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.
- 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.
- You used a $5 word when a normal one would’ve done fine.
- I’m on page 4 and I haven’t been able to identify any sort of travail or conflict.
- Your story doesn’t seem to have conflict.
- You use dialogue for exposition.
- You zoom in where you should gloss over, and vice versa.
- “S/he woke up, realizing it had all been a dream”
- You think you’re William Faulkner and quotation marks are beneath you.
- 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.
- 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”