55327_girl-writing_mdI was checking the FAQ on a popular SF&F magazine last week and ran across the information that the magazine’s slush readers are encouraged to stop reading as soon as they encounter something in a story that doesn’t suit them. The readers of this particular magazine submit a comment about why they stopped reading, so looking back through the rejections, I can tell exactly how far the readers got into the story before dumping it. This is interesting research. It looks like they read about one paragraph into the last story I sent them, which I thought was a really solid story. Hm.

I’m trying to decide what implications this kind of policy has for short story writers. Certainly it ups the standard for keeping the reader’s interest and producing a tight story. However, I’m not sure how I’m supposed to account for the reader’s taste. Even worse, I don’t know what preconceptions they have about what a story should do and how it should develop. If, for example, I’m relying on a great twist ending to give my story impact, the reader is unlikely to ever get that far. If I’m relying on developing an important characterization over several pages, how can I convey this to the reader?

Maybe I should request that the magazine put up a blueprint of what they’re looking for. Or maybe I should just stop submitting there. I don’t think they’re really respecting the stories.

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