Looks like my original post vanished - so here it is again:
I've been helping out over at Litopia, reading submissions for the forthcoming Litopia Anthology to be produced by Nemesis Publishing, and it's proving to be a very interesting and insightful experience.
Needless to say, since all the stories have been submitted by Litopians who have passed the assessment process to achieve full membership the writing quality is high. So none of the stories I'm rejecting are as a result of poor writing.
In fact, before I started this process I was concerned that it would be very difficult to whittle the stories down. But this is in fact not the case.
The really good stories stand out. The suck you in from the first line and before you know you've reached a satisfying end. They go straight through to the next round.
But the ones I reject are let down by two very simple things - story and structure.
The commonest problem I'm finding is submissions that aren't really a story. They are just a vignette, a scene, a snapshot. There's no character arc, no real beginning and no end. They may be beautifully written vignettes. But a short story has to be a complete entity in its own right. These are just a scene that could easily be part of something larger.
The other flaw I'm seeing is stories that are summaries of stories, more like a synopsis. I don't want to read a synopsis - I want to read the story itself!
If you want to know a bit more about possible problems with short stories do check out this earlier post of mine on common short story mistakes.