So, we've just closed to submissions for Flashpoint, and if your story is in our submission pile (especially for the first time), you might be wondering what's going to happen now. By now (or very soon) you should have an email acknowledgment from us that we've received your story. No need to sit around biting your nails and wondering if your story has been lost in cyberspace or that occasional abyss of the postal service. You'll know we have it, safe and sound.
Then...the waiting. Honestly, we don't have a set schedule for reading stories during the submission period, because this is not a full-time endeavour for any of us. We read stories when we have a chance, so if you submitted early, it may already have been several months with no response. We do know what it's like to be on the waiting end, and we'll try our best not to keep you hanging too long. Now that submissions have closed, we'll be buckling down to read stories as quickly as we can. If it gets to the point where you just can't stand it, drop us a quick email, and we'll do our best to let you know where we are in the process with your story.
- Rejection. IF we have to write you a rejection letter, rest assured that we will tell you WHY we are not accepting your story. You won't hear “it's just not suitable” from us. We want to help you improve your story, even if it's not working for our needs, so that you have a better chance of marketing it elsewhere. So if we are not in love with your story, we'll tell you why. The only exception to this is if your story is not SPECULATIVE, in which case we'll likely just tell you that. Since that's our genre, we won't attempt to make comments about stories in other genres, and we make it pretty clear in our guidelines what we're looking for.
- Rewrite Request. We may get in touch with you to ask for a rewrite. If this is the case, again, we'll tell you precisely what it is about the story that isn't working for us, and give you some suggestions about how we think it might be changed. Whether or not you choose to rewrite it to editorial suggestions and re-submit it is entirely up to you. Sometimes a story “is what it is,” and for any one of a dozen reasons, the author doesn't feel comfortable changing it. That's fine—you won't hurt our feelings! Just let us know that you'd prefer to try the story somewhere else as it is.
- If you do decide to rewrite and resubmit, we can't guarantee that we'll accept the rewritten story. Sometimes a rewrite still doesn't work, and we'll have to regretfully decline the story even in its new form. However, we will explain our thoughts on the new version and why it's still not working for us. We promise not to leave you in the dark.
- Short List. We may, at some point, notify you that we've placed your story on a “short list”. That means that we really like it and are seriously considering it for inclusion. It's not a guarantee of acceptance, but it means that your story has definitely struck a chord with us. It's likely that if you're on our shortlist, you won't get a final answer until after the submission period ends.
- Conditional Acceptance. We may also go a step further and offer a conditional acceptance. This means that we really, really like your story, but there are one or two things that still need a bit of attention. If you can fix those problem areas, your story is in.
- Acceptance. The best case scenario—either with or without some rewriting, we let you know that we love your story and offer you an acceptance. Indulge in your happy dance...but the process isn't over yet.
After we've decided on the stories we're accepting, all stories are line edited by all three of us. This means that we will go through your story—every story—with a fine-toothed comb, looking for problems with grammar, sentence structure, punctuation, word choice, and other technical matters. We might also make suggestions that go to flow and clarity at this point. We strive to walk a very thin line—retaining your individual style while making sure that the writing is polished until it shines.
Sometimes this is a difficult and unnerving process if you haven't been professionally edited before. We understand that, and we're willing to discuss suggested changes with you if you want. You don't necessarily have to approve of everything we suggest—but we do expect you to accept most of the corrections. And we are sticklers for the grammatical issues. If something is actually wrong, we'll expect it to be fixed. Those things are deal-breakers.
Sound harsh? It's not, really. We just want your story to reflect well on you, and on us. We want it to be the best that we all, working together, can make it. You look good, we look good, and the reader is the one who really wins.
Once all the back-and-forth is finished and we have a good, clean copy of your story, we'll typeset it, and then at least two of the three editors will proofread the final version again. At this stage, we will likely still find small corrections to be made. Spelling errors, punctuation misfires, typos, capitalization glitches...it's kind of amazing how many of these little things we still find at this stage, but we won't necessarily run them past each author again. If any more serious oversights cropped up at this point, of course we would contact you about it. But for these minor issues, we generally just fix them.
And that's it! Now sit down and start writing your next story, while we get to work reading...
Photo credit: mconnors