You’ve spent hours, days, weeks, perhaps months crafting your short story. You’ve shaped a narrative of plot, setting, conflict, point of view, character, and theme, and taken it through three or more revisions. You’ve received critical feedback from at least one trusted reader, and read your story aloud, at least to yourself in the mirror.
You tell yourself, “All systems GO” but before you send your freshly printed out, spell-checked and proofread story to the literary magazine you’ve carefully researched for type of content and style, and whose submission guidelines you’ve followed to the letter, check it against this list:
• Have you “opened strong?” The first sentence should draw the reader in and contain the germ of the story.
• Did you use more dialogue than narration? Beware the long and the windy.
• Did you use descriptive nouns and verbs? Eliminate the vague and imprecise.
• Edit out as many adjectives and adverbs as possible. Words ending in …ly weaken the work.
• Did you choose past tense over past participle whenever possible? It provides immediacy, much like first person and present tense.
• Language that calls attention to itself wakes the reader from his fictional dream. Don’t show off.
• Did you involve all five senses when imagining your story? If you did, your reader will experience it with all of his.
• Use natural speech when writing dialogue, even when you’re using dialect.
• Cut it back or cut it out. Think Hemingway, not Proust.
Now, lick that stamp!