I’ve been reading slush for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine for a while now. As an aside – I highly recommend slush reading for anyone who’s learning their craft. It gives back to your community, and you get to learn a lot about writing in general.
We’re pretty lucky in general with the quality of submissions that ASIM gets. I rarely see anything that is truly dreadful – mostly people are good about checking their spelling, getting formatting right etc. It’s pretty heartening, actually.
However, in my experience, while I’ve rarely seen anything absolutely awful, it’s also pretty rare to see something that is truly amazing.
And as an aside, you may be reading this and thinking that you want to take this post with a grain of salt. Go ahead. I’m still learning the craft of short fiction writing myself, and though I have a handful of short stories published – some of which I am pretty darn proud of – and I’m willing to admit that I have a lot to learn. See my first paragraph about learning from slush reading.
I’m thinking that I want to make this a bit of an ongoing thing. I’m not referring to any specific story, by the way, in case anyone is worried about that. These are just going to be things that I’ve noticed again and again.
How to make it through the slush pile, in three parts:
- If your first line is poorly crafted or downright boring, I will not be compelled to read on. I will read on, because that’s the way I slush, but unless I am interested by at least the end of the first paragraph, the story is not going to be a win for me.
- Rewriting Biblical stories, especially Adam and Eve (even if they are in space) has been Done. I don’t know if anyone can make this work any more, even the best short story writers (and please, if you know someone who has, let me know!). I have no problem with allegory, but when your story literally ends with “and they were Adam and Eve all along!”, you’re going to want to rethink it.
- Ditto for most of the myths and stories that everyone knows – if you think you can do it well, go ahead. Just be aware that many of them have been done to death. And again, allegory can be fine, just make it original.
To be continued and added to…