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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Slushpile Survival Guide

Here it is, December 1st already, and as many of you have noticed, Stupefying Stories 1.3 is not being released today. We're running about a week behind schedule this month, and I will take full blame for that. (Memo to self: next year, don't even imagine you're going to get any useful work done while in a four-day turkey-induced tryptophan coma.)

Some interesting things to note: at the beginning of the month, we projected receiving about 200 new submissions this month. As of midnight last night, we'd actually logged in well over 300. (I don't have a final number yet.) This includes more than 100 received just in the last full week of the month alone.

The more submissions we receive, the more the ironclad truths of Sturgeon's Law and the 10-80-10 Rule are borne out. About ten percent of the submissions we receive are not even worth passing on to the first readers: either they're just plain so badly written you're left wondering what on Earth gave this person the delusion that he could write (and yes, almost invariably, the author in these cases is a "he"), or else the author can write, but apparently has significant reading comprehension problems. (Submission guidelines, people. Read the submission guidelines.)

The next eighty percent range from not bad, to okay, to pretty darn good. These get our full attention as we decide where they fit in the spectrum. Sometimes a merely not bad or okay story has the potential to be great, given one more rewrite, and as our time permits, we try to pass our thoughts back to the authors. But note that tricky expression: as our time permits. Much as we would love to send each and every story back with a detailed individual critique, there just plain isn't enough time to do so. Sorry.

It's the last ten percent -- the great-but-flawed to just plain great -- that make this job interesting. But even so, sometimes a story can be just plain great, and still not be right for us. You have to accept that making that final cut, to getting an acceptance letter and a publication contract, requires a certain je ne sais quoi composed of equal parts luck, hunch, and mood, and just because we reject a story doesn't mean it might not be perfect for the next market you submit it to.

I sent out thirty acceptances and contracts this week. Truth to tell, sending out acceptances is a lot more fun than sending out rejections.

Afterthought: As long as I'm fixing some tpyos in this morning's post, I may as well add this. The one-month turnaround time mentioned in our submission guidelines was based on an estimated 200 new submissions per month. Given the recent submissions landslide, we're running a bit behind that. If you're wondering what's happened to your story, it's okay to send a polite query, but the key word here is polite. Sending a surly or snotty query is a guaranteed proven way to get your story moved from "still thinking about it" to "reject it now!" status.

Hope this is useful to you. Will write more next week,
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