I may have mentioned that I am an assistant editor for Narrative Magazine, a highly regarded on-line literary journal that has, sadly, rejected my work in the past. I read the issues unfailingly, recognizing that not all of what gets printed is an even match with what I might select if it was my own lit mag. I do admire much of the writing that I receive in my submission queue. Language is phenomenal. But I only advance perhaps one out of every ten or so manuscripts I read. It’s not a quota, in fact, I’m just pulling that number out of the air, I’ve never done a study.
What do I look for when I evaluate a manuscript?
I look for fun and disturbing stories that illuminate the world without betraying that all of the world is a cliche and that all stories have already been told. I look for stories that are revealed in scene and image and in which the narrator is discreetly intertwined. Where a character unfolds through the details he observes rather than things he remembers or says.
Like this: Brother, by Eugene Cross.
I look for unexpected stories, for unexpected choices of language, for intricacies easily taken in, for truth. Yes, all of the cliches are true.
Many blogs and publishing websites have detailed information about when your piece is ready to be sent out for evaluation, including Narrative. Fiction Factor, the online magazine for fiction writers, focuses primarily on agents and publishing houses, but their reasons for why a manuscript is rejected work at the lit mag level too. They have listed concisely the basic “common sense” factors that might be so common sense that writers overlook it. Topping the list: The manuscript is not a good fit for the audience. Read the lit mag before you submit. Then, read it again.
And if it fits, send it to me.
On to my very full submission queue…