Duotrope is an amazing site that lists short fiction markets. It costs $5 a month, but comes with a free week trial. After using it for a month, I’m absolutely convinced that it’s worth it.

Ten years ago, when I was a journalism student at university, we talked about querying magazines. No distinction was made between non-fiction or fiction, so I assumed it was the universal process. And it sounded grueling. Find a magazine. Research it. Brainstorm ideas. Pitch ideas. Pitch. Pitch. Pitch. Find someone that actually wants you to write what you pitched. Write it. Continue forever.

It turns out–either because I’m now doing fiction or because it’s 2014–it doesn’t work that way. You send short stories directly to markets, with little to no fuss and no querying at all. And thanks to Duotrope’s Theme and Deadline calendar, you don’t even have to brainstorm what to write. You just plug in your genre and it’ll list markets that are requesting specific themes and when their deadlines are. Here. I plugged in Fiction and Fantasy a few weeks ago. Here are a few results:

Screenshot from Duotrope's Theme and Deadline calendar, showing several upcoming deadlines for different fantasy markets.

Duotrope’s Theme and Deadline calendar.

Bam. Minimal thinking required. Does “Sea Monsters” sound like something you want to write about? (Obviously I did, which is why I’m tracking it.) Just look up that publication, see what they’re looking for, write it, and submit it. Done.

This is a long shot from the old process of “research, pitch, pray.” This is like writing assignments. All you have to do is check out upcoming deadlines, track whatever seems useful, and write to those deadlines. Easy-peasy.