Get to the Point: Lessons From The Slush Pile

We’ve just wrapped our third submission period (not counting our monthly Flash Fiction Contest reading) at Apparition Lit, and it’s amazing how much good stuff we get! I am legitimately excited when I think about sharing great stories with you all.

Reading slush is an education in itself. I would highly recommend every writer sign up to read for a magazine at some point. I’m discovering that even if a story is a great, unique idea, the way it’s presented is the biggest determining factor in how far that story goes in the review process. There are a couple of common hiccups that trip up an interesting story, ultimately leading to a rejection. The most common hurdle is taking too long to get to the point.

We publish stories that are 5,000 words or fewer. That’s not a lot of words to tell a fully fleshed out tale. While you have plenty of room in a novel to build your character for a few thousand words or a dozen pages, in a short story concise word choice is the name of the game.

Kurt Vonnegut has an opinion on this, and we agree: “Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

He also stated: “Start as close to the end as possible.” Amen, brother!

One of the most common things we see in slush, and one of the most common reasons we reject a story, is the several pages of description at the start of the story that makes us wait and wait for the meat of the action. Whether the MC is driving, or walking, or telling another character that they are about to tell them a story, it’s usually throat clearing. That’s the stuff that needs to be shortened or cut altogether.

Reading these story subs has informed my own writing. I’ve looked at my own pieces, ones that have been rejected a few times, with a new, editorial eye, and a sharp pair of virtual scissors to cut right to the good stuff.

Featured image: Curtis Perry

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