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From the Hive Mind

Our editors answer the question: what is a common mistake you see authors making that keeps their stories from getting acquired?


Too much narrative, extraneous detail, backstory, not enough conflict or resolution, and flat characters. Drop the reader into the action at the first sentence, and make them feel what the characters feel. We also get stories where the characters don’t have names—not even the main characters. ~Andra Marquardt, Fantasy Friday Editor

A solid story arc, with believable characters will stand a better chance. Too many characters, too many plots, and too many flowery words are confusing in flash fiction. You only have a thousand words, so tighten them and make them shine. While restricting the story to one POV and keeping your verb tenses consistent will help, maintaining a strong, clear plot is the the most important thing. ~Cathy Hinkle, Thriller Thursday Editor

Stories that feel like they are trying to be transcending with brilliant language. But they are confusing, choppy, and don’t focus well on the story. It is probably the curse of ever writer to try and write one of those stories. I’ve done it too so I understand the desire. Focusing on telling the story and letting it develop naturally is way better and more engaging. Those deep messages will come through too when it happens with real, honest characters and storytelling. ~Rachel Harris, Techno Tuesday Editor

Writing nameless and/or faceless characters who act as merely conduits for the events to be seen through instead of unique agents by and to whom the events occur. ~Gen Gavel, Wacky Wednesday Editor

The story isn’t funny. ~Lauren Hildebrand, Wacky Wednesday Editor

Readers come to fiction for a powerful emotional experience. New writers often fail to plumb emotional depths. Naming an emotion, e.g., she was afraid is far less effective than using visceral responses to make us feel the fear. ~Kristen Steiffel, Anthology Editor

Not strong enough character arc(s), or the story falls flat due to the author not addressing loose ends well. ~Soleil Marie, Thriller Thursday Editor

Convoluted plotlines. Trying to make a plotline too fancy for the 1k words holding it is an immediate no-go. How can we enjoy the story if we have no idea what’s happening? Keep your plot straight foward (or, at the very least, understandable) and your story will have a much better chance at being acquired. ~Savannah Grace, Fantasy Friday Editor

For mystery, the story question must be specific. What happened to Professor Plum? Where is the murder weapon? Who stole the magic pendant? Not, “what the heck is going on here?” You can exploit vagueness in flash fiction to misdirect, but if you do it in such a way as to totally confused the reader, then you’ve gone too far. Make us wonder. Don’t make us want to bang our heads against the wall. ~Lisa Godfrees, Mystery Monday Editor


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