From the Cloud: 20 things learned in 25 years of submissions

Aurealis has a proud history of publishing fiction in Australia. Since our first issue, we have introduced new authors to the reading public and given established authors a means to continue their relationship with their audience.

These are some of the things we’ve learned over nearly twenty-five years of selecting stories for publication.

  1. If you don’t read in the genre, you’re unlikely to create an original, refreshing genre story.
  2. One idea is rarely enough to sustain a story.
  3. Many stories would be far better off if they were a third shorter.
  4. If you use genre trappings, then your story will end up in the reject pile. ‘Trappings’ implies something added after the event, mere decoration. Respect the genre.
  5. Short stories are short. Don’t waste time—get into the story.
  6. If you can’t handle dialogue, your story will suffer badly.
  7. If nothing happens in your story, you don’t have a story. You might have a vignette, or a mood piece, but we don’t publish vignettes or mood pieces.
  8. Stories that only have one character can struggle. So much talking to her/himself…
  9. Don’t submit a first draft. Submit a story that you’ve polished until it glows.
  10. Clichés are clichés are clichés—and we’re not interested. Whether it’s a clichéd story idea or a clichéd character or a clichéd resolution, we’re really not interested.
  11. Solid, well-crafted writing beats pretentiousness every time.
  12. We are well over monospaced fonts. Courier is hard to read.
  13. If you’re not spelling and punctuating properly, you’re not using the fundamental building blocks of writing. Very few stories show a finely structured, well-nuanced, carefully textured narrative with poor spelling and grammar.
  14. Genre cred isn’t enough. You must write well on top of that.
  15. Subtly integrating background detail about the different places and times your story is set in is a major and impressive skill, likely to get our attention.
  16. Character diversity is a good thing and tends to suggest a thoughtfulness that bodes well for the rest of your story.
  17. If you jump on a trend from TV or the movies, it’s likely to be too late. We will have seen it a million times by the time your story gets to us—and we’ve probably rejected all of them.
  18. Surprise endings and shock plot twists rarely are.
  19. Humour is hard.
  20. If you don’t read our guidelines, you’re not likely to get published in Aurealis.

– Michael Pryor

Before (or after) grabbing your FREE six month-five issue subscription to Aurealis (you’ve got until the end of July!), be sure to pick up a copy of Michael Pryor’s latest page-turner Machine Wars – by clicking the appropriate image below.