Being a Specfic writer, I live by “What If?”. And while asking those “what if’s” can lead to some awesome stories, those same “what if’s” can’t help but extend into my personal life. So I send those stories, carefully formatted and geared for war, out to fight against the other submissions so that they may become king of the slushpile. But the “what if’s”… the “what if’s” remain. The first one is “what if the editor likes it but is too miserly to cough up the dough for my word count and so goes with the other story that he also likes but has 500 words less?” Or “what if one of the editors likes it and wants to buy, but the other editor doesn’t like my name… feels the ‘a’ in Beamon is unnecessary cause it’s silent and should be an ‘e’ if anything at all, so hell no, not this jerk with the useless ‘a’… not on my watch?”
Yeah, I know, maybe that’s just me. But I do think that the other people hitting the slushpiles and asking similar questions. At the very least, I’m sure they’re wondering what makes editors go for certain stories over others or what gets the most rejections and groans from them. It’d be nice to get into the mind of the editors and see how they think.
Well, news for you, fellow slush warriors, writers aren’t the only ones blogging. That’s what The Blood Red Pencil is all about.
This site is ran by editors who talk about the same things we wonder about. So you can stop wondering about why your story got bounced like it was a bad check instead of a classic tale of love and betrayal. They’ll tell you, “we see classic tales of love and betrayal all the time. Just because you made the lovers two fluffy cats to up the cuteness factor doesn’t help.” That’s when you say “I need to stop writing about cat love triangles. Marmalade doesn’t like Whiskers, that no good tom cat, but Boots is in the kennel cause he got caught outside without a collar… and it’s the highest point of mating season and Marmalade’s in heat and Whiskers can smell that sweet sweet heat… Oh, you’ve got to get free, Boots!”
One of my personal favorites on this site is “Top 25 Reasons Your Submissions are Rejected“. Virtually all these reasons have something to do with the opening line or paragraph. That let’s you know, first and foremost, that editors will deny your submission without getting too far beyond the first paragraph. Since some of these Top 25 are easy enough sins to commit, I think it’s pretty imperative to look at this in relation to how you’re opening. Don’t get me wrong, there are always exceptions to any rule, but this list is a pretty safe bet to follow in general practice.
If nothing else, Blood Red Pencil will satisfy some of the “what if’s” that you wonder about concerning your stories. Also included, because I know you guys get hyper about hyperlinks, is reputable online magazine Strange Horizon’s list of “Stories We’ve Seen Too Often“. I’ve actually seen a couple of these themes pop up when I’m critiquing stories in my writer’s workshop. Between the two, you’ll know to let sleeping cats lie.