Submitting stories to magazines (print and online) is part of a fiction writer’s life. I usually think of it as requesting rejection letters. Knowing the odds, I’ve found it’s best to have expectations that are lower than the basement floor. Reading the specs — length, genre restrictions, etc. — very carefully is also a good idea.
The same goes for contests. There are a whole lot of writing contests out there. Some offer a coveted spot in an anthology and royalty payments, others offer a book contract and some nothing more than your story appearing on their page.
Exposure to new readers is the name of the game.
Contests and anthologies often have very specific requirements. Sometimes the restrictions knock me over before I can even contemplate writing a story, but there are other times when the crazy requirements inspire me to write outside my usual territory.
I love this.
It’s how I wound up writing a mystery focused on a time-traveling cat for the Times Yarns collection “Cats Cradle.” Other contest and anthology “rejects” often turn out to be good stories that I’ll use elsewhere down the road.
Recently, I submitted a vampire romance to a paranormal competition. My story is set in Argentina and revolves around Tango dancers. I really enjoyed writing the story and, as you may have guessed, the subject matter is not outside my wheelhouse.
The length of the story was the challenge this time. My short stories tend to be very short. (Not all of them, but most would be considered short, short stories.) This competition required the story to be between 5,000 and 10,000 words. That felt very long until I got rolling. The “Infinite Tango” weighed in at a little over 7,000 words. We’ll see if they take it. If not, I’ll find another way to invite readers to spend a little time dancing Tango in the arms of a vampire.