Since there are so many writers following this blog, I thought I might tell you a little about one thing I do while you come up with questions about writing and Wolfborn.
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine is a semiprozine published in Australia. “Semiprozine” means that writers and artists are paid, if only a small amount, but we, the publishers aren’t. We do it for love.
We slush blind; the authors’ names are removed from submissions before the slushreaders see them. Because of that, you don’t have to be a famous writer to get in, just a good one.
The best stories go through three rounds, the final one being our “slushpool” in which we place the stories we consider publishable. Not all of these are published, because we get far more stories than we can use, even the publishable ones, and we have to keep balance – so much fantasy, SF, horror, poetry, etc. per issue. The good news is that if your story has made it to our slush pool, you can pretty certainly sell it elsewhere – and people have.
“So – how do I get to the slushpool?” you ask.
No matter how good your idea is, if it’s been used over and over, you’re unlikely to sell it to us. Do a lot of reading so you know what’s out there. Then again – if you’ve found a different way of telling a well-used story, we just might take it.
Grammar, punctuation and spelling are very important too. You may think that this can always be edited later, but if you don’t care enough about your work to make sure it’s all correct, why should we care about it? I try to read the whole story, but if the first couple of pages are full of errors, I tend to give up.
Ask yourself – do you care about your characters? If you do, it will come through. If you don’t, why should we? A story written entirely for the punch line might work, but it has to be short. I’ve read 10,000 word stories in which the whole point is, “Ha ha, it’s set in space, but it’s really a Western, geddit?”
If you’re having a go at science fiction, make sure you get your science right. We actually have a number of scientists in the ASIM co-op and they’ll pick out the flaws if any.
For a fantasy, remember that most are based on the real world. For example, I set Wolfborn in my own universe, but it’s more or less set in 12th century Europe. For first-class mediaeval fantasy, read George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire – there’s someone who has really done his research. It’s set in his own world with its own culture, but the knights in it wear heavy armour, the streets smell and the horses are not furry machines you can ride without feeding and resting them. Wounded fighters don’t leap up and fight some more.
Readers should be able to feel comfortable in your world. For ASIM#50 I took a story whose author convinced me that he knew Greece, modern and ancient alike. I’ve just chosen a story for #56, our tenth anniversary edition, because the author was clearly comfortable in ancient Egypt and made me feel the same way; the characters were likable and I could identify, but it was still ancient Egypt. I took both of these stories straight from the slush pile, without knowing who’d written them. One was a new writer, the other established, but I didn’t know that till afterwards.
Endings are just as important as getting your reader hooked with the first line. Sometimes I get a story that hooks me in and persuades me to read till the end – and then the end falls flat. I always reject those, however regretfully. For me, a disappointing end spoils the whole story.
Just one more point: if you’re writing for an international market, make sure you remember that a joke that might have them rolling in the aisles in New York will have the rest of us saying, “Huh?” Don’t assume anything.
This is how I read my slush, but it’s all common sense and you’ll probably find that it works for whichever market you try, not just ours.
Good luck with your writing, guys!