When to Break the Rules When Submitting Short Stories

In their guidelines, the magazine Bards and Sages Quarterly highly discourages submitting first person or present tense stories.

My first published story with them was both.

The magazine Fabula Argentea lists Anthropomorphism as a hard sell.

The first story of mine they published was a suicide note from a training bra.

One of the most common pieces of advice I hear (that you probably hear as well) about getting published is to stick within the rules. If a magazine says that they only accept 40,000 word Antebellum erotica, your short story about a depressed man trying to find himself is probably getting thrown in the trash bin.

To an extent, this is true. When I first started submitting stories, I would submit to a lot of places that just weren’t a good fit. My work didn’t stand a chance. I see the same thing at the Belmont Story Review.

On the other hand, several of my stories have been picked up despite blatantly violating the rules. While it’s true that some of these have been at smaller magazines that might be less picky, I think the explanation more has to do with the spirit behind the rules.

Bards and Sages has an article on the pitfalls of first person narration. The article essentially says that, while they have nothing against the POV in and of itself, they’ve found that it runs the risk of turning into one long monologue or telling instead of showing.

Now, my story is far from perfect, but it avoids these main problems which is why they were still willing to publish me even though I’d gone against their guidelines.

Similarly, while reading Fabula Argentea, I thought that their sense of humor was a good match for mine, which was probably why they decided to publish “A Suicide Note” despite their wariness of Anthropomorphism.

So pay attention to the rules, but don’t be afraid to bend them if you think your story is a good fit, and be sure to think about the spirit behind the rules and not just the rules themselves.


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