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Submitting Speculative Fiction: The Pitfalls to Avoid

Updated on August 1, 2013

For those who don’t know yet, speculative fiction is a term applied to genre fiction that is science fiction, fantasy, and horror and their subgenres. It also encompasses anything in between, that is stories with a mesh of science fiction and fantasy or horror and which are sometimes difficult to classify. A broader definition of what is speculative fiction is available here.

Frequently New writers submitting to topnotch magazines like Asimov’s and Science fiction and Fantasy do not stand a chance in getting published, though their stories might be of a very good quality. Besides, the absence of personal rejections, in which the editors tells you why he or she is not buying your story,(due to large submissions to these markets of course) saps writers’ morale and undermine their confidence as to continuing to write.

Actually, new writers don’t know that there are several reasons why their stories have been rejected despite being good. So aren’t they good enough?

New writers have to take into account the deadly sins they should avoid to make their stories publishable. I have compiled some of them and I may add others in a future update.

What's so great about speculative fiction?

The First Sin

Not knowing the style of the magazine: Know which magazine you are submitting to. More than frequently, editors advise potential submitters to read the magazine before submitting. This is not done for commercial purpose. Writers need to familiarize with the style whether it is formal, informal, or experimental, or any other combination. Some editors are not at all comfortable with a copious use of adverbs and passive voice. Others prefer to see fewer adjectives and dialogue tags. Every editor has his own preference based on his experience on the field.

The Second Sin

Not reading the guidelines:However serious this issue might be, it turns out, for some reason, that new writers do not follow the guidelines. Or at best, follow some of them. Again editors have their preferences. If they ask you to submit in the body of an email why do you send an attachment? If they ask you to submit in courier new font why do you use strange fonts? Following the guidelines reflects the fact that you are serious about your writing and keep you away from getting your story deleted before it is read.

The Third Sin

Not grabbing the reader’s attention quickly: Due to the large size of submissions, around 300 hundred stories and sometimes more sent every month to pro paying markets, editors have no time to read a story from the beginning to the end if this latter fails to captivate their attention from the first lines. Some will stop at the first paragraph, others will continue to the second page if the writer is lucky. Make your story unique and bear in mind you are not writing your story for yourself. Try to hook your reader’s attention from the beginning to the end.

The Fourth Sin

A cliché story:This is a surefire way to get your story rejected even though you managed to avoid the previous deadly sins. What you see on TV and movies as science fiction, horror, and fantasy has been done in fiction countless times. Cliché stories abound and here is an example:

The genie of the lamp: whether in medieval or contemporaneous setting, this cliché has been done and overdone more and more. Think of a machine, a robot, a ring, a creature, a potion, a ghost or whatever whose sole existence is to turn your dreams into reality and there you are, trapped in a cliché story.

No editor is going to tell you what is wrong with your story in full details. You have to figure things out by yourself, but at least you can consider the deadly sins as a start.


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    • shesacraftymom profile image

      shesacraftymom 6 years ago

      Great advice...probably the third sin is the one I and others struggle with the most! Voted up!

    • LABrashear profile image

      LABrashear 6 years ago from My Perfect Place, USA

      Lots of great information. Now, to figure out which sin (or sins) are being committed! Voted up and sharing.

    • ar.colton profile image

      Mikal Smith 6 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

      These deadly sins could apply to any genre. This is a great hub! Voted up and shared.

    • Jakebrap profile image

      Jakebrap 6 years ago from Liverpool, UK

      Really good article :]

    • Hideki-ryuga profile image

      Hideki-ryuga 7 years ago

      Thanks Tiffany. I hope it will be useful.

    • Tiffany Latte profile image

      TiffanyLatte 7 years ago from USA

      Good information, nice hub.

    • Hideki-ryuga profile image

      Hideki-ryuga 7 years ago

      Thanks for your comment. There are other reasons of course; the list is unfortunately extensive :). Good luck with your future submissions

    • kookoo88 profile image

      kookoo88 7 years ago from Cripple Creek

      Very useful hub. I've sent a couple of stories in though I now understand why they didn't make it.