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Applause, ovations, confetti.

I actually did the *facepalm* gesture reading slush the other night.

I still love it, because I learn something from every single piece, even if it's just a reminder of what not to do.

I actually did the *facepalm* gesture reading slush the other night.

LOL, I know what you mean.

I still love it, because I learn something from every single piece, even if it's just a reminder of what not to do.

Absolutely! I really think anyone who wants to write seriously should spend some time reading slush.

I'm done with slush for a while. Hurray!

Bravo, thank you for posting this. (And this is coming from someone who's crowning achievement to date is a personal reject from Strange Horizons.)

Aren't those nice? :) I think non-writers don't really understand that--I got my very first ever personal reject--which was from Strange Horizons!--and I was so happy. And my mom said, "Well, but it was a rejection." And I said, "But it had a note! From Jed!" And she didn't get it.

That note remains a bright spot in my huge pile of editorial refusals.

(Found this via rachel_swirsky.)

This is marvelous. I'm mentally gearing-up to start the slushpile for the small-press antho I edit (<shameless_plug>Triangulation<shameless_plug>), and I may need to link to this in my submission guidelines.

I was amazed at how snobby I got. Like you, I did the semi-pro solidarity thing and always read much deeper into the story than I probably should have, and it almost never went well. If the story didn't have my complete attention by the end of page 1 (which is really only a half-page in standard manuscript format), it had dug a hole it was unlikely to get out of.

There were a few stories I wound up liking despite god-awful slow starts. I forget precisely how many there were, but I'm quite certain I can count them on one hand and still have fingers left over. (And this was out of ~300 submissions. Yes, my goofy little anthology that nobody has ever heard of and that aspires to someday have triple-digit circulation got about 300 submissions. "Buyers' Market" doesn't even begin to describe the conditions out there.) I even bought a few of them once the author had fixed the problem. There was one that I absolutely loved once it got going somewhere around page 4; that writer was adamant that no, it couldn't start on page 4, as the boring start was crucial to setting the tone. I nodded, respected his vision of the story and didn't argue with him, and asked him if he had anything else he'd like to submit because there was no conceivable way I was running that story as-is.

The other thing that surprised me was the general quality. There were a few lamentably hideous submissions (including one that had my assistant and I crying tears of bewildered joy when we realized the author was selling the reprint rights), but those were actually outnumbered by the stories that were good enough to buy. I quickly learned that a capable, well-written (but not dazzling) story based on an idea I was already very familiar with equaled instant inescapable death!!! Give me an story I've already read and you'd best knock me on my ass with your Neal-Stephenson-grade prose pyrotechnics, or you're getting rejected.

And the cover letters ... I developed a reflexive aversion to any story from a writer who felt compelled to list all of the one hundred markets they'd appeared in. (Very often I, a total short-fiction slut who has submitted to pretty much all of Ralan's pro markets and most of the paying ones to boot, had only heard of two of them.)

There is no substitute for good writing. Really. None. Whatsoever. Want more sales? Write better stories. Everything else is window dressing.

By all means, shameless plug away! :) I thought about submitting to Triangulation, actually, it seemed like a fun idea, but nothing...coalesced for me.

I was amazed at how snobby I got.

I prefer to call it...picky. Discriminating. I know it feels like snobbery from the other side, but what you say about the stories--absolutely true. There are some ideas and/or structural things that are done over and over again and they're all...just like each other. And of course, if you're not looking at the sluhspile, you don't realize that your story is in there with a million others that are basically the same as ever other one.

The lesson I have taken away from this--I must always make sure that I approach any idea at all from a distinctive angle. Any sort of distinctiveness--voice, structure, some twist in the concept, better than usual characterization, whatever--will likely make a slush reader sit up and start reading a bit more eagerly. Several of those together, and...dude, the slush reader will remember your name and likely pass you up.

There was one that I absolutely loved once it got going somewhere around page 4; that writer was adamant that no, it couldn't start on page 4, as the boring start was crucial to setting the tone. I nodded, respected his vision of the story and didn't argue with him, and asked him if he had anything else he'd like to submit because there was no conceivable way I was running that story as-is.

Sounds like the best thing you could have done. I have mixed feelings about situations like that--on the one hand, the writer is right to stick to his view of the piece's integrity. But...maybe three or four years down the line he'll slap himself on the forehead and go, "Dang! Blair was right, and I should have...." Ah, well. We all of us, writers and editors, are limited by our current knowlege and skill, and can only do the best we can and respect each other for taking a stand, professionally. You do need to be able to do that.

I developed a reflexive aversion to any story from a writer who felt compelled to list all of the one hundred markets they'd appeared in. (Very often I, a total short-fiction slut who has submitted to pretty much all of Ralan's pro markets and most of the paying ones to boot, had only heard of two of them.)

Oh, I know these people! Funky cover letter issues don't make me read a submission with less attention, but by and large they are like the first paragraphs--a signal that maybe I won't be finding that long-awaited gem this time.

Rachel wrote a cover letter thing, and I'm with her (of course! We've discussed the issue a lot). Pick your three best! I don't want to read your cover letter, I want to read your story!



>Well, see, this is the thing. Those wonderful stories that open slowly—they grab you in the first few paragraphs. It’s not exploding suns and fast-paced action any given editor is looking for (though she might be, tastes differ of course). It’s writing. Slow or fast, really good writing makes you sit up and go, “Oh!” and you want to read more.

Yes!

I'm always afraid when I say, "No, I really can tell in the first paragraph or so whether this is something I want to spend time with," that will misunderstand.

And that then I'll have to send out (even more) rejections that say "this seems to be trying too hard."

Thanks for this. Another link I can send to my writer's group.

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