Nocturne Magazine publishes fiction to 7,500 words, flash fiction to 1,000 words, art and errata in the horror genre. “We want something that makes us stay awake at night. Or have strange dreams. Or wake up still thinking about your piece while we drink our morning coffee. We don’t just want “eww,” or “yikes.” We want to scroll through your submission with trembling fingers.” Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: Why did you start this magazine?
Hannah Kludy: We started this magazine because we love horror. It's my personal favorite genre to read, and often writing that is seen as just "entertaining" is looked down upon. I wanted to help showcase that horror writing can be just as good as literary writing, and that talented contributors everywhere are creating great stuff.
Morgan Wagle: I think I’m speaking for both of us here when I say that we wanted to provide a place for horror writers and artists to be published. I’ve noticed there are a TON of literary magazines, but many of them do not accept horror and other speculative fiction. There are many talented horror creators out there and we were absolutely blown away by the number of submissions we received and the quality of the work. We had originally planned to have a submission period open for 11 months of the year, but we received hundreds of submissions in less than two months and chose to close our submission period early. To me, this just proves that there are many horror artists and writers who are hungry to find a home for their work.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
HK: I look for nuance. I feel like we get so caught in tropes, and there is comfort in that. It's predictable and therefore less scary. I like submissions that subvert expectations, have interesting characters, and put me off. The last bit is tough to nail, but that feeling of unease I got from our final selections was really something.
MW: For fiction, besides the absolute bare minimum of good writing and a story that makes sense, the three things that really set a submission apart is
Emotional impact (Some of these stories have literally given me goosebumps and made me gasp, comment, or laugh out loud.)
Beautiful language AND a compelling plot line (Many of the stories seem to be so “literary” and ambiguous that they have little or no plot OR the stories with an interesting plot just don’t have good writing. If your submission can feel “literary” and have an actual beginning, middle, and end--bonus points for a plot twist that I don’t see coming--then I will most likely fall in love with it.)
A story that stays with me (If I can’t get your story out of my head even days later, it’s likely an automatic acceptance. It’s difficult to explain exactly why this happens, but I think most stories that have this effect on me correlate to real life somehow and get me thinking about society and human nature. A horror story that successfully explores identity, societal expectations, relationships, etc. is most likely to stick with me.)
For art and poetry, it really boils down to emotional impact for me.
SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?
HK: I would say resorting to gore, torture porn, or abuse/assault as the only motivation or horror element turns me off. If you have nothing other to offer me besides sexual assault to terrify me, I'm unimpressed by the lack of imagination. Plus, it can be painful for some readers, especially if it's gratuitous.
MW:The absolute worst thing a submitter could do is to submit work that does not adhere to our guidelines. This happens way more often than you would think. Other than that, submissions that are written poorly or use shock factor purely for the sake of trying to shock the reader (spoiler alert: it never works and will earn you an automatic rejection). Also, I’m not a fan of submissions that use dramatic irony throughout the entire story and reveal “the twist” that I saw coming multiple pages before. If the story exists just for a plot twist, it’s just fatiguing for everybody involved.
SQF: What do you look for in the opening paragraph(s)/stanza(s) of a submission?
HK: I think it depends. When I'm reading poetry, I like a strong image or sensation, something that elicits a physical reaction from me. For prose, I like strong language and orientation. I like to know who is where, and feel grounded while not being bored.
MW: I think the opening paragraphs/stanzas are usually reflective of the rest of the piece, and I actually find that reading the opening paragraphs weeds out a lot of submissions. I feel like you can’t find any reason to accept a submission based on the first paragraph alone, but you can find reasons to reject a piece based on the first paragraph alone. Because of this, I actually look for reasons to reject the piece as opposed to reasons to keep the piece. The #1 reason for rejecting a piece at this point (for me) is stilted language, overly flowery language, or mediocre writing in general.
SQF: Could you briefly explain what types of work fall into the errata category?
HK: Errata was really our way of saying if it's not poetry or fiction, you don't need a label. We are open to pretty much anything. Sometimes this is non-fiction. Other times it's erasures or a mixture of visual art and poetry that the writer can't quite categorize in either box.
MW: Creating is a messy process, and not every work fits neatly into one category. A piece can still be publishing-worthy even though it may not be classified as fiction, poetry, or art. We are open to experimental works and felt that we needed a category to reflect that.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
HK: This is a good question! I wish you asked what things I find most frightening. For this, I'd say I am terrified of a good ghost story. Ghosts are so versatile, and there are so many cool things you can do with one. Ghost stories also leave a ton of room for characters to move around and bounce through time. I feel like it's almost a blank canvas, and when I read a good one, I get goosebumps.
MW: I wished you would have asked about our advice to writers! As a writer myself, rejection is totally normal, and it could happen for so many reasons (some not under your control). I say don’t let it get you down. Just keep writing and submitting! Also, I’ve looked back on pieces I’ve had rejected and I now understand why they were rejected when I hadn’t before. Continuing to write and hone your craft will do that to you. As an editor, I’d like to point out that many pieces we enjoyed just could not make the cut, given the set amount of space we have for one issue of Nocturne.
Thank you, Hannah and Morgan. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.