Submission Tips from the Slushpile

As you may know, I read slush for the wonderful Apex Magazine.  I previously posted some tips for submission, but someone asked me to write some up, and I ended up with different ones.  Who knew!

Here they are:

  • There are a lot of decent stories out there.  You have to better than all of them to get on the short list.  And then you have to be better than everyone on the short list to get published, or at least you have to be exactly what the editor is looking for, or be what caught the editor’s eye.
  • Submitting a short story is a job interview.  Be 100% professional – follow directions and edit to as near perfection as you can get it. You’ll never get a job because someone feels sorry for you; you only get the job if you beat out the other applicants.
  • Your job as a writer is to hook the reader from the first sentence and never let go.  If you can’t do that, then you’re not the person for the job.  There is no “keep reading, it gets better, you’ll like it…” in a short story.  Maybe in novels, but not in short stories.
  • If you sound like everyone else, then the only way you’ll get the job is if you are better than everyone else.  If you sound like you, then your chances greatly improve, as long as your story is decent to begin with.  The novelty and individuality of your voice, as a writer, is what makes readers read your stories rather than someone else’s, especially with short stories.  You can be less than a perfect writer if you sound like an individual instead of a cookie cutter.
  • Make me feel something to the point where I can’t help reacting: get me laughing out loud, crying, hair standing on end, gaping with the slow unfolding of horror as I realize that things weren’t as I thought they were, beaming as two people fall in love…

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7 Comments

  1. Liz

    Awesome tips! Thank you.

    I have a question: How do you know when a story is ready to be submitted? I tend to edit, and edit, and edit… and am never sure when to stop and submit.

  2. De

    Hm…I have a whole system for it, which is simple but nerve-wracking. I’ll write it up here tomorrow or so.

  3. Liz

    Thanks, I’ll keep an eye out for it!

  4. Rob

    This might be one of the most helpful posts I’ve read.

  5. Great. I’m bookmarking this one and sharing it.

  6. De

    Excellent.

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