Via Ferrett Steinmetz – who is an extraordinarily talented writer and whose blog is very much worth the read – Wonderbook’s Editor’s Roundtable, wherein a group of editors look at the same story and give feedback, as though they were reading the story from the slush pile.
Seriously, anyone who’s trying to sell short fiction (especially if you’ve had little success or a lot of close-but-not-close-enough rejections), go and read this. Even if you don’t have time to look at the detailed comments, look at the general comments.
I read slush for ASIM. Sometimes, I get very frustrated reading slush for ASIM, but that’s another story entirely.
Well, I’ll give one one part of that story: I usually know by the time I’ve finished the first paragraph if I’m going to give the story a positive or negative response. If there’s nothing to grab me there, I will not want to read on. Note that I always read the whole story out of fairness to authors who have sweated over the work, but I have yet to come across anything where the first paragraph hasn’t grabbed me, and then the rest of the story is awesome.
Now, Dust and Deadduns. If I came across this story in the slush pile, it would probably have been a “meh” vote – middle of the line. I am a reader who is drawn to character primarily, and there’s very little about the actual characters in the first paragraphs. However, there is also a character of type in the interesting setting, and that’s the only thing that would have kept me reading long enough to get into the actual characters. The dialect, I find off-putting, but it’s not done badly enough to make me stop reading.
And then I would have read down to the introduction of zombies, and this is probably the point at which I would have lost interest. Because a vaguely interesting setting, combined with characters who feel, at this stage, two-dimensional, and a trope that’s been done a thousand times, equals loss of interest for me.
And I emphasise that for me. And note that I am merely a lowly slush reader, and then point you to the awesome editors and their opinions.
Seriously, go and read the post. It’s worth it. I suspect that the entirety of Wonderbook will be worth the purchase, and I am eagerly awaiting my own copy, which is somewhere in the world on its way to me.