Ten Things I’d Like to See Less of in the Slush

This is NOT a list of forbidden things. Such a list doesn’t exist. This is just a list of things that irk me when I come across them in my beloved slush pile. Here they are in random order (well, maybe not so random because I suppose the ones that irk me the most will be at the top of the list…go figure).

1. Email submissions with manuscripts that won’t open in Microsoft Word. Bugs the crap out of me and how do you expect me to read it if I can’t open it and “see” it? Hmmm?

2. Email submissions with manuscripts that are in some kind of protected mode, meaning I can’t single space if I want (and I want to) or change the font from Ye Olde Glorious Scripte to something that looks like a manuscript to me, like Times New Roman, 12 pt.

3. Wandering tenses. *I rise from the bed and went to the bathroom* (All quotes from manuscripts on this blog are entirely made up by me unless I cite the author with permission. No worries, folks, I don’t use your stuff for public ridicule.) On the subject of tenses, I really don’t care which one of the millions you use, just don’t jumble them up within sentences. It makes me feel queasy.

4. No page numbers on the manuscript. What if I drop this puppy on the floor and the pages scatter all over the laminate? How am I to know that Aunt Matilda doesn’t run away with her dentist until page 10? Very confusing.

5. Manuscripts with no names on them, just the title. Gee whiz. I LOVE this manuscript. Who wrote it? Wait, is this the cover letter? Dear Editor, please find enclosed my manuscript. Hope you like it. Best, Aspiring Writer.

6. Manuscripts that simply *tell* a story. A big, long, wordy story *about* a riveting plot that never comes to life because the writer is simply saying…this happened, and then this happened, and that caused this to happen, and then they died. Or whatever. Make me *believe* in that story. Make me walk with your characters, ache with them, celebrate with them, and want to boot their sorry asses right off the page, if that’s what they need. But don’t just tell me they walked, talked, ached, celebrated, or needed a bo0t in the bum. Let me flex my imagination here. Take me with you, please.

7. Cover letters (which I don’t read until AFTER I read the manscript…more about that late in another post) that say “Enjoy” when the writer is talking about their own work. I have no idea why this bugs me so much, and it’s one of the reasons I don’t read cover letters until after I’ve read the sub, but it just reeks of arrogance to me. Sorry ’bout that. I’m sure you don’t mean it that way, but I guess I’d like to be the one to choose if your story/chapter/novel is enjoyable. Don’t tell me it is up front. It makes you sound conceited.

8. Manuscripts that rely on the *circumstance* of the story line to carry the work. Cancer, disabled war vet, abused woman, drug addict…whatever. These are all valid and powerful things to use in a manuscript. But be careful if you expect that this type of *victim* literature will evoke exactly what you want in the reader. You might be surprised how many readers get tired of having to do your work for you from their stockpile of empathy. Make it count. Make it real. YOU do the work. The reader isn’t on your payroll.

9. Angry stories. Angry POV characters who have nothing to be pissed off about but just can’t seem to appreciate that roses smell good and being alive is a gift. I love anger when it’s justified (gets out all that pent up pissed off stuff I rarely express myself), but I can’t relate to generalized anger as a theme. Personal taste, oh yeah. Give it some meaning, some purpose, some kind of context, and I’m right there with you.

10. Manuscripts where the writer steps in, clears his or her throat and lets loose. The writer/pontificator. I see a whole lot of this. Good story, just buzzing along, I’m with ya, yeah… and then…bam the world’s most boring, probably sincere, but ill-advised lecture on the horrors of alcohol or drugs or philandering husbands or God Forbid! parents who are human and don’t understand their kids. Spare me. I can figure all this stuff out for myself. You write it right, and I’ll get it. Honest.

ED

PS. gratuitous violence bugs me as well. Just for the record.

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