I'm establishing connections in the writing world. It's taken five years, although I suppose that's not that long if you think about it. But now I have a lovely writing partner, the Italian-born and Grammar-fiend Gio who lives in Paris, and together we have created two fantastic stories, which will hopefully find homes very soon, as there are more on the back burner of our collaborative stovetop. Then there is Fantasy Magazine, where I read slush submissions and yay or nay the hopes and dreams of young and established writers alike. At least that's how it felt initially - five months later, it's not so difficult anymore. After all, I've had 37 rejections total on my nine short stories, two of which have now been accepted, and two of which will never again see the light of day again - and five to rewrite. (I won't get started on the hundreds of rejections on my three books.
I have always loved short stories. The first collections I can remember reading were the L.M. Montgomery ones: Chronicles of Avonlea, Furthur Chronicles of Avonlea, but my favorites were Along the Shore and Among the Shadows - which perhaps foreshadowed my eventual love for the eclectic world of genre writing. In the former, strange sea creatures turned into dangerous woman, pulling the man below turbulent waters. In the latter, lonely, translucent women caused men to fall more deeply entranced than ever before. Oh, common themes. But like I wrote a few days back, short stories require less of a committment from a reader. I never had a problem with committing to a book, but you can cram more short stories - ie: more life-changing and unique experiences - in the same amount of time as a few potentially dull (non-life changing) chapters of a book (that may overall be a satisfying read). It's like sitting down with a song-cycle, instead of an entire opera. Not necessarily more bang for your buck, but bang for your shorter buck, or more tiny bangs for the same larger buck.
In the last few years, I have collected nearly every SF & Fantasy anthology that was published, at least the reputable ones compiled by the reputable editors. I prefer anthologies over subscribing to the genre magazines (where most stories originally appear) because magazines can be hit or miss. Anthologies have to compile the best, or the book won't sell. Simple.
A paragraph like that, along with a few examples of whose editing I preferred and why, along with a few authors that I greatly admired, got me the slush job at Fantasy Magazine, and as of yesterday, another slush reading job at LightSpeed, the new SF imprint of FM. Best of all, LightSpeed is edited by John Joseph Adams, whose anthologies I greatly admire more than any others out there. Of course I put that in my original application email to FM, which was forwarded to Mr. Adams, so now he knows how I feel about his anthologies. :) Maybe that's why he gave me the job.
Here's my point: I started reading some of the submissions yesterday. The first was a beautifully written story, the lyrical tone reminding me of (my) John's narrative style, by a well-known Australian SF author with 4 books under his belt. But the story wasn't enough. It was too slow to start; nothing happened until page 5. There was too much meandering, too much fat and gristle around the lovely sculpted curves of dialogue. I believe it might have been another writing pal, Steve Chapman, who told me that one of my shorts, maybe "Children Dumpling Soup," was too long for what it was. Not a life-changing epic story. Fun, maybe, but for what it was, what it claimed to be, it was 1,000 words + too long. So was this submission I was reading - only it was maybe 2k words too long, which left it tasting like watery soup, although somewhat savory. And then the ending - no big deal. Nothing that moving, nothing that made me want to look up this man's books, nothing that made any sort of imprint on my mind. I gave it a 6.5 out of 10, since JJA likes a scale. I was nice. It was really a 4 out of 10, the scale being comprised of writing that's not only nit-free, but written coherently.
Then today, I read another submission by a woman with no credits, although she's attended a few writing seminars. Clever, hooky, so much so that I was desperate to figure out where she was going with it all. The world faded away as I read. But after eight pages or so, she didn't do anything with the hooks she'd created. She didn't wedge them in deeper, she didn't unfold layer after layer of detail around the meaty points, she didn't insert turning points that would jerk the character around - and the reader - like a hooked fish. Instead, she let them fall to the wayside, and the main character brushed off potential drama-filled moments with passivity. 'She felt ____'. She hated that ___ made her feel ____.' That's when I started to skim, which we have the leeway to do when the story drags.
I wrote up my summary. One of the best things about writing SF is that sometimes you get to create your own world, and your own rules for the world. Granted, it's a lot of work, as Gio and I have experienced with "A Rose for the Nomad." There's no shortage of loose ends. But I don't get to tell this author not to give up on this short, not to take the rejection personally. She achieved something that the established author of the previous story didn't - she captivated me. The story set such high goals that she didn't follow through on, not in this draft. But with a lot of work, she could make it sellable, publishable, thrillable. I want her to make it work, because I'd love to read it at its full potential - it would surely be one of those eyes-glazed-over reads.
But instead, I can only click 'reject,' and hope that she will see that eventually. In the meantime, I'll brainstorm how to make those five of mine work.