Sinking My Teeth Into Publishing, Part 2: Knowing What I Have… In Context

Dissecting a creative product

In the previous post we talked about how to look at your story. We narrowed down the genre and word count.

It’s important to note that different genres have their own sub-categorizations. These are somewhat subjective. For horror, it’s the level of gore. The spectrum ranges from bloodless, psychologically-driven horror to screams and mutilations and organs flying everywhere. Horror magazines often specify a range they are looking for.

My story “Teeth” has body parts (disembodied teeth) and implied blood and violence. While I would be hesitant to submit it outside if the horror genre, it definitely doesn’t belong in a magazine that calls for supernatural creatures like vampires or werewolves. This is the list of elements I’ve come up with for the horror genre:

  • sub-genre: weird fiction
  • gore level: mild
  • supernatural elements: none
  • magical creatures: none
  • level of psychological horror – ???
  • influences – none (no parallels to HP Lovecraft, etc)

A writer has to be familiar with the categorizations of their market. Horror had gore, romance has steaminess. How sexual is the story? The gamut runs from clean romance to erotica. Many romance markets also ask for a “happily-ever-after” ending, or at least a “happy-for-now”. Science fiction has “hardness”, or how science-y the story is. A cutoff I see a lot is editors not wanting stories where faster-than-light space travel is “as easy as it looks on TV”. Another sci-fi one is how far into the future your story takes place – are we talking grand space opera set thousands of years away, like Star Wars, or a world like ours with slightly more advanced technology, like Black Mirror?

Fantasy is all over the place. I feel like I could do an entire post on any of these genres, and maybe five on fantasy alone. To be fair, I’ve done a lot more research on fantasy markets.

Speaking of research…

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