Wednesday, March 21, 2007

An editor's gripes

All I have to say is that I'm amazed by the amount of traffic that has come to my site since I signed up with Feedburner, so I guess you people are actually curious to hear what I have to say about things.

I guess that also means that I should stop talking so much about my books, and talk about some things that might be of interest to everyone. I know a lot of the people that visit these pages are writers, so I figure I'll start with some editorial gripes.

What really peeves me as an editor?

First and foremost, and without a doubt would be people not following guidelines. Sounds simple enough, but you'd be surprised how many people chose to ignore guidelines. When I was accepting submissions for Future Syndicate, it was very clear in the guidelines that we were looking for stories about crime, but we didn't want detective stories. More than half of the submissions I received were detective stories. Tyree and I are currently accepting novella submissions for an anthology, and there is a very specific word length, and yet almost every submission has been far too short for what we're looking for. I also get a lot of horror submissions for the two zines I is strictly SF...the other SF and fantasy, and the guidelines clearly state no horror, and yet some writers feel compelled to send me horror any way.

Next would be formatting. No matter what publication you're submitting to, whether it's one of the largest publishers in the world or a non-paying market, you should always follow proper manuscript format...unless the editor asks for the submission in an alternative format. Many times I've told writers to use proper format, and they reply, "What do you mean?" At that point, I want to tell them to stop writing if they're not willing to learn how to be a professional, but instead, I point them to a resource that will help them.

You know, I like being able to vent here...kind of should expect more soon...

Third, never send a revised version of a rejected story, unless the editor specifically asks you to. I rarely comment on stories anymore because people take it personally, but when I do, take it as a gift that I'm trying to help you. It doesn't mean make these corrections and I'll buy the story. A lot of times, there are more problems with the story than just what I've been nice enough to tell you.

I could go on and on, but I think I'll end with cliches. Know what the writing cliches are...sometimes people can pull them off, but usually they don't work. Here are a few that I see most often:

It was a dark and stormy night...

I looked in the mirror to examine my (insert annoying description)

The use of "I" over and over again in first person...

A chill ran down his spine...

Two pages of info dump before anything happens. If you're writing a short story...always start in the middle of the action. You have very little time to grab the reader's (or editor's) attention, so grab it fast.

mad scientists

one dimensional slutty women

one dimensional anything...unless you're writing satire, which is very hard to do

That should be enough for the time being.

Now that I see so many people are coming to visit, I'll try to write more. Maybe I'll even address the current political situation...if you're a Bush supporter, you might want to skip those entries...


Keith said...

The feedburner stuff is like a magical traffic flow. I am making feeds of lots of silly things like the last 50 star names registered at my star site, and wow, 20 people signed up for the feed the first day. I am writing stuff to feed-afy some other sites.

I wonder what else I missed? I am getting a few digg hits and I get hits from the mySpace page. Every time I go to a pro-blogger's site now, I am viewing the code behind the page, looking for widgets.

Tonight I am signing up for FaceBook (is it like mySpace? I will see.) I want to start making clones of my blogs for bloglines, myspace, and other big blogging sites as soon as I can figure out how to cross-post automagically.

I am always thinking, Norton!
-Ralph Kramden

Shaun Farrell said...

Looks like I should sign up for Feedburner as well. Does it cost anything? Anyway, great piece about editing. I heard Kevin J. Anderson tell a story when he helped an editor go through a slush pile. They threw out 70% of the submissions because of one of the things you mentioned: stories printed on purple paper, pages with coffee stains on them, back formatting, ect.

J Erwine said...

Hey Shaun-Thanks for stopping by. Now we can stalk each other in more places than just on MySpace.

Feedburner is free, and I got almost ten times as much traffic yesterday as I usually do.

Another thing writers do that annoys me is weird fonts. People should pretty much stick to Arial or Times New Roman. Most editors prefer Arial...I personally prefer TNR...Calligraphy scripts, and such are not acceptable.

Marva said...

Having just received a rejection today, I'd like to share that sometimes (only once in a blue moon) the editors are the idiots. I subbed a query for a middle-grade book set in Oregon, written by an Oregon, of interest to Oregonians. The publisher does middle-grade novellas.

The rejection said "I'm afraid the book isn't quite right for our publishing program. We publish titles that are strictly Northwest in content, authorship, and appeal."

I guess people in Washington state don't realize that Oregon is also part of the Northwest.

I know you're not an idiot, J, but there are a lot of publishers out there who are. If they just hated my writing or concept than I'm totally okay with that. Clearly, they didn't look at either the query or the chapters.

Gee, I hope they don't read your blog!

J Erwine said...

Marva-I've gotten several rejections like that. I would think about doing a blog about some of the idiotic things I've seen from editors, but that might be a career I think I'll pass on that subject.