SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
- I look for a good plot. Without a plot, you don't have a story.
- Good characterization--the characters need to make me care about them. If I don't care about the characters, then I don't care about the story.
- And it has to have a logical and satisfying ending. It doesn't have to be a happy ending, but it does have to be logical and/or satisfying.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
- Those who fail to follow guidelines, sending inappropriate material or manuscripts that are longer than what we accept. Check the guidelines on the website or send for them. It will save not only time for both you and the editor, but postage as well.
- Writers who give ultimatums--publish it or I won't buy, or you're crazy if you don't take this.
- Stories that are not well written, although sometimes we will give suggestions to make it better and allow the author to resubmit.
SQF: What other mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
- Badly written cover letters. If you can't write a tight, professional cover letter, it's doubtful you can do any more with the story. Harsh--maybe, but badly written cover letters are an indication of how you write. To make a good impression (you only get one chance), get that cover letter as good as it can be--and type it, don't hand write it.
- Manuscripts that have not been edited and are filled with spelling and grammar mistakes.
- No SASE. No editor will return your work or acknowledge it without one.
SQF: What is it about the characters in a story that makes them pop off the page and grab hold of you?
RW: Flawed characters. Characters I can relate to, because we are all flawed. Perfect characters who always do the right thing at the right time without internal conflict are boring characters. And I like characters who prevail against all odds.
SQF: I read a comment by one editor who said she keeps a blacklist of authors who respond to a rejection in a less than professional manner. I'm sure you know what I mean. What do you want authors to know about the stories you reject and how authors should respond? Along this same idea, do you mind if authors reply with polite questions about the comments they receive?
RW: I believe all editors have black lists, even though they may never admit it. We deal with hundreds of people on a daily basis and simply do not have the time to deal with bruised egos and demanding writers. If there were statistics, I think it would be about 100 to 1. One hundred polite verses 1 impolite. You tell me, which would you rather deal with?
I don't mind at all if writers contact me asking why I rejected their work, or how they can make the story better, or anything in between. If you do it professionally and politely, I will be a lot more likely to go that extra mile to help. After all, that's what I'm here for--to help writers make their dreams come true.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
RW: I would like to say to all the writers out there to make sure you get the editor's name correct. Make sure it's spelled correctly. The more you get right with your submission and with your story, the more likely you are to place the piece. Do your research, make sure you are sending to the correct editor as well. I wish all writers the best of luck.
Thank you, Regina. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 2/7--Six Questions for Edmund R. Schubert, Editor, Orson Scott Card's InterGalactic Medicine Show