Reasons I Rejected your Submission


This summer, I have graciously been accepted to be an editorial intern for one of the best literary quarterly magazines in the country. I am responsible for various tasks, one of which is the processing of unsolicited submissions. I read around 20 submissions a day in between my other duties. I’ve compiled a list of some things that will make me reject a submission: This blog post is not sanctioned by any publication and does not reflect the views or submissions protocol of any organization.

  1. You took it for granted that I care about your characters or their problems. I need a reason to care about the divorce/alcoholic stepdad/perverted uncle/etc.
  1. You used a $5 word when a normal one would’ve done fine.
  1. I’m on page 4 and I haven’t been able to identify any sort of travail or conflict.
  1. Your story doesn’t seem to have conflict.
  1. You use dialogue for exposition.
  1. You zoom in where you should gloss over, and vice versa.
  1. “S/he woke up, realizing it had all been a dream”
  1. You think you’re William Faulkner and quotation marks are beneath you.
  1. You stop your story to inform me of the emotional significance of the scene. Pathos is like a joke- if you have to explain it, it’s flat.
  1. You name drop books/bands/locations/etc. I feel your story is more about telling me how much you know about Paris/Rome/Nepal than telling me a good story.

10.a. You pepper your story with quotes. This is only acceptable for chapter openings of 19th century novels. In a short story, I feel like you’re force-feeding me your themes.

Next week: How to Impress me with your Cover Letter

Future: “How not to Annoy me with your Cover Letter”, and “Reasons I forwarded your Submission to an Actual Editor”



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