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Submission Basics

Posted on June 27, 2011 at 12:24 PM Comments comments (0)

Back to the Basics

We are a small group, admittedly new, and are quickly learning our way. Some of you are already submission-seasoned, others are neophytes at this gig, but either way, we will give you some pointers for what we are looking for, and what makes us want to gouge our eyeballs out with spoons.

1. The sentence fragment: don’t do it. I know that some authors have perfected the use of the sentence fragment, making it the paragraph fragment and even, yes, the scene fragment. We don’t care about those authors. A sentence fragment is a no-go, especially when they start with a conjunction.

2. The conjunction: a very necessary part of our language, however a sentence of seventeen words, five of which are conjunctions, will not fly. It’s lazy writing, so please use them judiciously.

3. The adverb: Lolly, lolly, lolly buy your adverbs here. I loved that song on School House Rocks. The adverbs were great in the song, not so much in a manuscript. Again, necessary, they should be used judiciously.

4. Then/Than, That/Which: these are not interchangeable words.

5. The pronoun: He went up to him and said she shouldn’t have to put up with them because it wasn’t fair to any of them. Hmmmm, could I get a roadmap please? Pronouns are wonderful words, but too many used in one sentence will confuse the reader, and none of us wants a confused reader, because that reader is going to slam the book shut and walk away.

6. Dialogue tags: Yes, I know that ‘said’ is invisible, but it’s not really, especially when every sentence has the word in it. Is it better than retorted, chortled, replied, stated, exclaimed, interjected affirmed, avowed, declared… you get the idea. My biggest complaint about dialogue tags that simply imply speech are a wasted opportunity. We want to know everything there is to know about a character, so if he is elbow-deep in a mining expedition up his nose while he is talking, I would rather know that (well, maybe not) than that he said something. He might be cleaning his nails, fiddling with the remote, or picking at his teeth, but body language will say as much as words, so share it.

7. Head Hopping: A very smart friend of mine made this one very simple some years back – if the story is from Bob’s POV, the Bob cannot see himself smiling glibly, he is not going to describe his gorgeous flowing hair, or know that he is walking around like he has a carrot shoved up his bottom. He might rub his hand through his stubble, but he won’t know that the person he is talking to is trying hard to ignore the piece of spinach hanging off his whiskers. Put yourself inside your character’s POV and remember that he won’t see the piece of toilet paper hanging out of his pants cuff when he strolls back to his seat at the table, although he might just pick up on the faces around him.

8. POV: Pick one, and stay with it through the scene.

9. Person and tense: We are open to just about anything, but be aware that we find first person and present tense to be incredibly hard to write well.

10. The space bar: touch it once, between words, not twice between sentences, not fifteen times because your tab buttons are set…once. ONLY ONCE

11. While we do not require you to spend hours, days or weeks ‘perfecting’ your query letter, professionalism and courtesy do count. Proper contact information is a nice thing to offer as well in a cover letter. Sending what we ask for, which is the first two chapters and the last chapter, would also be nice.

12. Listen to your muse: go with your gut, listen to that voice inside you, and don’t micromanage your plot and characters. Let them speak to you, let them have fun with the story, and remember that while it’s okay to have a destination, sometimes the side-trips getting there are invaluable gems, and let them happen with your story. Above all, have fun with the writing – and do it in Times New Roman font -- please.

Having said all this, does it mean that if you send it in the wrong font, we will reject it? No, not necessarily. When we ask that you put your submission into the body of you email, does it mean we really won’t open attachments? Yes, that is exactly what it means, but for everything else, we have been known to be flexible. We are looking for good stories, and if we have to do a bit of excavating to uncover them in the submission, we are more than prepared to do so, but we ask the same of the writer as well. All the stuff listed here just makes the job a whole lot easier, faster and more enjoyable for all of us.

WAMM GOLDEN RULE OF WRITING: READ IT OUT LOUD. We mean this most sincerely. Let your ear hear what you are writing. If you stumble, fix it. Ninety percent of your mistakes in tense, spelling and word usage will be uncovered at one time if you read your work aloud.