Thursday, October 29, 2009

My Slush Piling Experiences Thus Far

Since The Oddville Press is a small magazine, we are more lenient on what is acceptable. A lot of magazines will simply throw out a manuscript because of improper formatting. If The Oddville Press did this, we would only have four stories to choose from, which tells you just how many people have no clue about manuscript formatting. Some of these people use fonts that make you wonder what the crap they used in college--and some of these people include veteran and award-winning writers! Most professors want Times New Roman. But, alas, I read these stories anyway, because to reject them would mean throwing away 99.5% of stories, and we can't afford that. But your proper manuscript formatting should be this: one-inch margins, double spaced, either 12 point Times New Roman or Courier New, indent all paragraphs please (most of the manuscripts didn't do this), put a running header on each page (depends on guidelines), with your last name, manuscript title, and page number. It's that simple, and yet 99.5% of the people in Oddville's slush pile don't do this. But I digress. Despite some of the improper formatting, some of the stories turned out to be a good read.

The Oddville press also forgives a few mistakes with grammar, but I'm surprised any of these manuscripts have typos and obvious grammar errors at all! When I submitted Dead Poet's Pendulum for publication, I only had one typo (and it's a typo that most likely won't be noticed by readers: It was supposed to be phrase, but it was phase). Dead Poet's Pendulum did have a few flaws, but it seemed like they were flaws of subjectiveness, such as one editor may have thought it was a flaw, but another didn't. But some of the typos in these manuscripts were outright obvious, that you wonder if the writer proofread it at all after a re-write!

Other problems I've seen are sudden, abrupt endings, or, better yet, underdeveloped stories. They start out promising, but then all of a sudden, it's like the author scrambled to keep in his or her set word count and tacked down a sentence that seemed like it could be good closure. It's not. It makes me wonder if these writers got a second pair of eyes. More likely than not, a second pair of eyes WILL be able to tell you if your story is underdeveloped or not, that is if the second pair of eyes can be trusted. Not all beta readers are fabulous and will tell you what you need to hear. They'll tell you what you want to hear, and often times it doesn't help. I've had several beta readers that absolutely did not help at all, that praised my writing. But then again, these beta readers were young teenagers. Either they were too afraid to critique me, or they really saw nothing wrong with hit. Hmm...I'd like your opinions on this, followers.

One story I rejected couldn't suspend my disbelief at all. I'm not going to go into what story that was, but let's just say that although it was written for adults, it read a little too juvenile for anyone's tastes--except maybe for the few who don't mind unrealistic stories.

Other stories I rejected could be in the 10% range of the 90% garbage verses 10% not garbage. I rejected these ones simply because they didn't fit with Oddville. They'll fit somewhere else, but they won't fit with our e-zine.

On a final note, if you want to submit a manuscript anywhere, be it a novel or a short story, please get a beta reader(s). They are so invaluable and wonderful and amazing, that I'm so surprised that those who submit manuscripts have never heard of them.


Emilia Joyce Plater said...

SING IT, SISTER! I'm the editor-in-chief of my school's lit mag... I know the experience. It sucks when you love a story but one thing is deathly wrong with it. Of course, a little sneaky editing never hurt anyone... haha

Amber said...

I never bothered joining my school's literary magazine. Instead, I was the editor-in-chief for its newspaper, but that was a mistake. We "published" anyone's articles, no matter how badly those articles needed re-writing. They always sent them in at the last minute, and so I hardly had time to do an edit. For the last edition, I went on to edit the articles, but they'd already been finalized. When the paper came out, I was horrified and embarrassed to be an editor for it. There were so many blatant errors that I wanted to beat the paper over the heads of the students who ruined it. In any case, back to the lit mag, I think that one publishes anyone's writings as well. Frankly, it's my opinion that out of every school, there's only one or two writers who can actually write well. My school had a writing club, and with some of the stuff those kids read, I knew the lit mag wasn't going to be that great. Plus, it was staffed by people who have never written creatively in their lives. So they have no idea what to look for!

Anonymous said...

I was editor of the literary journal at my college, too. We received some very...rough...submissions. But find a diamond in the rough and it's worth it.

Elizabeth said...

Wow. Sound like slush reading is....enjoyable? Many writers should look things up and learn how everything works before trying to submit anything..I normally try to always do my research and beta readers as you call them are invaluable!

Elizabeth said...

I was Senior Art Editor at of my lit mag in high school...meaning I handled all the artwork and helped with submissions as well. But our teacher made us promise to put a specific amount of work from a certain teacher's class...and I'm sad to say that many freshman lack the proper grammar sometimes we did do some sneaky editing...just for the blatant typos and grammar mistakes.