06 April 2007

Pep Talk

We want your stories.

Writers hear this all the time:
We want your stories.
You are the lifeblood of our magazine.
Most of my clients/stories/sales comes from the slush pile.
You can't win if you don't play.

Right before all the caveats:
Please read our guidelines.
Please use our preferred format, which we could explain but don't have to because we're the editors.
Due to an abundance of submissions, our current response time is a month/year/never.

Right before 99% of the submitters receive:
Please try us again if you have something you think is suitable; see above.

Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

I had an email conversation with an editor at another magazine last night about this very topic. I was querying to see what was taking so long, she responded how busy all the editors are, I responded that yeah, I know, I don't get to my reading as fast as I should either, yada yada. We finished on a "the-slush-is-never-ending" note.

Well, thank God it is never-ending, I say, because all of the above is true. Writers are the lifeblood of our zine, of every magazine and publishing company and agency out there. I wouldn't be half the editor I am without the reams of brilliance that runs through my inbox here at Electric Spec. Yeah, it's competitive, yeah, it's subjective, yeah, the entire process is downright frustrating.

But the crux is that most of us write simply because we must. We have stories clawing their way out of our brains. I call it a sometime unhealthy compulsion, my husband calls it plain annoying. Whatever it is, happiness lives there.

I actually like the business end of writing. I like editing. I like selling my work. I even like writing queries for my novels. (Not the synopsis, though. There's insane and then there's insane.) I get satisfaction out of story turn-around; I try to have rejected stories back out the door in twenty-four hours. I like when people read my work, even critique it, because that means they're thinking it over. I even like getting rejections, if they're personal. (By virtue of being an editor, I believe I get more personal rejections than some.) I get itchy if I don't have something on submission...

But not half so itchy as an unfinished story makes me. The greatest joy I've experienced has not been from selling my work, and not even, gasp, being read--it's in the writing itself. Fingers on the keyboard, butt in the chair, neck in a cramp, characters yacking in my heads, watching them struggle in ways only I can see and only I can relate.

So in the midst of all the hassle and submissions and rejections and unreturned phone calls, remember the joy of it all. Keep writing, keep enjoying your characters, keep telling yourself stories, and hopefully, someday soon, you'll tell them to us.

Because you are the lifeblood of Electric Spec.

01 April 2007

Submission Guidlines

As a writer, I realize it is a royal pain in the ass to figure out the picky preferences listed the submission guidelines for each magazine. In fact, I've seen a few magazines where the guidelines were so complicated I decided it was not worth my time.

But as an editor, I have a simple request: READ THE SUBMISSION GUIDLINES! Why? I don't want to waste my time reading something we can't use, and I don't want to waste your time sending us something we can't use.

So, what if your story does not quite fit within our guidelines but you think we'd love it? Query us first, or, at the very least, admit that your story falls outside of the guidelines in the cover letter. Thanks--I feel better now.