Friday, March 18, 2011

Six Questions for A. W. Gifford, Editor, Bete Noire

Bete Noire publishes well-written, character driven stories that have a dark bent to them, poetry of any style, artwork, and photographs. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

AWG: I started this magazine for a few reasons. The first is that I enjoy the process of reading stories from the slush and editing. I was the editor for another magazine and when I left that one due to creative differences, I wanted to start another. The biggest reason I started this magazine is because I see too much unoriginality out there. For example, when I see, in print, another vampire story, I just want to cringe. It's not that vampire stories are bad, it's just most are unoriginal. If your vampire resembles anything that Ann Rice or Stephanie Meyer wrote, I don't want it. This also applies to unoriginal zombies, werewolves and ghosts. My advice to writers is to read a lot. You must do this in order to know what has gone before.

SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?

AWG: Good characterization, good story development and good writing skill. Give me characters I should care about, give me a story that goes somewhere and you should have a good understanding of the basics of English. You don't have to be a great writer, but a good one. This doesn't mean that if this is your first attempt at writing a story you shouldn't send it to me. I'm very open to all levels of writing.

SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?

AWG: Not following my guidelines is the biggest reason, and I'm sure this is the main reason for most editors. Read the guidelines, people. The editors didn't write them for fun. When I say no sexual violence toward children or sparkling vampires, I mean just that. No, I will not make an exception for you. Second has to be the use of bad adverbs. Just because you can put "ly" at the end of a word doesn't mean you should. My advice is to go through your story, highlight each of your adverbs and then take them out. Re-read your story and put them back as you see fit. If you put back more than ten percent, then you are doing something wrong. However, if I see a story with "prettily" or "messily" or "owlishly" or anything like that, I may have to scream, run around the office and stab someone with a pencil. The third reason I reject stories is that they don't grab the reader. If your story is five pages long and by page three I still don't know what's going on, then you have problems.

SQF: When reading a story, how do you know it was written by a novice author?

AWG: They are in situations that I can relate to and maybe even have experienced myself. Give your characters some personality, give them problems, give them worries, give them jobs they hate. Give them life.

SQF: Will you publish a story an author posted on a personal blog?

AWG: Yes, if it is any good. But if it appears on your blog, we will ask that it be removed for the three months your story is in our magazine. Once the next issue is out, you can put it back.

SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?

AWG: What is the one thing you can't stress enough to writers no matter their level of success? When an editor takes the time to give you some personal feedback as to why your story was rejected, please don't write back with a snotty response. Don't write to me and say well Stephen King does it that way, or Mark Twain, or (fill in famous writer's name here). A thank you is nice but not necessary. A nasty email telling me how dare I pass on your story, will only anger me. I could just send out a form letter, but I don't. I take the time to give you my opinion on how I feel your story could be better and that takes time. Time away from other stories, time away from my own writing and time away from my family. Most editors don't give personal feedback. If my comments upset you, don't write and tell me, just ignore them.

Thank you, A.W. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.

NEXT POST: 3/21--Six Questions for Tannen Dell, Publisher, Editor-in-Chief, Indigo Rising Magazine

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