Originally published at Shimmer. You can comment here or there.
What We Want
The best way to understand what kind of stories we’re looking for is to read an issue of our magazine. But here’s some more information that may be useful.
Shimmer is a speculative fiction magazine. This means that your story should have a speculative element at its heart. We have been known to accept non-speculative stories - but realize the odds are stacked against you.
We’re most drawn to contemporary fantasy. We’re less likely to be interested in sword and sorcery, hard SF, space opera, slasher horror, and other genre standbys. We like unusual stories that take us to places we have never been - but that we instantly recognize when we read your story. Send us your odd unclassifiable stories. However, we prefer conventional storytelling mechanics: we are unlikely to acquire experimental fiction. We’re also unlikely to acquire vampire stories, ironic stories about how Hell is just like a mortal bureaucracy, Adam and Eve stories, and other familiar genre tropes.
We like stories with a fluid and distinctive voice, with specific and original images. Write with strong active language; avoid passive voice. Eliminate extraneous words; everything counts.
We’d rather read a dark story than a heartwarming one, yet we’re not interested in stories written simply for shock value. Our stories usually have a strong and tragic emotional core.
We want to see well-developed characters who struggle to attain their goals. Don’t let your characters simply react to circumstance. We want to see a complete plot, where the issues of the opening are resolved by the end. Slice of life stories, vignettes, and stories that rely heavily on flashbacks are rarely successful with us. Tell your story in a way that creates a sense of immediacy.
We admire the economies of well-done flash stories; but you still need to have a complete plot. It’s harder than it looks.
We really don’t want trick endings. If your story ends with “it was all a dream!” or the revelation that the narrator is insane, or actually a kitten, or if it’s a trick story that relies on withholding information from the reader, we will reject it.
Take the time to proofread your work. Eliminate errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It’s a good idea to get someone else to read your story before you send it to us to help you find problems you might have missed.
We all have our issues.
No matter what, do not use “alright.” It’s “all right.” Two words. We’re aware that “alright” is gaining currency and has its advocates; that’s why we’re letting you know our position up front. Beth, our editor-in-chief, stops reading instantly when she sees “alright.”
You have been warned.
Many fine books offer excellent advice about writing. These are some of our favorites:
Self-editing for Fiction Writers, by Renni King and Dave Brown
Character and Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card
On Writing, by Stephen King
Most writers benefit tremendously from critique groups. We have all benefited from the writing forums on Hatrack. We enjoy the flash challenges at the Liberty Hall Writer’s Workshop. There are dozens of online and local workshops; find one that works for you.
But the most important thing you can do to improve your writing is to keep writing.