Friday, 13 May 2011

Slush Reading - Reposted

Looks like my original post vanished - so here it is again:

I've been helping out over at Litopia, reading submissions for the forthcoming Litopia Anthology to be produced by Nemesis Publishing, and it's proving to be a very interesting and insightful experience.

Needless to say, since all the stories have been submitted by Litopians who have passed the assessment process to achieve full membership the writing quality is high. So none of the stories I'm rejecting are as a result of poor writing.

In fact, before I started this process I was concerned that it would be very difficult to whittle the stories down. But this is in fact not the case.

The really good stories stand out. The suck you in from the first line and before you know you've reached a satisfying end. They go straight through to the next round.

But the ones I reject are let down by two very simple things - story and structure.

The commonest problem I'm finding is submissions that aren't really a story. They are just a vignette, a scene, a snapshot. There's no character arc, no real beginning and no end. They may be beautifully written vignettes. But a short story has to be a complete entity in its own right. These are just a scene that could easily be part of something larger.

The other flaw I'm seeing is stories that are summaries of stories, more like a synopsis. I don't want to read a synopsis - I want to read the story itself!

If you want to know a bit more about possible problems with short stories do check out this earlier post of mine on common short story mistakes.


  1. Yes! There's nothing better than going through submissions to get a clearer understanding of what works. I totally agree with your assessment.

  2. Oh I know what you mean. I realised that was what I was doing. I'm great at vignettes, but less good at the short story. I'm learning.
    Thanks for your comment on my Burning Questions post. Blogger threw a wobbly and lost some previous posts so I have had to reschedule it for next week and will add your question on the post. :O)

  3. Good old blogger! My original post came back so now I've removed it to tidy things up.

    Blogger confusion!

    And I notice a lot of the comments I've left on other people's blogs have vanished. Ho hum.

    Anyway, thanks Lynda and Medeleine for your comments. :-)

  4. I've given you the versatile blog award. All you need to do, if you're happy to accept, is blog 7 things about yourself and then pass the award on to 7 other blogs.

    No worries if you'd rather not.

    Julie xx

  5. Thanks for the lovely award Julie :-)

  6. Hi Kate
    Posted a comment on my blog but just wanted to say here - Congratulations on signing with Julia Churchill! :)

  7. Kate - thanks for the insight into short story listing. I've had a look at your earlier post too and know that my particular weakness is endings - probably because I find it hard to plan a story in advance, I just see where it takes me.

  8. Thanks guys, I'm glad you found this useful :-)

  9. ...often times us writers manage to pen an unforgettable scene, be it drama, or a knee-jerker, it's juiced with every ingredient necessary for publication. Problem is, once the scene reaches fulfillment, somehow a story must take shape from it, which often times is where the problem lies. We think that one scene, a page or two of brilliance, will carry the burden of a sub-par story to fame...which is never the case.

    Great post. Glad I stopped by.



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