"LITnIMAGE accepts traditional and innovative literary fiction (sorry, no genre fiction, poetry or non-fiction). Stories must be unpublished and fewer than 2,000 words." Learn more here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a story and why?
RG: Stories must be engaging in some way, and typically, right from the start. Also, it really helps if the writing is solid, and the writer possesses obvious fiction writing skills and a command of craft. Thematically or style-wise it doesn’t really matter. Years ago when we started, all things being equal, I leaned toward darker and more experimental pieces, but now I’m just seeking the best LIT I can get my hands on. Ideally, though, it helps if a story isn’t too conventional, and has some sort of edge or weirdness to it. That’s true also for the IMAGE that art editor Kimy Martinez finds for each issue. We’re trying to create a certain aesthetic.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a story is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
RG: Over time we’ve been receiving a progressively higher rate of quality submissions, so I pass on many stories I admire but don’t necessarily leave an indelible impression or resonance. Also, stories without a strong or consistent voice generally aren’t compelling enough to consider. And then there are the guidelines issues or indicators people aren’t familiar with LITnIMAGE, for instance stories which are a better fit for genre publishers or are too long or too micro for our consideration.
SQF: What other common mistakes do you encounter that turn you off to a story?
RG: Ones littered with grammatical errors don’t stand a chance. This isn’t as frequent a problem as it once was, happily, but still occurs. Just as frustrating, I’d say, is when talented writers send along stories with more than a few typos and it’s obvious they haven’t spent enough time working a story toward its potential.
SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a story?
RG: Occasionally. Mostly I’ll hint if I like something and let writers know I’d like to see more of their work. I used to give critical feedback more often but some people took the more positive comments as a sign of imminent publication and, like sharks to chum, would inundate me with new work which was generally not as polished as what they’d sent previously. But, even now, if a story is really close or if I see a vision for it and think the writer is capable, I’ll see about a rewrite. Sometimes we’ll send pieces back and forth many times. LITnIMAGE won’t necessarily end up publishing them, but I do think the stories are stronger after undergoing the process.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
RG: That the familiar maxim, “A story is never finished,” always holds true about fiction writing. As an editor you find things (you can’t help it) that need revising or tweaking in pretty much every story you receive. While seeing it as an editor, I’m finally taking it to heart as a writer, and am becoming much more meticulous in painstakingly rereading my own work and scrubbing stories clean before sending them out.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
RG: You might have asked, Do you enjoy being an editor? To which I’d respond, Uh…er…um…(gulp!) ...It has its moments…
Thank you, Roland. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 2/13--Six Questions for Darren Sant, Editor, Near to the Knuckles