Listen, I understand the frustrations of the submission process. I really, really do. I know it’s full of headaches, and that it’s time-consuming and spirit-sucking and can make you wish you’d chosen a career in the janitorial arts instead.
But like Laura wrote about last week, editors are not (always) the enemy. And the submission process isn’t all cake and ice cream for us, either.
Thankfully my benevolence knows no bounds.
Yes, I have decided to take time out of my busy schedule to work as peacemaker between these two groups of creatives. (Hold your applause until the end, please.)
I think it’s essential that writers see what it’s like on the other side of Submishmash. To that end, I’ve created a multiple-choice test using four 100% true and verbatim cover letters I’ve received recently in my role as a fiction editor. (N.B.: the last is the subject line of a writer’s submission rather than a cover letter.)
Editors, you already know the answers to these, but feel free to take the test if you want to brush up.
Writers, read the letters closely, spend a moment thinking about each question, “pour over” the answers, and make your choices. No cheating. No looking at someone else’s computer, no sneaking into WBN and ganking the answer key. And no damned Irish need apply!
(Just kidding. We love the Irish.)
Sharpen your pencils, WriteByNighters, and good luck. The clock starts now.
1) I’m working on a science fiction type book that is probably prophetic. (I’ve done prophecy before, not on purpose, it’s just how things have turned out several times and this one has that feel about it.) From what I’ve read on your site, it’s probably a good deal more serious than anything you currently publish. Is there any point to me sending you an exerpt? If I don’t sound like your kind of writer, can you suggest anyone I might try? I’d really appreciate it.
Question: Should I read the “exerpt”?
a) Yes, I am always up for ingesting some good quasi-sci-fi probable prophecy, especially if it’s accidental prophecy.
b) I would rather smack around a beehive with my penis.
c) Only if the writer makes the excerpt a good deal less serious than it is now, because I am far too juvenile to handle anything with more depth than a limerick.
d) A truly prophetic writer would already know if there’s any point in sending me an excerpt.
2) this is a short story i recently finished. it must be between 2,500 to 3,000 words. it might take a minute to pour over.it is not very polished.but any kind of feedback would be greatly appreciated.have a good day.
Question: How long did it take me to “pour over” this submission?
a) One minute, as estimated.
b) A minute and a half, having spent thirty seconds verifying that over.it is not a functioning website.
c) I didn’t even read the first line because when I opened the story I learned that it was actually over 9,000 (9,000!) words. So, zero minutes.
d) I’m still reading it. Leave me alone.
f) All of the above.
g) What the hell happened to “e”?
3) Enclosed please find the attachment- a short story entitled: “[title redacted]” comprising approximately 9600 words, for your kind consideration for publication in your magazine. If the article is found to cross the stipulated limit of 7000 words, it may please be edited judiciously.The story has not been given to any journal for publication and is an original writing based on a hypothetical situation.
Question: Will the 9,600-word article/story be found to cross the stipulated limit of 7,000 words?
a) If I have 9,600 apples and you tell me that I am only allowed 7,000 apples, the number of apples in my possession exceeds the apple limit you stipulated.
b) If I have 9,600 apples and you tell me that I am only allowed 7,000 apples, the number of apples in my possession does not exceed the apple limit you stipulated.
c) If I have 9,600 apples, and an apple a day keeps the doctor away, then I can cancel my health insurance for the next 26.3 years.
d) You lost me at “edit judiciously.”
e) Unclear, since 9,600 is only an approximation. And as we learned in #2, sometimes a writer will be off on word count by a solid 7,000. (Assuming that c. is the correct answer to #2. Are you comfortable making that assumption? Because if you do, and you chose c. for #2 and now e. for #3, and you’re wrong, then you’re already down to a 50% on this exam, and won’t that make you feel all salty?)
4) [Submission email subject line] flash ficction?
Question: Is this piece actually flash “ficction,” or is it not?
a) I’ll never know, since I immediately deleted it without looking, but the writer submitted it to the nonfiction department, who then forwarded it to me, which makes this whole submission even weirder and wronger than it already was.
b) All of the above.
Pencils down, ladies and gents. So how do you think you did? Let us know below.