Back in January I was on two panels that dovetailed nicely: learning from reading slush, and what rejections mean.
I’ve read submissions for two different magazines. When I first started, I had heard a lot of horror stories, so I expected to see unintelligible sentences, transcriptions of D&D games, and plagiarisms of The Eye of Argon.
But most stories weren’t that bad. In fact, many of them were just fine. The problem is, a “just fine” story just doesn’t stand out. I might pass it up to the second round, but even when I do that, I know that we’ll have better stories to choose from–stories that are more original in idea, or style, or plot. Good isn’t good enough.
Reading slush has been a great way of learning what rejections mean: the story didn’t stand out, for any number of reasons. The editor is having a bad day. The editor has read three stories in the past half hour that have the same kind of main character (this happened to me this morning). The plot was fine, but the prose didn’t shine. Everything was great until the ending fell flat. The editor just read an awesome story and this one doesn’t measure up. It can all be summed up as: not for that editor, not right now.
I’ve also learned that perfection isn’t necessary. Good thing, too, since it’s impossible to obtain. A story that I love, everyone else might hate. A story that does nothing for me, other readers might love.
One final note: stop writing stories that involve killing or abusing women. Leaving feminist concerns aside, I see it so much it’s just boring.