Flash Fiction Guidelines
With straight talk from Iain Muir, Flash Fiction Editor
What I'm looking for:
Aphelion is here to help authors gain experience and to give
stories exposure, but, above all, to entertain our
readers. The number one piece of advice I can give to inexperienced
authors is to tell a complete story about engaging
Some people think flash is easier than a short story, but I
find that the
opposite is true: you will have to work much harder to make a great
Generally speaking, you need to narrow your time frame and
focus for flash compared to a short story. You get about 200 words to
rope in the reader before he or she clicks on some other link, so don't
waste those words, especially in a flash story. Start strong, make your
character engaging, and give him, her, or it, a real, serious problem
They may or may not overcome that problem, but write the
ending in some way that makes the reader feel like they've learned or
shared something in reading about the experience.
Reach a satisfying resolution. Some authors think a flash
story should just be a moment in time, without a resolution. That's
simply not true. If you send me a story where you show the problem but
there's no end or solution to the problem, I feel gypped. I want to
read the rest of the story. I want to know why I've
invested in the characters, why I should care.
Leaving readers feeling unfulfilled (or 'hanging') isn't a
good thing, so think about your plot before you submit. It is a good
idea to have the ending in mind before you start. I like tales with a
twist to them, where the author seems to be building to one thing, but
ends with another. That may just be my preference.
Have more than one character, and have dialogue. It's not
impossible to sell me on a story without either of these things, but
If you need examples of what I am describing, look in our
forum under Fun and Games. For more than 10 years we have run a Flash
Fiction writing challenge that anyone may enter, and all the entries
are archived for your reading pleasure in two indexes with clickable
links. There are over 500 flash pieces there for you to choose from.
Aphelion will accept original stories with a science fiction,
fantasy, or horror theme. Note, however, that the boundaries of
'science fiction', 'fantasy', and 'horror' are nebulous things, and we
have been known to stretch the point.
We will accept only prose stories in this section. Luckily, if
you feel that way inclined, there is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Aphelion is an all-ages magazine, and I will edit to a PG-13
level. (Think to yourself, 'Could I say this on ABC late at night?') If
you feel your story needs to contain large amounts of profanity and
'adult situations', this is not your market.
Stories that, in the opinion of the editors, contain bigotry
or slander will not be published.
We will not accept fan fiction stories because of the risk of
copyright infringement this often entails. Fan fiction, of course, is
anything that involves copyrighted characters or institutions,
including (but not limited to) Star Trek (TM); Star Wars (TM); or the
works of Tolkein, Rowling, or other poular authors. Seriously folks,
I'm not arguing with lawyers over 'fair use.'
No simultaneous submissions. I hate
spending an hour getting your story ready only to have it go to someone
else, so just don't do it. Plus, I will remember you, and not in a good
Aphelion asks only the right to publish the work once in our
webzine and all other rights are kept by the author. We ask to be able
to archive the published work, but will remove a work from the archive
at the authors request (so as not to interfere with potentially paying
markets). From time to time, we may run 'best of' selections, in which
we may re-run previously published material. If you do not wish to
allow your work to be included for consideration in this manner, please
let us know.
After you've done all the above and sent me your best work, I spend a
lot of time fixing it up and formatting it for the magazine. Next, I
send you an acceptance letter with a link to your story as it will
appear in the magazine. DO NOT reply back with an
all-new version of the same story that you want me to use instead. Did
you think I'd be happy to know that I've now wasted an hour on your
work and should now do it all over again?
Are you insane?
Editors are busy.Your story will be
pulled, your new version dumped back in the slush pile, and once again,
I will remember you… but in a crabby way.
"All right" is two words. "Already" is one.
"Alot" is not a word.
There is no legitimate reason to start a sentence with the
word "And." Really.
Punctuation goes inside the quote marks.
Spell check and proofread your story. Let me repeat that: SPELL CHECK and PROOFREAD.
you use italics in every paragraph, I swear I will not even
finish reading your story. A little goes a long way.
you feel inclined to "help" with formatting, please do not
use smart quotes. We use the inch and foot symbols because some older
browsers won't show smart quotes correctly. Replace ellipses(...) with
three periods, and use a space after them when trailing a thought off,
and EM dashes "—" don't always show up properly, so we
replace those with "--" every time.
do not try to put in the html tags.
of ten people do it wrong, and then I have to redo them, which makes
the job longer and more frustrating.
not use extra lines between paragraphs. They’re the first
thing I delete.
go over all these things in your story anyway, but do
yourself a favour. The content of the story is the deciding factor on
whether or not we'll accept it, but the easier you make it on an
editor, the more inclined he or she will be to approach your tale in a
have a lot to do and day jobs, too, so fixing your
stream of consciousness without capital letters or punctuation isn't
something I'll consider. (Unless you tell me up front
that there is a
reason it is written that way...)
stories (1,000 words or less) should be sent to email@example.com.
stories (1,001 to 7,500 words) should be sent to
Stories longer than 7,500 words should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mare Inebrium stories should be sent directly to the
senior editor and publisher of Aphelion, Dan Hollifield, at email@example.com.
poetry submissions should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
will receive copyright notices at the end of each
story, and a short biography. If you do not supply a bio, don't be
surprised if I make up a humorous one. Aphelion will also provide an
optional link to your homepage and an e-mail link at the end of each
story. Include the bio and URLs with your submission!
cover letter should state that you are submitting the
manuscript to Aphelion and should contain a brief biographical sketch.
One or two sentences will be enough, more if you are so inclined. If
it’s longer than your story, I will edit it. If you
have published other work, please list the most recent ones, preferably
work in the same genre as the story you are submitting.
all stories as an attachment in Rich Text Format
(.rtf), and not as text posted into the body of an email. If you can't
do .rtf, then use word .doc.
length of story in words
your email address & bio information
By (Your Pen Name)
1) include a title for your story.
2) indicate your byline beneath the title.
3) place the words "The End" at the end of the story so I will know
that I have received everything.
You should receive a response within two months. Aphelion editors
day jobs, so don't be surprised if it takes longer, but if it gets to
double that time, send me an email so I can be sure I didn't copy it
into the wrong folder or something like that.
practical terms, there's a limit to the number of stories
an editor can get ready in a month. There's a steady flow of them
coming in, and we have to balance helping authors learn and
needs, and time available. Some stories are rejected because they're
not the right fit for our audience. Others are refused because I have
already enough tales that I feel will better entertain our readers, and
those are the ones I need to focus my available time on.
is not personal if you are rejected. I'm an author and I
hate rejections, too. Keep trying with another story.