Will your story get rejected on typos?

Writing post today. As usual, leave it, or take it with a good dose of NaCl and humour.

Sometimes, you can hear people cry out: ‘but surely magazines don’t reject a story because it has a few typos!’

Well–uhm–no, they don’t. And yes, they do.

First: define ‘typo’.

‘Tyop’ is a typo; ‘amking’ (making) is a typo. This is one of my bugbears, by the way. ‘Frpm’ is a typo.

‘Then’ instead of ‘than’ is not a typo. ‘Your’ instead of ‘you’re’ is not a typo, and neither is ‘affect’ when it should be ‘effect’.

A typo is something the fingers did that the brain didn’t intend the fingers to do. It is clearly an accident. The second lot of ‘typos’ are lazy-arse excuses for writers’ poor grammar skills. Guess which are likely to get you rejected?

Genuine typos tend to be one-off occasions in an otherwise clean document. Excuses for typos tend to breed in dark corners. If there is one, there are almost certainly more. There are exceptions, of course, and some stories are good enough to excuse a very low level of this kind of poor English. One thing you should remember about exceptions, and that is that they as a rule never, ever apply to you.

Mostly, excuses-for-typos tend to be symptomatic for other style problems, such as chronic over-writing, word repetitions, trying-too-hard writing or flat writing. They are never the sole reason that a story gets rejected, because they rarely happen in isolation.

In other words, if you have grammar and style bugbears, catch them, squash them or shoot them and incinerate them. Your grammar skills are like the screwdriver in a tool kit: you can use it to fix things, lever things off, or bash things, but you don’t notice it until it’s missing and then you can’t do the job.

Motto of the day: don’t leave home without a screwdriver.

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from the slush minion’s diary #9 long stories

I see the following question being asked a lot by writers: which magazine accepts stories over 10,000 words?

There are a few such magazines, including, if you’re Australian, ASIM. You can find these magazines on Duotrope.

But I would like to ask a counter-question: are you sure the story needs to be that long?

Because, you see, most stories I see of this length could be shortened. If not, the story is usually very good. In ten thousand words, you can do a lot of worldbuilding and character work.

Mostly, though, stories are that long because they’re too flabby. They’re overwritten, repetitive, or start in the wrong place or all of the above. Sometimes I feel that the effective content of a story takes up less than 50% of the total word count.

So, yes, there are places that accept stories over ten thousand words, but before you send your story to such a place, consider the following:

– Is your inciting incident (i.e. ‘where the story really starts’) in the first scene on the first page? Or does your story start with lots of backstory/character navelgazing and thinking about the past or otherwise sitting still and doing nothing in particular or going through boring, domestic tasks?
– Have you described everything, every place, every emotion, every action, only once? Or does your story contain dialogue that comes back to the same point in a circular motion? Does your description describe the same place/person/scene type/action twice? Also consider this within a sentence. I see a lot of sentences with two clauses that mean pretty much the same thing.
– Are your sentences taut and effective? Or do they contain lots of fluff words, which are imprecise, waffly and just words for the sake of words? I call this ‘that was what that was’ type of language.

By looking at all these things, you can often cut an awful lot of verbiage from the story. I can guarantee that if you cut a 10,000 word story down to 7000 words, you’ll end up with a far better story, and more places to submit it.

Update on ASIM #53

I’m editing issue 53 of Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, which will be out at the end of the year.

I have so far accepted four stories, so there is a bit more to go. Three are slush pool stories, and one is a story I sourced from another workshop (yes, I do this, on occasion). Three are science fiction, one, a short piece, soft SF, the other two, longer stories, are hard SF, one with crime elements. We slush blind, but somehow I managed to pick four stories that were written by women.

OK, what does all this mean? Well, obviously I’m looking for more stories. What sort of stories?

– They must absolutely be well-written
– We’re listening to our subscribers who are telling us that they want less horror. We are not a horror market, although we have occasionally published horror and probably will continue to do so on occasion. Midnight Echo is an excellent market for horror in Australia. ASIM set out to publish light-hearted stories. If your story has horror elements, we want the funny side. See ‘Dig Up The Vote’ in issue 47.
– I’m no great fan of demons and angels and devils
– I’d like to see some good-ol’ adventure fantasy
– To me, light-hearted does not mean slap-stick

I stress this is just me, and I’m not speaking for the editors of issues 52 or 54.

How to make an accepted author happy

The flipside of yesterday’s post:

Once an editor has accepted a writer’s story, the editor can make the writer happy by:

– Editing the story. Duh–you’d say, but there are many places where stories are published as-is, typos and all. That’s embarrassing for all parties.
– Consulting with the author about the edits above
– Not requesting entire story rewrites (if the story didn’t fit the editor’s expectation it shouldn’t have been accepted)
– Giving the author a rough time frame for publishing
– Making sure the author gets paid as promised
– Advertising the published work

Anything else?