I recently started working as a volunteer editor for the online flash fiction magazine Flash Me (don’t worry, it’s not as sketchy as it sounds!). I saw an ad for the positon on someone’s blog (my apologies to whoever posted it, I wish I could give you credit!), clicked over to the magazine site, and was pleased to see that it was an ezine I was already familiar with. I’d read their stories on several occasions, and thought it would be a good fit. What a great way to earn some editorial experience! Plus, it’s a paying market for the authors — and the zine has been in publication since 2003 — which, to me, screams “credibility!”
Good for the resume, good for the experience.
- There’s a lot of potential out there. There are a lot of stories that are almost good enough, and you can see the raw talent… often it just hasn’t been refined and polished yet. A little more experience, a little more practice, and you can sense when a writer has the potential to someday shine.
- There are limitless ideas. I never know what I’m going to see when I open up a new submission, since the title often reveals very little about the piece. However, most ideas have been done before, and there is a real danger of writing obviously derivative work. Writers must be careful to give their own spin to an oft-used idea, or else the story will simply come off as sloppy.
- Formatting is everything. When I open up a document that’s 1000 words of narrative without any dialogue, paragraph breaks, or scene changes, I groan inside. And that gives you 2 strikes already, in my book.
- Authors need to read guidelines & know their markets. PLEASE. Please. I’m shocked when I read something that’s submitted and is obviously an experimental piece. When was the last time you saw an experimental piece in Flash Me? Read the entire guidelines before submitting. Check if you’re actually submitting to the right place for your work. PLEASE.
- Authors need to PROOFREAD. I’m even more shocked when something comes in with spelling errors, formatting errors, grammatical errors, crude sentence structure… and so on… and so forth… I simply don’t understand how people can submit something that’s full of errors and expect their work to be taken seriously.
- Authors need to do their research. Whether it’s location, a specific situation, a disease, a creature… I don’t care what, but please know what you’re talking about before you make that specific thing integral to your story. There are many, many resources today to make you an expert on your ‘thing’ if it isn’t something you already know about. It’s also important to know your stuff on specific topics because you can seriously offend someone through your own ignorance if you don’t do your research.
- It’s a real joy — and I do mean real, no sarcasm here — to read something so good that it feels like a breath of fresh air. It makes all the time spent worth it. I mean that.
While it’s only been 3 weeks, I have to say that I’m beginning to empathize with editors in bigger magazine/book publishing houses. If a small market like ours has these ups & downs, how much more extreme must it be for them?
Needless to say, when I submit my work anywhere in the future, I’ll be reading the guidelines extra carefully, and researching the market even more closely. I think sometimes we as writers get so caught up in the creation part of our work that we skim over or rush the selling, perhaps without even realizing what we’re doing.
So, I’d like to thank Jennifer at Flash Me, the Editor-in-Chief, for allowing me to become a part of her fun & exciting publication. I encourage you to head over to the website and read some of the stories from the last issue (new issue published Oct.31!) — I particularly recommend ‘Survivalist’ and ‘Going Home’.
Question: When you submit, how carefully do you read the guidelines & research the market? Are there specific things you know you skim over because you don’t like doing them, or are you a stickler for detail?