My Twisted Writer Brain…

Literary and Genre Fiction Short Stories: The Differences and How it Can Impact Your Writing

To have your short stories published or win a contest can really be positive for your writer portfolio and add credibility to your writing career.

To be published in a reputable literary journal is a real coup.

The field is very competitive but with hard work and a lot of reading, you can learn the craft.

Knowing the difference is important. There’s no use sending off some jaunty romantic comedy to a literary magazine. The submission fees will end up being a waste of money. It’s the same with contests. If you write sci-fi and the contest is an artsy-fartsy magazine whose name you can even pronounce, well, I’d say the writings on the wall. Know your audience.

Short stories are very popular to read and write. Many successful authors including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, and Celeste Ng, just name a few, also pen short stories.

Short stories are a challenge and those in the industry do respect authors who can do it well.

The one thing I found with my short stories is that they are not literary enough but I’m getting more proficient at the craft and am able to go in different directions.

What I learned is short stories that tend more towards the literary end of the spectrum are more internal and focused.

Literary also leans more toward the arts and the meaning of things behind the obvious.

If you read literary short stories you’ll see the difference. Some of them are too cryptic and “out there” even for me but I do enjoy a deep and well-honed character that I can try to understand. relate to, and cheer for.

A short story that steps away from a literary form happens when genre sneaks in. Whether it be romance or thriller, a genre has certain criteria like love or crime/suspense etc.

This is a more entertaining form of writing the short story and perhaps would be considered more commercial than literary.

With literary fiction I’m learning to examine more the mundane and ordinary in life and what it means in the larger scheme of the story surrounding it. Do check out some of the classics like The Lottery or Girls in Summer Dresses. Such ordinary thoughts with extraordinary consequences.

No matter which way your stories may lean, just keep writing. Genre is great too.

But for literary short stories, read a lot of journals. It can really help you focus your writing.

Here are some places for short stories.

The New Yorker


The Atlantic

Grain Magazine

Fireside Magazine

The Antigonish Review

Prairie Fire

Room Magazine

Quill and Quire

The Fiddlehead

If you have aspirations for literary short stories start reviewing and reading literary journals.

Have fun and enjoy the process.

6 thoughts on “Literary and Genre Fiction Short Stories: The Differences and How it Can Impact Your Writing”

  1. I haven’t written a short story in years, but you’re right; they are a difficult skill to master. Congratulations to you for having the fortitude to do it.

    1. Hi Billie. Yes, short stories are a challenge but it sure feels great when you can nail it. Thanks so much for the vote of confidence. xo

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