March 18th, 2009


In the Hope This Is Helpful to Others

From my e-mail:

I'm very sorry to pester you, but I write to ask why I'm always being rejected by Fantasy Magazine
The rejection always reads something to the effect:  "It's not right for Fantasy Magazine."
Then, when you sign it, you say to send many more stories.
Cat, is there any way to know what is so bad about my writing?
I would really like to publish a piece at Fantasy, because at least then I would have some hope for the future.
But the feeling I get is that you and your readers regard me a worthless loser.
Is there any way that I could send you a piece that I'm presently working on and receive some feedback before I send in the final draft?

And my reply:

We get about 400-500 submissions a month currently, and we print 4-5 a month. You can see from that where, literally, a story has to be better than 99 of its fellows.

As a writer, I know that a rejection slip stings. But as an editor I also know that it's not as simple as good story versus bad story. Sometimes it's a case that the story isn't the right tone - maybe it feels a little too firmly in the territory of horror or science fiction or something else. Sometimes it's a case that we've published too many stories like it recently, or that we've already got five stories about pirates slated for the year and feel a little down on pirates at the time.

I also know as both writer and editor that thickskinnedness and persistence help a lot. In my pre-editor days, I had submitted at least four or five stories to Fantasy Magazine before they ever took one from me. I believe I'm on my 46th submission to the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction right now - but I'll still keep sending, because 1) I know I'm getting better with time, 2) I know that sometimes it's about having a story there at the right time and 3) I'll never get anything in there unless I try.

One thing that I have found helpful is having a writing group that meets periodically and gives each other critiques. There are a number of online ones, if you're in an area that doesn't have a lot of fellow writers. Another is reading other stories and looking at how they work - what makes them stand out? What do they do to grab the reader and make them keep reading?

I hope that's helpful.

all the best,

I really don't want to sound pissed off, because I'm not, but I will also suggest to readers of this blog that letters like this are a bad idea. You run the risk of irritating an editor by asking for a chunk of their time and energy like this. In my case, I've got a hard enough time getting critiques done for friends, and right now I've got two interviews to prep questions for, queries to draft, a review to write, slush to read, and an e-mail from Lawrence that I need to read and respond to in order to explain why I'm having trouble with one of the stories for the collection -- along with a crapload of other work hanging over my head like a ten-ton sword of Damocles. Plus I'd like to finish this draft of Phat Fairy someday. Meanwhile, the living room calls out for cleaning and I suspect the kitties would like their litter box changed. Be aware that people's time is precious and treat it like the gift it is.