Open Road Review accepts previously unpublished short fiction up to 4000 words and flash fiction of 1000 words or fewer, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Read the complete guidelines here.
SQF: What are the top three things you look for in a submission and why?
- Dialogue needs to do more than inform the reader or it is just taking up page space.
- Conflict, because it's interesting.
- Events in the past inform the present. It is much more interesting to know what happens after someone wins the lottery than the story of the event itself. As writer Sam Ligon once said in a workshop, "Readers are more interested in people who win the lottery and then blow their brains out."
SQF: What are the top three reasons a submission is rejected, other than not fitting into your answers to the above question and why?
- The characters are one dimensional and lack depth.
- The story is entirely plot driven or uses action to show something simple.
- The story does not know itself well enough to answer the question, "Why is this happening now?"
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.
SP: There's always an exception, but if a story is entirely plot driven and characters lack depth, the story will fall short. If the story is a character study with rich interior there is more of a chance it will be published than if it has a one-dimensional character and lots of action.
So, my final answer is that on average character is more important than plot.
SQF: What advice can you offer new authors hoping to publish their first submission?
SP: New authors sometimes make the mistake of feeling overconfident that because they have completed a story it is ready to be published. While it's a great feeling to finish work, it is not always finished and may need multiple workshops or revisions. Setting the story aside for a couple months can be helpful in gaining perspective before final revisions. There are times when a story, when complete, may not resemble the first draft at all.
Perhaps, once in a while, there is a new writer who may take to telling an editor that he/she is an editor and not a real writer so won't understand what the writer is trying to accomplish with the story. It's best to be open and take an objective look at information, not close the mind and reject suggestions. Some advice may be beneficial, some not so much. The ability to determine the difference only happens once a writer has overcome an attachment to his/her work.
SQF: Based on your experience as an editor, what have you learned about writing?
SP: Editing has taught me a lot about writing. It's an organic learning experience, really, because the knowledge is cumulative. Sometimes a light turns on and there's this AHA! moment. These are significant and I think it means I've reached a milestone, however small, when it comes to discerning a solid story from one that needs revision.
SQF: What one question on this topic do you wish I'd asked that I didn't? And how would you answer it?
Thank you, Shanti. We all appreciate you taking time from your busy schedule to participate in this project.
NEXT POST: 9/10--Six Questions for Robert Vaughan, Fiction and Poetry Editor, Lost in Thought