Bartleby Snopes’ guidelines include a list of "Things That Generally Turn Us Off" that's worth bearing in mind wherever you send your stories -
- Stories written in present tense (especially third person present tense)
- Stories with graphic dead baby scenes
- Stories about writers
- Stories about struggling marriages
- Stories set in bars
- Stories with more backstory than plot
- Stories with undeveloped characters
- Stories that are overly reflective
- Stories that rely heavily on second person usage
Comma Press have so many dislikes that I can only list a few here -
- Coming of age stories
- Stories about ordinary, mundane days/existences in which suddenly something happens to change everything
- Stories that aim for complete thematic unity (as though the writing of them was a jigsaw puzzle to be completed) above surprise or delight
- Stories about a) student life; b) splitting up with a partner; c) taking drugs; d) unlikely travel/rave experiences
- Stories whose justification in a workshop scenario might be 'this really happened'
- If you're writing from a female perspective: writing about 'going mad for a bit and having lots of dangerous sex with unwholesome types'
- If you're writing from a male perspective: writing about breaking out of humdrum, conventional existences/work; getting stoned; wild irresponsible nights with unhinged mates; meeting salt-of-the-earth old blokes in pubs who, while not having the education of the protagonist, have home-spun wisdom to impart and are prone to saying 'bloody heck'; feeling intellectually superior.
Jonathan Franzen wrote -
- Fiction that isn't an author's personal adventure into the frightening or the unknown isn't worth writing for anything but money
- Write in the third person unless a really distinctive first-person voice offers itself irresistibly.
But before you start rewriting, consider the Guardian’s review of the “Best British Short Stories 2015” anthology where they write that “It would appear that – going by this collection and scrutinising the author biographies – your chances of appearing in Best British Stories 2016 will be given a boost by"
- being a woman
- having a connection with the north west
- writing your story in the present tense
- be a bit weird, or uncanny