Friday, 27 June 2008

Reading submissions

I have a pile of stories in the basket next to the settee waiting to be read. I feel guilty when I think about their authors waiting with baited breath to see whether I'll accept them for The Yellow Room or not. I admit that I'm rather tardy about reading submissions. I guess this is because as an editor you have to read so many unsuitable stories before you get to a gem, which is perfect for your publication. These gems are few and far between. Of course it's all down to the editor's taste at the end of the day and no writer should feel despondent if their story is rejected. One of the most useful qualities for a writer to possess is perseverance. I can talk! I'm the first to take a rejection of my work personally, telling myself I'm useless and asking myself why I bother. Then I give myself a kick up the backside and tell myself not to be so silly. This is the time when I think of my friend, Jane Wenham-Jones. She is one of the most persistent, determined writers I know. She never gives up. She's like a terrier with a rat. I try to be more like her, but it's difficult.

I have to say that one of the most common reasons for rejecting a story is because it isn't suitable for the magazine. I wonder if some writers have even read the guidelines for submission. The Yellow Room is a magazine with a predominantly female readership, yet I still get stories set in a man's world or which don't address women's issues or concerns at all. Another problem with many stories I receive is that, although they show promise and begin well, they just peter out. It's as if the writer hasn't given the story's ending any thought at all. The worst kinds of ending are those which seem tacked on or rushed. You can almost hear the writer thinking, I've run out of ideas now. I think I'll just finish the story here. Again, as a writer I know how difficult endings are to write. I invariably end up killing someone off. Death always seems like the ultimate ending, I suppose. I know this isn't the way forward and that the reader ideally needs to be left with a feeling of hope or feeling uplifted at the end of a story. It's much easier said than done!

I think as writers we all need to work on our weak areas. I know mine are plot and endings. Each time a story is rejected we need to think how we could improve it or how we can improve as writers. No story is perfect. Sometimes I accept stories because they really speak to me and tug on my emotions. I can't stop thinking about them. The writing may be slightly flawed, but I can ignore this if I'm absorbed in the writer's world. There are some stories about which I can't make up my mind. I have to put them to one side, think about them, then go back and read them a second or third time. Sometimes it's very difficult to decide whether to accept them or not. There's usually a nagging suspicion that something isn't quite right, but I just can't put my finger on what it is. Then it's very difficult explaining to a writer why I have rejected this particular story.

I've been typesetting again today. I feel as if I'm finally getting somewhere with it. It is a rather troublesome job and is time-consuming, but bizarrely enjoyable and addictive. Maybe that's just me.

1 comment:

Rachel Green said...

You're quite right. The short story is actually a difficult form. I'm currently judging a writing competition and there are a number of very fine stories that just peter out at the end because the writer either ran out of 'oomph' or else realised that what they were writing would take another 5000 words to conclude and they have only 500