Can I submit a novel excerpt to magazines before my novel is finished?

Q: Can I submit a novel excerpt to magazines before my novel is finished? A: Some magazines and journals accept unsolicited submissions of novel excerpts, but most do not. Always read writers guidelines to see what individual publications look for. Some writers find that a portion of their novel can stand alone as a complete short …
Published: November 1, 2012


Brandi Reissenweber

Brandi Reissenweber

Q: Can I submit a novel excerpt to magazines before my novel is finished?

A: Some magazines and journals accept unsolicited submissions of novel excerpts, but most do not. Always read writers guidelines to see what individual publications look for.

Some writers find that a portion of their novel can stand alone as a complete short story and submit that. Technically, it is an excerpt, but it also functions as a complete work and fits the bill of a short story. Journals and magazines are open to this practice, and it can be a good way to build anticipation for your novel. But keep in mind: The story has to be its own entity. It cannot rely on other parts of the novel to make sense or feel satisfy-ing and complete.

Flip to the copyright page of some novels, and you’ll find acknowledgment of those previous publications. Will Allison published several portions of his novel What You Have Left as short stories, as did Jennifer Egan for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Visit From the Goon Squad. Dean Bako-poulos’ short story Please Don’t Come Back From the Moon is the first chapter of his novel of the same title.

At most magazines and journals, copyright reverts back to the author upon publication. Make sure that’s the case if you get an acceptance for this kind of short story. Be aware of what rights you’re giving up, so that you don’t give up the right to publish that section as part of your novel.

Brandi Reissenweber teaches fiction writing and reading fiction at Gotham Writers’ Workshop and authored the chapter on characterization in Gotham’s Writing Fiction: The Practical Guide . Her work has been published in numerous journals, including Phoebe, North Dakota Quarterly and Rattapallax. She was a James C. McCreight Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and has taught fiction at New York University, University of Wisconsin and University of Chicago. Currently, she is a visiting professor at Illinois Wesleyan University.

Send your questions on the craft of creative writing to writingquestions@writermag.com . Check out Brandi’s other Ask The Writer columns in our archives!