30 March 2011

Top Five Tough Sells

There are a few types of stories that I nearly always reject--even if they are otherwise well written. If your story fits one of the categories, it might be a tough sell:

  1. Stories that do not introduce the protagonist quickly. I'm willing to wait a paragraph, maybe two, but if the protag does not make his/her/its appearance by then, the story is not what I'm looking for.
  2. Stories that are almost all dialogue. These are often very witty, but wit isn't enough for me. I want a story, not a skit.
  3. Stories with more than (say) five world-specific idioms in the first few sentences. After reading slush for an hour, my brain just can't handle all that new vocabulary.
  4. False suspense. (I didn't an earlier post on this). This is the author using a non-specific pronoun to try to create suspense where there isn't any. E.g. "It happened one night." Or "Everything was fine until he came along."
  5. Stories that begin with the protagonist waking up (bad) in bed (worse) from a horrible nightmare (worst). It shocks me how many stories I read that begin this way.
Also, for me, the longer the story is, the more important it is to pull me in right away. This is a matter of efficiency. If I'm going to read a full story at the upper end our our word limit, I need to be convinced it will be worth my time. On the other hand, I'll usually read a whole flash piece even if the beginning does not grab me. I know this sounds a little harsh, but the reality is that Electirc Spec keeps getting more and more submissions. We don't have slush readers, and we try to keep the turn-around time reasonable. That means we have to find ways to get through slush efficiently.


lesleylsmith said...

Thanks for sharing, Editor Dave. Lots of good info here. :)
But...it's kinda negative.
How about a "Top Five Easy Sells" some time in the future? :)

Barb said...

Good call, Lesley - it would be great to see what compels further reading.

Catherine Denton said...

Great tips! Thanks.
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