Short stories are much better than novels for one reason: they're short. Bad stories end quicker, and good stories get right to the point. In fact, writing a short story is a great way to get your foot in the door of the writing industry; you can experiment with different narrative styles and play with characters, situations, and tone. A short story can be as short as a paragraph or as long as 50 pages, so you have tons of freedom with which to work.

So you've written a story and your mom says that it's super. But you want more than motherly compliments, right? You'd rather break into the pages of The New Yorker and get offered a cushy teaching job at a liberal arts school in Maine. Slow down, bucko. Let's get that first story published, shall we?

Despite the fact that assistant editors and interns at literary magazines are regularly drowned in mailbags full of submissions (commonly referred to as a "slushpile"), getting your short story published is easier than you think.

One quick note: this SYW is not about how to get an idea for and write a short story; this is about how to publish a story you've already written. So don't send us hate mail.


Hate to break it to you, but you're going to need a story. Sure, that anecdote about your 6-day escapade with Charles Manson is great material, but it's not a short story until you've written it down. Once you've got your story on paper-or saved to disk-you've got to make sure it's not a piece of garbage. Here's how:

  • Check spelling, punctuation and grammar meticulously. Having stupid typos and mistakes is the easiest way to get your story thrown in the recycling bin. The only exception to this is if you want to get crazy and creative, such as writing a story in the first person from the perspective of someone who has incorrect grammar (check out The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for an example of this) The rule of thumb is: if you've got a well-thought out idea behind that spelling mistake or lack of punctuation, then you're fine. For more help with this, check out our meticulously-written article SYW avoid common writing errors?

  • Make sure that it makes sense. A good test for this one is to hand your story to a friend, roommate, Eskimo, or family member. If they ask you why the gorilla was in the bathtub and you thought you wrote a story about horseback riding in Montana, you may want to do a little revising. It's really important that the reader can clearly follow everything that's going on.

  • Determine whether it is actually a short story. Admittedly, this is rather a mushy criterion. One method of figuring out if it's a short story is to get a PhD in comparative literature with a focus on postmodern deconstructivism. On the other hand, we merely recommend that you use your best judgment.