Popshot is an illustrated literary magazine that publishes short stories, flash fiction, and poetry from the literary new blood. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
JD: Firstly, the basic criteria is that it's a story that reads seamlessly. If we're having to stop every few lines to try and work out what the writer is saying, we're not going to get lost in it. Secondly, you shouldn't want to stop reading. We get submissions that you have to battle with to continue reading. However, if the first line makes me want to read the second line, and the second line makes me want to read the third, that's a good basis of a story and chances are, I'll arrive at the end and realise 10 minutes have passed without even being aware of it. Thirdly, the story has to have some sort of bizarre/surreal/paradoxical/unexpected element to it, something that markedly separates it from the stories we tell each other on a day to day basis.
SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
JD: There probably aren't another three reasons. Most of the time it's as simple as the fact that there was a story that was better for us, or better for that particular theme. Otherwise, it's because it doesn't fit into the three things mentioned above. Make it read beautifully, make it difficult to stop reading, root it in an interesting concept and an original idea, and we'll struggle to turn it down.
SQF: Which of the following statements is true and why? Plot is more important than character. Character is more important than plot. Plot and character are equally important.
JD: In very short fiction, which is what Popshot publishes, plot is more important than character. We don't get the time to get to know the characters in the stories, so whilst in a novel I would say they are equally important with a leaning towards character, I definitely think short fiction centres around a ruddy good plot.
SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission in Popshot Magazine?
JD: Pick up a copy of the magazine and read the kind of work we publish. I can't tell you how many people blanket hit us with submissions without knowing the kind of work we publish, and without even really reading the guidelines. There's a definite link between all of the stories/poems we publish, and if you're able to really see that and write something that appeals to that aesthetic, chances are that we'll like it. As an editor, it's very easy to see the writers that give a toss about getting published in the magazine, and the ones that have sent the same stuff to 100 magazines before it made it to us. If you want to get published in a magazine, get to know it, pay attention to it. I wouldn't encourage people to change their writing style just to get published in Popshot, but if you like what we publish and you know how to write something in a similar vein - you're halfway there.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
JD: That your competition isn't as strong as you may think it is. The good writers burn brightly and there are fewer of them than I originally imagined there to be. I've also learned that it's almost impossible to formulate. Although if someone does everything that I've mentioned in my answers to your questions, it doesn't definitely mean we'll publish it. Some things just hit you in the gut, and others don't, and that bit is very difficult to explain.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
JD: I think if you didn't ask me, I've answered it anyway. Perhaps you could have asked me whether I have any authority on this subject, to which I would have simply replied 'no'.
Thank you, Jacob. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 4/23--Six Questions for Christine Chesko, Editor-in-Chief, Snail Mail Review