Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Six Questions for Iulian Ionescu, Editor, Fantasy Scroll Magazine

Fantasy Scroll Magazine is a quarterly publication featuring science fiction, fantasy, horror, and paranormal short-fiction. Read the complete guidelines here.

SQF: Why did you start this magazine?

Iulian Ionescu: Over the last few years I’ve become more and more involved in the writing community. I did it because I love it, and I know that no matter where I am in my writing career there are always others out there that could teach me a thing or two. So for me, being a part of the writing community was paramount. Of course, being on the writing side is one thing, being on the publishing side is another. I see this magazine as my attempt to bridge that gap by providing another avenue for writers looking to have their voices heard. That is the altruistic and main reason for this project.

The selfish reason comes from my curiosity about the insights of a publisher’s life. Yes, it’s difficult and hard, but it’s also exciting and uplifting. When you read those first two sentences of a story and you hear a choir above your head and you go ‘ha, I discovered this,’ you feel good. 

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

II: HOOK ME - The first few paragraphs of a story are the most important for me. I’ve found time and time again that if I am turned off by the first two-three paragraphs, it’s almost impossible for the story to turn around. So, I’d say that one of the most important things in a submission for me is a strong start, something that hooks me right away.

END STRONGLY - The next thing is a satisfying and natural ending. I hate when I get invested into a story only to see it fall flat on the last page. I’ve seen a lot of stories that start strong, carry me through to the end, but the ending itself is fake, rushed, and lacks satisfaction. I enjoy a mysterious ending or one that leaves me wondering, but I don’t like when I feel like your printer ran out of ink, so you decided to let the story end there.

PLOT/CHARACTER - The third one is a good combination of plot-character work. If the writer pays attention to only one of these, the story feels forced and doesn’t give me the kind of satisfaction I am looking for. I know that in a short-story (and more so in microfiction) it is sometimes hard to create a character arc when you are trying to construct a complex plot, but it doesn’t have to be a very complicated process. At least spend a little bit of time on the characters, don’t let them be talking cardboard cutouts; they will ruin even the best plot. 

SQF: What most often turns you off to a submission?

II: Bad writing style is what turns me off right away. I wish I could define it in detail, but I can’t. I just know it. Sentences that do not flow easily into one another, weird paragraph breaks, haphazard use of punctuation, bad dialogue (a big one!), strange dialogue tags that force me to re-read paragraphs just to understand who is talking. Things like that.

Also, I am almost immediately turned off if a manuscript starts with backstory and drags. If you are telling a story, tell me that story, don’t spend time explaining why you are telling the story.

Lastly, although I am not a stickler when it comes to manuscript formatting, those manuscripts that hurt my eyes get a mental negative point in my head. Since almost all markets nowadays require the Standard Manuscript Format, why not follow that?

SQF: Do you provide comments when you reject a submission?

II: Unfortunately, the volume of submissions doesn’t allow me to provide feedback on all rejections. Some of them, sadly, seem unsalvageable to me, so providing feedback would be the same as re-writing the piece. However, when I find a submission that is on the cusp between a rejection and a short-listing or an acceptance, I do provide feedback. I try to pinpoint those few things that could’ve turned this rejection into an acceptance. Also, for those that are really close to an acceptance, I provide the red-lined manuscript with notes on the margin and track-changes. Obviously, my goal is get as many good stories as possible, so if there isn’t a lot to do for a submission to become acceptable, I will do all I can to steer the writer in that direction.

SQF: What magazines do you read most often?

II: My favorites are Fantasy & Science Fiction, Asimov’s and Analog. I like Daily Science Fiction and Flash Fiction Online as well, especially their shorter pieces. I also read Clarkesworld and Lightspeed, but I tend to let these pile up a bit and then catch up with them. Since I am also writing and submitting stories, I always read a few stories from the markets I target, just to make sure my piece is a good fit.

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

II: How are you dealing with the slush pile?

I am a pretty organized person, so I have created a system of tracking and grading that moves manuscripts through a process. I try to send my rejections as fast as I can, so the writers can move along and submit to different markets. I am relying on a few first readers that I trust, so that helps lowering the pressure a little bit. To that end, I am always looking for more volunteers when it comes to the slush, so I invite anyone who would like to participate to contact me.

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

NEXT POST: 3/21--Six Questions for Mike Joyce, Editor-in-Chief, Literary Orphans

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