Flash Fiction Guidelines
With straight talk from
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 characters. Some
people think flash is easier than a short, but it is the opposite. You
will have to work much harder to make a great flash piece.
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 likable
engaging, and give him, her, or it, a real, serious problem to overcome.
They may or may not overcome that problem, but write the ending in some
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 I've
invested in the characters, why I'm caring. Leaving readers feeling
unfulfilled isn't a good thing, so think about your plot before you
Have more than one character and have dialog. It's not impossible to
sell me on a story without either of these things, but good luck.
If you need examples of what I am describing, look in our forum
under Fun and Games. For 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 and will not accept fan fiction stories because of the
risk of copyright infringement this often entails. Note, however,
that the boundaries of 'science fiction', 'fantasy', and 'horror' are
nebulous things, and we have been known to stretch the point.
Fan fiction, of course, is anything that involves copyrighted
characters or institutions, including (but not limited to) Star Trek
Wars (TM), etc., etc. No erotica, and we will accept only prose stories in this section.
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 all those 4-letter
words, send it somewhere else. Aphelion is an all-ages magazine.
Stories that, in the opinion of the editors, contain bigotry or
slander will not be published.
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 way.
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, then 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
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.
Also, there is no legitimate reason to start a sentence with the word "And." Really.
Punctuation goes inside
the quote marks, not after.
SPELL CHECK and PROOFREAD your story. Let me repeat that: SPELL CHECK and PROOFREAD.
If you use italics in every paragraph, I swear I will
not even finish reading your story. A little goes a long way.
'Helping' me out:
If you feel inclined to "help" with formatting, don't use smart quotes.
We use the inch and foot symbols because some older browsers won't show
smart quotes right. Replace ellipses(...) with three periods, and use a
space after them when trailing a thought off, like... Hyphens and
EM dashes "—" don't always show up right, so we replace those with "--"
every time. Don't try to put in the html tags. Nine
people out of ten do it wrong, and then I have to redo them, which
irritates me. Don't use extra lines between paragraphs. The system does
I go over all these things in your story anyway, but do yourself a
favor. 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 happy mood.
Editors 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.
Short stories (1,001 to 7,500 words) should be sent to Kate Stuart at
Flash stories (1,000 words or less) should be sent to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stories longer than 7,500 words should be sent to Lester Curtis at
All Mare Inebrium stories should be sent directly to the
senior editor and publisher of Aphelion, Dan Hollifield
All poetry submissions should be sent to Iain Muir at email@example.com
Writers will receive copyright notices at the end of each story,
short biography. If you do not supply a bio, don't be surprised if I
make a humorous one up. 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!
The 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 you have published other work, please list
the most recent ones, preferably work in the same genre as the
story you are submitting.
Submit all stories as an attachment in Rich Text Format (.rtf), and not
as text posted into the body of an email. The latest versions
of Word have been giving the old versions owned by the Flash Editor a
lot of headaches. If you can't do .rtf, then use word .doc, but keep it
to the 1997-2003 standard.
length of story in words
your email address & bio information
By (Your Pen Name)
[Text left justified]
Always include a title for your story.
Always indicate your byline beneath the title.
Always place the words "The End" at the end of the story so we will
know that I have received everything.
Currently, response is within 2 months. Aphelion editors have 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.
In 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
got to balance helping authors learn and grow, audience 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
readers, and those are the ones I need to focus my available time on.
It is not personal if you are rejected. I'm an author and I hate
Keep trying with another story.