SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
- Polished writing. The piece should flow from beginning to end. Read it out loud before sending it. Also, I'm more likely to accept things that sound like crime fiction.
- A solid plot. A beginning, a middle, an end. At the end, the tension should either be resolved or suspended in an interesting way.
- Cracking dialog. I like good dialog writers. That's one of the reasons I read crime fiction.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to question one and why?
- The story is not something we do. If you've written a police procedural, a whodunit, a serial killer story, something with a cat or whatever, I probably won't accept it unless you're doing something really original. In other words -- read a few of the stories at All Due Respect first before sending your work.
- Not enough action. If you have 1000 words of people talking at a table or standing around, I'm probably not going to take it. The vast majority of stories we publish have a good amount of action. There doesn't have to be shit blowing up on every page, but the characters should take actions that have results.
- The tone isn't right. We do noir and hardboiled fiction, which has a specific feel.
SQF: What common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
CR: As a reader, I should have a good understanding of what the central conflict of the story is by the end of the first page. This is part of a larger problem that I frequently see -- work that isn't ready for show time yet. Cut out a lot of the back story, limit exposition as much as possible, make sure every line sounds good -- self-edit your work until you can't stand it before you send it out.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?
CR: Yes. All Due Respect has a quick turnaround time and you will receive personal comments about your story as long as you don't blatantly ignore the guidelines.
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?
CR: Often, the stories I reject will probably get accepted somewhere else, as they should be. All a rejection means is that I didn't care for that particular story or thought it didn't fit in with All Due Respect. Sometimes I encourage writers to submit again -- and if I say that, I mean it.
I'm usually pretty clear with my comments, but if writers have questions about what I said they can contact me. I won't bite!
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
CR: What do you like about being an editor?
I like sending out acceptances. I'm a writer, so I know how good it feels to have your work validated. When possible, I like helping writers make their work better.
I feel strongly about the role of zines in the online crime fiction community, which is a (perhaps surprisingly...) warm and welcoming group of writers and readers. I look forward to making a contribution by running this excellent zine that Founding Editor Alec Cizak established.
Thank you, Chris. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 1/12--Six Questions for John Kenyon, Editor, Grift Magazine