Last time I muddled around and vaguely answered the question "What are editors looking for." This post won't be so vague. After working on two different literary journals, there are some things I see over and over again. Things I'm honestly tired of seeing.
However, before I go on, keep in mind that this is just my opinion. Others might differ. As I said in my previous post, write what you're passionate about. If you're writing what you love, then it honestly doesn't matter what I think.
So here it is. A list of things I'm tired of seeing in short stories.
1) Stories about drug/alcohol abuse. Really, I don't know why people seem to think it's literary. It's not. It's overdone and it's boring.
2) Stories that are just a slice of life where nothing really happens. There's no character growth, no tension. It's just a snapshot of someone's life. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Stories need tension! It's what draws a reader in and keeps them reading. Short stories especially need tension. You might get away with a slice of life scene in a novel (although even there I'd argue you need a reason for it) but not in a short story. If it's not moving the story/characters forward, cut it.
3) Sex or violence for the sake of sex or violence. As with drugs/alcohol it's not literary. It's not shocking. It's overdone and boring.
4) Stories where a character dwells on the description of a grandparent's hands. I don't know why people keep writing about this, but they do.
5) Priests / ministers abusing (sexually or otherwise) children. I know it happens, and it's horrible when it does, but there are sooo many short stories about this topic that the plot is becoming predictable. Really, as soon as a priest / minister shows up in a story I know he's going to be the bad guy. You know what I'd like to see? A short story where a priest / minister is just human like the rest of us. He or she is neither all bad nor all good. That's something I haven't seen.
6) Stories that are too concerned with making a point (political, religious or otherwise) and forget about everything else. By all means write a political or religious story, but make sure you remember you're writing a STORY.
7) Finally, stories that are submitted before you've fully mastered the craft of writing. Please, do yourself a favor and learn the craft. Research proper manuscript format. Use it. Make sure you are always sending out your best work.
Now get back to writing!