Thursday, April 27, 2006

Each and Every Word

As a newbie literary fiction editor, I was intriqued by Peter Selgin's article, Confessions of a Cranky Literary Editor, in the May/June 06 issue of Poets & Writers. And when I discovered his admission that he doesn't read every word of the three hundred manuscripts a month that he receives, I wondered if he was being cranky or just plain realistic.

In my first three weeks as a lit-mag fiction editor, I have received eleven submissions. Of that eleven, I actually read every word of four. And of that four, I chose two for publication in May's issue. So that leaves seven that I didn't read beyond the first paragraph. Does that make me cranky? Maybe. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say, "I know exactly what tone, style and level of craft I am looking for."

It's the same way when I'm the one submitting; I work extra hard to make sure I'm sending my work to the right markets, because I want every word to be read. Now, as a fiction editor, I want to receive stories that prompt me to read every word, and I'm going to work extra hard to convey what type of story I am looking for from the writers who submit their work to me.

I've created a checklist of the story criteria I am seeking for publication, and I will post it here before I add it to the submission guidelines in June's issue. I know it isn't realistic to think a story criteria checklist will guarentee that I won't get cranky, or that I'll only receive work that fits my specs, but it might help to keep me reading. . . each and every word.

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