I was walking this morning thinking I wanted to say something about exposition, or maybe something about slush, and when I got back I saw this:
Congratulations go to David Steffen, whose flash fiction story got rejected by PodCastle in a blistering five minutes yesterday. As David said, “I had not even finished updating the entry in my submissions spreadsheet before it got rejected.” The email confirms it: submission at 8:57 a.m., response at 9:02 a.m.
Now I want a big button that says "REJECTIONEER." Maybe with a ribbon on it. I would wear it all around everywhere. Most people would be kind of puzzled by it, but the writers, oh the writers would tremble! They would bow before me! ALL SHALL LOVE ME AND DESPAIR!
Or maybe not.
If you want tips on how to be rejected real fast, here are my suggestions. Write a long, rambly cover letter explaining what inspired you to write your story and what it's about. Don't forget to explain just how the story expresses your religious beliefs--use the most hackneyed, lazy phrases you can find so that I know right up front that this story will have all the depth and originality of a greeting card. For extra effect include irrelevant details, like your age, the name of your elementary school lunch lady, and what jobs you've held over the last decade or two. It is extremely important to scatter misspellings and eggcorns strategically throughout the cover note.
The exact length of this cover letter is a delicate matter--too long and reading it is cutting into my rejection time. Too short and it might not be egregious enough to make me bounce your sub back before I've even finished the first sentence of the actual story. There's an art to this sort of thing. Keep trying!
Of course, you could go for the short cover letter. Perhaps nothing more than a salutation followed by a misspelled exhortation to enjoy the story. This has many advantages, but do not forget to address the note to the wrong editor. There is also an art to picking just exactly the right wrong editor.
Then the sub. You'll want to study "The Eye of Argon" here for style tips. But in general, you want to avoid actually starting anything like a plot right off the bat. Muse for several paragraphs about random things--don't make the sentences too good, and don't forget the eggcorns--or you could introduce a whole bunch of characters without making it clear just how they're going to fit into things. If you do have dialogue in that first paragraph or two, make sure none of it actually sounds like human beings conversing. Extra points for using a setting that it's obvious you don't know anything about. And here it helps to know an individual editor's pet peeves. Give me a sub with a bad cover letter that opens with awful sentences introducing a woman who is described entirely in terms of her shapely legs, large breasts, and flowing blonde hair, time that sucker so it comes in while I'm slushing, and Bob's your uncle. You can also get great results using Arthurian literature--but be careful, if you've actually read a significant proportion of more than one pre-Mists of Avalon take on Arthur you run the risk of actually doing something mildly interesting.
NOTE--the timing is the one thing you can't control. (Maniacal laugh. MANIACAL LAUGH!) And David totally lucked out--he didn't follow any of my pro tips. All he really did right was the timing, and that was an accident.