ASIM pre-slush workshop redux

Since we have come to the end of the slush workshop, I thought I’d share a few thoughts with readers and participants about the workshop, and about what we could improve.

I was happy that all submissions we received followed the guidelines. There were no huge submissions, no submissions with the author’s name accidentally left in, none in pink lettering and papyrus font, and none that were not speculative fiction. Kudos to you all.

Unfortunately, it seems that a few people submitted but somehow their entries didn’t come through. I have no idea what happened there, and I apologise to those whose submissions were eaten by the internet. If you have any idea on how to improve the process in the future, please comment below.

I do think this series has achieved the two things I set out to achieve: to show writers how important that story beginning is. In twelve of the fifteen stories, that editor would not have needed more than 300 words to reject the story.

The second aim was to show how, once a story has a level of competence, the individual slush reader’s opinion comes into play.

What lesson is in this for the writer?

As writer of short stories you must be able to write competently. It’s not just poor grammar and spelling skills that sink a story on the skill level. If sentences are unwieldy, long, hard to parse and verbose, that will probably go against you. If sentences are repetitive, that will go against you. If the narrative is distant, written in dry language, and describes events, rather than lets the reader experience the story, that will go against you.

Secondly, you must get to where the real story begins as soon as you can. If the character is bored, the slush reader may just be bored, too. If the character whines, the slush reader may just think he/she should put a sock in it. If the character does something that’s revolting, the reader may be revolted and may move to the next story.

So–is this what slush looks like from the receiving end?

Some days, it does, but mostly, it doesn’t. For some strange reason, slush quality comes in waves. Some days you’ll find two or three great stories, and other days you’re beating your head against the wall.

The workshop was like a good day. I think that is because all entrants came through from writing sites where people are working on their writing skills.

I’ve enjoyed this project, and at this stage, I think we will probably do this again. Meanwhile, if you appreciated this series, and you haven’t already done so, please support the magazine at the Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine website. If you buy a PDF subscription for only $27 (four issues, more than 400 pages of fiction), you’ll get a free issue of your choice of the ‘best of’ collection of either Science Fiction, fantasy or horror.

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3 comments on “ASIM pre-slush workshop redux

  1. Comments on the specific story was great, but I think the biggest lesson for me is that, from now on, I’m going to edit the first 300 words of my stories separate from everything else and make sure something actually happens in them.

    • I’m sure everyone can point to a published story in which nothing very much happens in the beginning, but by having an engaging, active beginning, you give your story a much better chance.

      Active, btw, is not necessarily synonymous with action. It means the protagonist is doing something, or facing a dilemma or trying to figure something out. Active is starting the story where the plot starts.

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