Editor Empathy

   Posted by: Faith   in Rye Thoughts

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.

That said, what have I learned in my first 3 weeks as a slush reader?

  • 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?

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This entry was posted on Monday, October 5th, 2009 at 5:56 pm and is filed under Rye Thoughts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 comments so far


What a great experience for you. I bet you can see things from the other side. Thanks for sharing what you’ve learned.

October 6th, 2009 at 5:51 pm

I love this article! This is excellent advice for writers who want to get their work published, and I’m going to share this on Twitter and Facebook. After that, I’m off to check out “Flash Me.”

October 6th, 2009 at 11:33 pm

I review the guidelines carefully and try to follow them carefully. So far, it hasn’t done me any good, but I at least try to follow instructions.

October 7th, 2009 at 2:53 am

LW – It’s been a real eye opener! As writers, we know how important it is to do our best & follow directions, but the reality doesn’t always hit home until we see it from the other side!

Melissa – Thanks so much for visiting! I’m so glad you found my post helpful. Hope you enjoy ‘Flash Me’! The website isn’t much to look at, but it’s the stories that matter anyway :)

Meredith – Thanks for stopping by! I figure, as long as we keep practicing how to follow market guidelines carefully, we’ll have that down pat and be able to really focus on the writing aspect of our work… and before you know it, you’ll get that heart-stopping, joy-inducing “YES!”

October 7th, 2009 at 1:18 pm

I read them and reread them over and over again to make sure I have everything right.

October 7th, 2009 at 3:23 pm
Susan B

I do read the guidelines carefully before submitting, Faith. That being said, I find “researching” hard when it comes to picture book material. Any suggestions?

October 8th, 2009 at 5:19 pm

What a great post! Thanks for reminding me Faith.

October 27th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

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