Updated July 2023
The editors of literary journals receive hundreds (if not thousands!) of submissions from talented writers every reading period—so if you want to boost your odds of getting published, it’s important to stand out from the crowd. Editors are looking for fresh, new writing to share with their readership. To help your short story, personal essay, or poetry grab attention, the professional submission strategists at Writer’s Relief have some advice: Know what’s trending with literary journal editors.
How do you keep up with literary journal trends? Read, read, read! Check out journals you’re interested in online, or subscribe to print issues and support the publication. If you notice the poetry journals you’re interested in all focus on free verse poetry, it won’t make sense to submit rhyming poems. On the other hand, if a literary journal has just published a theme issue featuring pandemic stories or works about grief or climate change, steer clear of these topics. The editor will be looking for something original and different for upcoming issues.
Trending Now At Literary Journals: Here’s What Editors Want
The competition to get published in literary journals is fierce, so be sure to submit only your very best writing. Your work should draw readers in and keep them invested. Dazzle your audience with vivid verbs, strong characterization, and an irresistible hook, but keep the basics in mind: proofreading, editing, and formatting are also important. You want to give your writing every possible advantage and make it easy for a literary editor to say yes to your submission.
Whether you’re writing about a niche subject or highlighting minority experiences, literary journals are eager to shine a spotlight on diversity in the stories, essays, and poetry they publish. Many literary journal editors do their best to ensure that minority viewpoints are well-represented. Works pertaining to sexuality, gender, race, class, and social issues have been especially in vogue with literary editors.
But don’t throw minority characters into your work as a “token.” And if you’re writing a character whose race, heritage, or gender identity is different from your own, be sure to research thoroughly—you don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes.
Editors want stories with convincing, three-dimensional characters that readers can relate to. This doesn’t mean your characters have to be likeable; readers often enjoy delving into the mind of a villain. You can create realistic, believable characters by including physical attributes, backstories, distinctive voices, and even some flaws.
New Takes On Popular Tropes
Readers and editors are always interested in an unexpected twist on a familiar trope. There are only so many archetypes available when it comes to literature, but the way you turn a well-loved trope into something different will keep your audience interested. Think of a surprising twist you can add to grab your readers’ attention. Maybe the prince loses his shoe while running from the dance, or your frightening monster character turns out to be the least monstrous of everyone.
Knowing what’s trending with literary journal editors can help you target your writing submissions and improve your chances of resonating with readers and getting accepted. Of course, you should always write about what matters to you and feels right—don’t write what you’re not interested in just to try to get published. Your work won’t be genuine, and that will come through.
And if the idea of researching many, many journals in order to stay up to date with trends sounds exhausting, the experts at Writer’s Relief are ready to help! We’ll do the research for you and pinpoint the best literary journals for your work! In fact, 90 percent of our poetry and short prose clients have been published, and some have been nominated for awards like the Pushcart Prize or Best of the Net. Learn more about how we can help you boost your odds of getting published, and submit your writing sample to our Review Board today!
Question: Which of these trending elements do you use in your writing?