By now our finalists have gotten the good or bad news about their stories. Since Bets and Lesley have given their take on all this, I thought I'd better chime in as well. It's fairly easy to make generalizations about how bad or mediocre stories can be improved (see Bet's and Gremlin's prior posts), but it's harder for higher quality stories. Lesley is right that plot has a lot to do with it; many stories are very well written but the plot is too common or predictable. In other cases, the world is well crafted, but just does not feel original enough. (This is especially true in fantasy. We've been having a harder time finding fantasy stories that we are truly taken with, mostly because the worlds seem too trope.) Some stories just don't hold together on the second or third read. If a story has a plot element or a character action that does not make sense, that's usually something we can't (or don't want to) fix in the editorial process.
So what do all three of us editors like most? Character-driven stories that pull you with with an interesting word and proceed in a sensible, but perhaps not predictable, way with an ending that is satisfying. If you have one of those, please send it our way!