That 4,100 word unsolicited short story that is a perfect fit for us … well, it isn’t. It’s too long. Our submissions guidelines are non-negotiable for unsolicited submissions.
- This is Grimdark Magazine. If it’s not grim and dark, then we’re not interested.
- To us, morally grey/ambiguous protagonists, antagonists and supporting characters are synonymous with grimdark. If your hero is a square-jawed angel whose worst evil is eating her friend’s Mars Bar after a hard day of slaying evil mountain trolls and orks, then chances are she’s a bit too squeaky-clean for our tastes. Likewise, if your villain is just The Lord Of Death/Darkness etc. with no reason to be that way other than “he just is”, then, again, probably not for us.
- Each short story must be a stand-alone work. There must be a beginning, a middle and a definitive ending. I’ve also had that dream where I leave a story open-ended, it gets picked up, then Gollancz Australia calls me demanding I send them a novel-length submission with that short story as chapter 1. It makes for an awesome dream, but not for a great short story. For an example of the right way to link back to other works you may have out there, look at Mark Lawrence’s Bad Seed in GdM Issue 1.
- A bit of diversity – age, sex, race etc. – won’t turn an average piece into a brilliant piece, but it may just pip another similar work or two at the finish line for publication where we have a current choice of seven straight, white male protagonists and only one slot.
- We’d love to give our readers more stories and authors per issue, so some shorter short fiction (say, flash up to about 2,500) is getting a really good look-in at the moment.
That’s it for this blog post. The Grimdark Magazine team and I wish you all the best of luck in penning some gritty awesomeness. We can’t wait to see what you come up with!