Tag Archives: Submissions

Which 400 words would you delete?

deleteWriter’s Digest is holding their annual competition, and a friend forwarded me the info for it.

I always have mixed feelings about contests; they’re hailed as a great way for new talent to break into a market, but that’s only true if you win. And I cannot imagine that contests with cash prizes get fewer submissions than the magazines I submit to. Then there’s the entry fee to consider; submitting work for publication to a magazine only costs me postage. The WD contest charges $20 for the first entry and $15 for each additional entry. That’s quite a chunk of change just to have someone look at your story, and then (in all likelihood) discard it.

I haven’t yet decided to enter, but the contest rules create an interesting dilemma. The word limit for genre short stories (like science fiction) is 4,000. According to the rules, stories that are 4,001 words will be disqualified.

Perfect Justice in its most recent draft is over 4,400 words. And already I have feared that it didn’t provide quite enough character development, that the plot wasn’t intricate enough, etc. But leaving aside the question of possible improvements, which 400 words are non-essential to the story? Do I go find 400 adjectives and conjuctions I can cut? Or whole scentences? Or a whole scene?

What would you do?

OUCH!

yousuckRemember the goal with submitting Woman’s Best Friend? I was going to have so many other balls in the air by March (when a reply was due) that I’d almost forgotten about this story, thus let the circle of new submissions continue unabated.

Well, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction got back to me early. REALLY early. Barely 30% into my next story, I got their reply in the mail.

It says:

Dear Mr. Peters:

Thank you for submitting “Woman’s Best Friend,” but I’m going to pass on it. This tale didn’t grab my interest, I’m afraid. Good luck to you with this one, and thanks again for sending it our way.”

Remember the stage fright I described when I painstakingly formatted this baby, addressed the envelope and so forth?

Smackdown! “You’re no good, kid!”

Megan (unintentially) added salt to this fresh wound by unwittingly and hopefully asking, “Pass it on to who?” (That should’ve been “to whom,” but nevermind.)  Not pass it on to someone, pass on it, I explained to her.

Past rejection letters have been phrased very generally, and my first one even encouraged me to send more work. They’re usually signed “the editors” and use the less blunt pronoun, “we”. This note (though perfectly professional by industry standards) came across to me as:

Why did you waste my time with this lousy story? I personally found it quite boring. I’d rather watch grass grow, or paint dry…or better yet, race the growth of grass against the drying of the paint and take bets on each. I can’t tell you it isn’t right for us at this time, or that I want to see more work. Maybe when you finally write something interesting, you’ll have a career as a novelist. Until then, I try to keep my desk full of compelling stories, and clearly you don’t have one.

That’s all very extreme, of course, and the editor said no such thing. But that’s the flavor rejection takes. It hurts mostly because — even if this IS just a form letter — it isn’t phrased generally enough for me to assume that I may have formatted wrong, have irreconcilable grammatical errors, or be too similar to four stories they just ran. It says quite clearly, “didn’t grab my interest.”

Well <foul expletive deleted>.

Here’s the problem being a writer, too:

I HAVE NO IDEA HOW THIS STORY READS.

I begin the story behind the curtain; I’ve never read ONE WORD of it without knowing how the scene and story would end. I have no idea how much suspense it creates — or doesn’t create. I have no idea how scary it is — or isn’t. I have no idea how interesting it is — or isn’t. (I’m sure the masters know, but I don’t yet have enough experience.)

This is where I must rely on friendly readers to be test subjects, and to be brutally honest. A co-worker said this story “started slow” — that’s the closest thing I have to a fix for this story being uninteresting so far.

What else could improve it? I realize having already finished it, some of you are already behind the curtain with this one, but you at least had one first impression I never got.

What can I do to make it more gripping?

Woman’s Best Friend: What we know so far

The Bad

There are a number of missing words…11 or so. It’ll be nice to get these corrected before the story is submitted for publication.

I used the wrong version of “emergency” (oops).

Some transitions have gotten mixed reviews.

The Good

I made a few corrections prior to sending it out — the things I corrected have not been named as concerns, so this makes me think 1. the corrections worked and 2. they weren’t obvious (or jarring).

The best thing I’ve heard so far is that this story kept people guessing. In truth, I was afraid it would be too predictable, given the title.

Still Wondering

Hopefully (nobody has stated this explicitly), this means the story was also suspenseful.

My #1 goal writing WBF was, “Write something suspenseful.” I hope that it was also a little scary.

I haven’t decided where to submit it yet. It clearly isn’t right for Analog or Asimov’s, my first two submissions went to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy is always requesting more sci-fi…this might fit that request but I doubt it. I could try and outright horror magazine, but my fear would be that this story isn’t scary enough for an outright ‘horror’ audience.

I’m the best writer ever. I’m the worst writer ever.

reality-chec_qjpreviewthThe feedback is starting to roll in for Woman’s Best Friend. Only for the first half so far; I’ve had a few requests for the whole story, but I haven’t been able to send them yet since that file is at home and I’m at work during the day.

Writers must simultaneously believe that their work is both the greatest story ever told (or else what’s the motivation to keep writing it?) and the most worthless drivel ever put to paper (or else how can we take rejection, which is inevitable?)

My ego is taking the customary post-new-story bruising, and it’s rough. But it’s necessary. It’s not just necessary that you give me feedback, it’s necessary that you be ruthless about it.

Because the people who read submissions are overworked, way behind, underpaid, and with each manuscript, all they’re looking for is an excuse to toss it out so they can move on to the next. Only a story which grips them flawlessly from beginning to end will be published.

I do want to remind you that I’m looking primarily for your experiences as you read. I’m looking for what you felt and thought, not how you think you would feel if X was changed/added/removed, because…let’s face it… we don’t really know. (And I’ve already received one grammatical ‘correction’ which would make the sentence incorrect. Needless to say, you can’t take all of everyone’s advice.)

But thanks for the feedback I’ve gotten so far, it’s already been a huge help.

Those who have requested the full text will receive it later tonight AFTER I’ve made the corrections already made evident in feedback to the first half, and done a quick polish/edit of the second half. I want it to be as quick a read as possible; it’s necessary that I edit it before I really begin to hate this story.