Double figure milestones

With Issue 10 being a big milestone for us, we took the opportunity to look back at the Firewords story so far. We've done the maths and totalled up a few fun stats of our 10 issues...

We've collaborated with 129 artists, illustrators, photographers and hand-letterers. All have been unique, talented and a joy to work with.

  • We've had the huge pleasure of being able to publish 200 writers over the years (and some multiple times!) It means so much that they all chose Firewords as a home for their work and the magazine wouldn't exist without them.

  • Working out the exact number of submissions is hard as many include several pieces (especially with poetry) but 5500+ submissions is a close estimate! It's hard to believe we've read so many stories and poems over the years. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to send some work our way.

  • We read submissions blind so gender isn't a consideration when choosing what to publish but we were happy to calculate that we've published a fairly balanced split so far with 55% female and 45% male. (These stats don’t include those who identify as neither male or female or those who didn’t state their gender when submitting) Publishing a diverse mix of voices is so important to us.

  • We love the global nature of this project and feel very honoured to have received submissions from 89 countries around the world 🌎

Thank you to everyone who has helped us reach this milestone and here’s to many more to come.

We will soon be opening submissions for Issue 11 (Wednesday 19th December), so if you’d like to be part of the story going forwards, why not send something our way?

What makes characters great?

What makes characters great?

Our last article looked at common mistakes with characters, but now we look at what writers are already doing particularly well and celebrate the worlds they have been able to create thanks to great characterisation. We will use our latest issue, Firewords9, to illustrate this and give real examples of great character development.

As always, good writing does not follow a prescribed tick list but...

Let's meet three characters to avoid

Let's meet three characters to avoid

Good characters really pop off the page, even when a story is driven more by plot and action. This can be achieved in a variety of ways (some of which we will look at in the next article) but sometimes writers struggle. Reflecting on the submissions received for Firewords 9, it is clear to see how important characterisation is.

Here, we talk about the three most common mistakes in character creation we see. It is not an exhaustive list but we hope you find it a good place to start. Even if you are full of confidence, do any of these apply to you?

Making New Year’s writing resolutions (and actually doing them)

Making New Year’s writing resolutions (and actually doing them)

What is it about the start of a new year that makes us want to change something about our lives? New Year’s resolutions are a great way of becoming motivated to make a positive change, but they are also renowned for being difficult to keep – according to U.S News, 80% of resolutions fail by February. This can be for many reasons, such as making too many or not making them realistic. So with the odds stacked against them, is there any point? And if so, how do we make them stick?...

5 reasons to submit to literary magazines

5 reasons to submit to literary magazines

If you’re relatively new to submitting your work to literary magazines – or you’ve been doing it for a while and are feeling jaded – it’s easy to wonder, why bother? It’s certainly not for the money; the unfortunate truth is most publications don’t have the budget to pay writers (us included) and those that do can often only provide a nominal amount. So, if it doesn’t pay the bills, what exactly is the point? Here are some of our favourite reasons and benefits...

How to generate story ideas

How to generate story ideas

For me, short stories and poetry take a lot of time and dedication to polish up to a standard whereby anyone but my nearest and dearest can read them. It was therefore surprising to me that, after writing the majority of this article, I could sit back and understand that my best story ideas do not come from a place where I’ve painstakingly honed my skill (as if!). All the stories that I love (and stick with) originate from a place of fun...

How artwork brings writing to life

How artwork brings writing to life

This week, I am extremely excited to be writing an article about the illustrations used in Firewords. I deal with the proofreading and editorial side of each issue so I approach the illustrations as an enthusiastic reader. This article will come from the eyes of a novice. It will describe what illustrations can bring to the ordinary reader who wants to enjoy a good story or poem at bedtime, over a cuppa, on the train on the way to work or relaxing on a park bench.

To demonstrate this, I have used a few examples from the recently published Firewords 8. Unfortunately I cannot mention all our artists below.

The cover art

Each edition of Firewords has a particular theme and this is encapsulated by the cover. It sets the tone for each story and poem, no matter if it is dark or light-hearted. Take the cover of Firewords 8 by Luisa Rivera, for example...

Crafting the perfect story – Part 3: The ending

Crafting the perfect story – Part 3: The ending

In part 1 and 2 of this series, we looked at the beginning and the middle of effective short stories. Now it’s time to jump to the ending.

All we hope to do here is give examples of the kind of endings you could use. However, whatever you choose will completely depend on the entire context of the story you have written. The list below is quite comprehensive but endings come in all shapes and sizes, so something completely different may better suit your piece. For each ending, we’ll also be using example stories from the latest edition of Firewords.

The twist ending    

This kind of ending is one that takes the reader completely by surprise. Often (though not always!) the success or failure of this kind of story hinges on hoodwinking your reader. Here a real challenge arises...

Strong verbs for powerful writing

Strong verbs for powerful writing

Those of you who read our article about the middle of short stories and how important it is to keep reader engagement will remember that we touched on the significance of strong verbs. These can be replaced by writers who think it is more effective to use adverbs say, for example, ‘He laughed heartily’, when using one great verb to say ‘He guffawed’ would in fact be far more effective. Like everything in the world of writing, there is no hard-and-fast rule as to when to replace an adverb with a verb but we did think it was an area that was often overlooked and was worth revisiting.

I will firstly make a comparison between well-chosen verbs and adverbs, and then mention why I believe it is important to make the right choice when deciding on the verb to use...

Crafting the perfect story – Part 2: The middle

Crafting the perfect story – Part 2: The middle

This is part 2 of a series of articles about the different elements of a short story. If you followed Part 1, you’ve now got a strong opening and the reader is in the palm of your hand. The middle can be difficult to get right because it’s the meat of the story. The start and end are exciting – you can begin and close with a bang – but if the middle fails to engage the reader, a strong beginning and ending are useless.

If the middle of your story is weak, here are three options to consider that could spice it up and ensure your reader remains engaged...

Make your reader feel something

Make your reader feel something

Writing with a good degree of sentimentality is a tricky thing for any writer to do well. There is a fine line to walk between being sickeningly sweet and turning your back on emotion altogether. These two pitfalls, which we see regularly, are:

  1. Writing for sentimentality’s sake. Here, the writer seems more concerned about the effect on the reader than the content of the story. The images used to convey emotion are carefully constructed, yet the reader is aware of the construction...

Crafting the perfect story – Part 1: The beginning

Crafting the perfect story – Part 1: The beginning

This is the first of a series of articles in which we split the short story form into 3 parts: the beginning, the middle and the end. Each is important to get right in order to grab your reader’s attention, keep them entertained and make the whole thing worth their while. No pressure then!

We’re starting in a logical place with arguably the most important sentence of your whole short story: the very first one. Crafting the perfect beginning to a story is an art form in itself and should not be taken lightly...

Why we don't care if you've never been published before

Why we don't care if you've never been published before

In the last episode of the Firewords podcast we talked all about the submission process and everything it involves. The following question was one we received afterwards, asking us to delve deeper on a specific point.

“You mentioned past publishing credits briefly in this week’s podcast but I just wanted to ask a few follow-up questions as it’s something I’ve been struggling with lately. I haven’t had work published in many magazines yet, so will this make me look less desirable as a writer that editors will want to publish? And when I do build up more credits, should I just list them all when submitting?” - Sarah A

In short, ‘no’ to both questions. However...

Tighten your writing with active voice

Tighten your writing with active voice

‘Write with an active voice’ is advice that is often doled out, but what does it mean? Even if you know this already, brushing up on the basics is never a bad thing.

Most verbs, or at least those that are related to something or someone (known as transitive verbs), have both an active and passive form. Both of these are correct ways of using the verb, but it's definitely beneficial to know the difference between the two and why active is almost always better...

Simultaneous submissions: An editor’s perspective

Simultaneous submissions: An editor’s perspective

This week’s article is going to come with a mainly editorial, rather than writer’s, hat on. It’s important to know that we expect some short stories to be submitted to other publications as well as to Firewords. We don’t think it’s right for a journal to demand any kind of exclusivity before they have even read a piece, which is why we accept simultaneous submissions. A writer wants to utilise their time effectively and capitalise on their chances of success, so if an editor is too slow to read it and misses out, then too bad.

First off, what are simultaneous submissions? It means a writer is submitting the same piece of work to multiple publishers at the same time but is offering exclusive rights to the ‘winning’ publication, so when they receive an offer of acceptance then they must be willing to negate all other publishers’ offers...

Word count woes: How long is the perfect short story?

Word count woes: How long is the perfect short story?

The word count range that a short story fits into is a hard one to pin down. They can range anywhere from a couple of hundred to 10,000 words and up. But where does a short become flash at the lower end, and when does it become a novella at the high end?

Edgar Allen Poe liked to a class a short story by its suitability to be read in one sitting. That’s quite a nice way to look at it, but how do you quantify one sitting? Does that mean as long as the reader stays engaged? Obviously everyone is different and attention spans vary wildly...

Blurring the line between fact and fiction

Blurring the line between fact and fiction

It’s great to write from your own experience; true events that are unique to you and that no one can take away. This is not about perfectionism in writing but about having fun and enjoying the memories of experiences you have had, even if doing so is far from perfect. Only last week, I wrote about my own fond memories from my travels. The trip itself was one that many people have done before but my experience was nonetheless unique. For me, this was due to a relationship and the strength of character I saw in my travelling companion.

Beware, though. This emotional connectivity did lead me to a certain degree of clinginess. I did not want to edit my piece once it was written, did not want to cut it down, and I did not want to take out any passage, whether it be about a fox-bred dog or a crying child. I was too emotionally attached to the real life events and I only loved it because of the personal connection...