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What makes a successful short story?

by Zeeshan Khan
professional book writing services

A short story is not only a short text, it is also a question of composition, a tone, a “voice”.

Let’s imagine that you want to write a short story (this is the classic of the genre, the short story required by most competitions). What characterizes this type of news is a break in everyday life: something happens that shakes up habits and causes a “crisis”. For example: in the street, your character thinks he sees someone he knows and runs to catch up. The other turns around… and it’s a stranger! If you report the facts as they are in writing, you will obtain a short text, perhaps it will even be well written… but that will not necessarily make it news.

Go beyond the anecdote

To resemble a short story, your story must go beyond the anecdote stage. A short story being a fiction, it is necessary to put in place all the elements specific to a fiction. You already have the starting situation, the characters… Then ask yourself what will make them move and above all lead them towards the long-awaited fall! In the example above, you will first look for what could be the element that could trigger a series of twists and turns leading to the fall. From there, you will try to create an expectation in the reader, something that will make him want to continue reading to find out what will happen… Which is called setting up narrative tension.

What if?…

What if the silhouette seen in the street was that of a missing person? This is enough to arouse the reader’s curiosity! To further increase the tension, you can also imagine that, while following the silhouette in question, your character realizes that he himself is being followed, or that the person he is following is the subject of a shadowing by a memoir writing services. Narrative tension is at the heart of fictional stories, and, in the case of a short story, it is precisely the punch line that will allow this tension to be resolved after it has reached its climax.

Find your voice

Once your story is composed, you will need to work on the writing. Because the short story is also a tone, a “voice” which will make the reader want to read other short stories by the same author. Take care of your style, work with economy of meabns, strive to say a lot in a few words. Eliminate digressions, ban explanations, hunt for unnecessary adverbs and adjectives. Learn to play on the unsaid: the short story is “the art of whiteness”.

Find a publisher

You started by selecting the publishers to whom you were going to submit your manuscript. How did you go about it? On what criteria?

My novel is the first volume of a historical, family and Norman saga. So I came across these four terms in a Google / Fancy search. More than 200 titles have been released, linked to around fifty publishers. I made a first selection by consulting the back covers and choosing the works that I might want to read. About fifty remained. I would have liked to know their circulation and sales but I couldn’t find any information. I then did a search in the libraries of Paris and Lyon to find out professional book writing services if they had these works. Around thirty titles appeared and I only kept from my previous list the publishers who had published them, around twenty. More Editions des Malaises, a Norman publisher which publishes beautiful books, thrillers and novels about Normandy, and which I had already spotted by querying the database of Norman publishers.

Ultimately, who did you send your manuscript to?

I chose publishers that accept PDFs. There are not many: eight, including the Editions des Malaises. I admit it was an arbitrary selection! But I find it difficult to understand why publishers continue to request hard copies of the entire text. They don’t care about the cost to the authors, to the trees, and to shipping, while most of these manuscripts end up in the trash without ever being read beyond the first chapter… since everyone knows that it is the first pages which decide the fate of the work. Offering to send a file seemed to me to indicate that the publisher cared a little about its authors.

What was the first contact like with the man who would become your editor?

He was the only one who gave his personal email (the others offered sending forms). So I sent him a simple message which said: I wrote a saga in three volumes which takes place in Normandy, could this interest you? And, in the body of the email so that he doesn’t have to click on an attachment, I put the synopsis of the saga and the first volume, all not exceeding one sheet (i.e. 1500 characters, spaces included). The next day I received his response: “Yes, I would like to read it, send me the PDF”! A month later, I received an email that said: “I’m reading your novel with great pleasure, I’m halfway through, I’ll call you as soon as I’ve finished.” I then proposed to him the synopsis of volume 2 and, the following week, he gave me his agreement. Bingo!

And with other publishers?

At the same time, I sent the same message to the other selected publishers, this time on the sending form, with the entire text and without any accompanying words since this was not provided for by the format of the protocol.

Among the Parisian publishers, the one that tempted me the most (Les Presses de la Cite, a specialist in the genre and large print runs) quickly refused. Two others had also declined, referring me to a partner doing self-publishing. Then there were standard letters, two months later.

Do you have any advice for authors who are sending a manuscript to a publisher for the first time?

I would advise them to first read very carefully the information and advice from Luc Debarred from the Humanism site.

* Where you will learn, among other things, that the worst time to send your manuscript is the month of January (publishers are preparing for the winter literary season). However, it is the one where all the authors send their submissions to publishers! Spread the message…

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