I’m editing an issue of the magazine and in the process, I got more than my regular share of slush. I thought it might be interesting for people to see what slush really looks like, so I took a random 100 submissions from the incoming flood, and made comments on each story.
Some random observations:
1. Out of the 100, I passed five stories up the chain. This is probably more than will be published, but our system is such that approved stories go into a slush pool from which editors can choose. We have rotating editors, so the slush pool needs to cater for varying tastes.
2. The number of stories that truly made my eyes bleed was very small. You hear a lot of editor-whingery about how bad most slush is. I think the vast percentage is written with reasonable competence, but not enough competence.
3. when I tallied up my comments, I found that the biggest issue I had with submissions was quality of writing (this covers a wide range of issues), the second-most important issue was storytelling and subject choice was the third issue. That said, this ranking could be because…
4. Put bluntly, if the first few paragraphs were clunky or overwritten, then it’s most likely I didn’t even get to the plot. As editor, you can fix a few plot issues, but you can’t edit for style. That has to come from the writer.
I think I might cover each of the issues mentioned under point number 3 in separate posts.