Monday, October 1, 2007

Pride Goeth Before the Slush

I have a question regarding an article someone sent me. It lists the top reasons editors reject manuscripts (and the list is long). Here's the link to it:
I've shared this article with some fellow writers, but most of them insist that the contents of this article are fiction. I've never been published, so I can't say whether or not they're correct. Of course, they haven't been published either... So my question is this: does the article contain valid information? Or did the author pull some things out of thin air, then post them on the internet?

Very valid. She seems to be speaking of the adult publishing world, but still, very valid.


1. Content

  • Otherwise known as "not my section of the market". Many editors I've met at conferences reference this. Hey, there's a lot of specialization! Don't send a picture book manuscript to a YA imprint.

2. Context

  • Otherwise known as "nobody's section of the market". Imagine a manuscript that parents would hate. I have one really creepy guy who keeps sending me the same X-rated manuscript with an awful scene on the first page. It's made the word "commodious" very difficult for me.

3. Mechanical and/or Technical Challenges

  • Otherwise known as "knowing how to write in English is not the same thing as knowing how to write". This part of the article is full of the kinds of basic advice that people get when they're learning to write. Our slush piles, however, are full of people who think writing for children doesn't require any skill or craft.
These are the clueless masses with whom you are jostling for place in slush:

I like children, but I don't like :
  1. reading submission guidelines
  2. reading children's books
  3. reading


Literaticat said...

This seems like very valid, perfectly sensible advice. I wonder at anyone who would think it odd or "pulled out of thin air." If anything, I think the article is too generous.

If I am reading slush, first I get rid of all the things that directly contravene the submission guidelines (like, instead of chapters, I've been sent a champagne bottle full of jellybeans, or a bound self-published book, or chapters typed in light pink ink on butterfly paper).

Then I get rid of all the things that are clearly wrong for us (ie, the writer didn't bother to do a lick of research - this is a sexy adult thriller, not a picture book, for example)

Then I get rid of the things that are totally inappropriate or bizarre (ie, it is a picture book, but it is about dead babies taking hot-air-ballooning lessons).

Then I look at whether or not the thing is actually coherent.

Believe it or not, people, that leaves a measly 10% of submissions that actually get looked at properly -- and then rejections are usually to do with passive voice, telling-not-showing, and recycled plots or cardboard characters.

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