top of page



BIG FICTION : ESSAY submission tips

*Write in the present tense. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but past-tense writing tends to slog (quickly) and read as passive.

*Offer an early scene — exposition loses us, and it loses sight of what you intended. Show us the someone, the doing, the thing at the heart of the piece. Don't just tell us something is going to happen later.

*Your first paragraph as an invitation to engage in an empathic conversation, so do the things that invite us in. We don’t want to be overly prescriptive, but think about things that turn people off in a normal conversation (rambling, being pretentious or overly aggressive, not making space for another perspective, etc.), and then don’t do those things.

*An essay's narrator learns something, understand something, she didn’t before, and the reader should be on this journey with her. Earn your insights. If they come from nowhere, have we been on this journey, too?


*Avoid vague language like “I found it kind of interesting” or “there was just something about her” — show us that interesting thing — show us her face.

*Better to send a slightly longer piece than one that is very short; we are trying to fill a niche market for longer works, so a shorter work will fit another journal better already.

*If we have a stated theme for submissions, such as “Fictions of America,” make your piece more obviously fit that theme. Don't hope we catch the connections to it.

*Have a strong arc — don’t give it all away in the cover letter, the first paragraph, or, conversely, make us wait through several pages for something to happen.

*Construct your characters in such a way that we make our own assessments about how sympathetic, insightful, or honest they are; to guide our experience, illustrate them in your prose, doing and saying things, so we see the qualities you want us to see in them.

*While different in length requirements, focus, and format, the New York Times “Modern Love” column shares many of our values about what makes for a strong essay. Here’s our favorite, straight from their page:  

"[T]he qualities of a successful personal essay are the same as those exhibited by people who tend to have successful relationships (which isn't the same thing as saying that good writers have good relationships- if only!). Likewise, the flaws of each are the same.

    Good qualities for both essays and relationships:
•    Honest
•    Generous
•    Open-minded
•    Curious
•    Expansive


    Bad qualities for both essays and relationships:
•    Dishonest
•    Withholding
•    Blaming
•    Secretive
•    Petty
•    Dismissive
•    Egotistical  ('Modern Love' Tips)"

Please look at their submission tips for more information about how to give your longer-form essay its best chance with us.


bottom of page