How to get published at Ploughshares.

ploughsharesIt seems clear that what you all want to know is, “How do I get published in Ploughshares?” So, lets start at the beginning. Literally.
If you want to get out of the slush pile, one of the worst things you can do is write a lackluster first paragraph. Don’t make the mistake of thinking: the really fine writing starts on page three of my story, and I’m sure they’ll appreciate it when they get there. By page three, I’m frustrated. If you want out of the slush pile, you must prove it from the first paragraph, from the first line.
In Curious Attractions: Essays on Fiction Writing, Debra Sparks says, “[A] lot of fine openings…make you think, ‘Wait, that can’t be right.’ They offer a moment of confusion that is interesting rather than discouraging…Often enough, slightly curious sentences deliver an image or line so fantastic that we feel the promise of a good story ahead.”
You can be sure that every manuscript selected for Ploughshares delivers on Sparks’ insight. Look at the first line from Joshua Howes’ story Grace in the latest issue: “It’s been a month now she’s been tutoring a dead girl on Park Avenue.” First sentence, first paragraph. I read hundreds of stories last year and I still remember that opening line.
Ploughshares receives over a thousand manuscripts a month and the reality is you must shine from the get go. It doesn’t have to be a killer first line but something special has to happen in that first paragraph. The 2012 winner of the Emerging Writers’ Fiction contest, Jasmine Sawers’, first line in The Culling was lovely — “The night boasts the first edge of an autumnal chill” — but it was the sum and total of the first paragraph that illustrates exactly what Sparks is talking about. If you haven’t read the story yet, you should.

Read the entire article by S. Banse here.

0 thoughts on “How to get published at Ploughshares.

  1. Certainly i am grabbed by this first line–“It’s been a month now she’s been tutoring a dead girl on Park Avenue.”, but if i was an editor I’d pass this one up quickly–“The night boasts the first edge of an autumnal chill.” It seems cliche personification, routine staging of the setting, and the word ‘autumnal’ grates my my mind’s pallette. But then again, i am not an editor and for good reason. lol.
    First sentences are important first impressions in both fiction and poetry and yeah, the first paragraph or stanza can be equally vital.
    Good article!

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