A few weeks ago, I blogged excitedly about a submission for a specialty anthology. Note to self: Do NOT blog about pending submissions. It never works out.
Like every submission, I carefully read the guidelines on Duotrope and on their website (2,500 – 4,000 words, due August 30th). There was an interview with the editor on Duotrope (cool new feature) providing further detail on what they were looking for.
So I wrote the story and came in just shy of the 4,000 word limit. I submitted it and felt pretty good about it.
It was just over a week later I received a fairly positive response, saying they liked my story – up to a point. I opened up their edited version and saw yellow highlights and comments everywhere (most of the “cut – cut – cut” variety). First time for me that a story has come back like a graded paper.
Anyhoo, my effort was a (supposedly) humorous zombie tale, so some of the comments were interesting. In one scene, a zombie panhandler carries a sign reading “GWARRKK!” or some such thing. The comment was: “Alphabet still in use among zombies?” My answer, of course, is “yes.”
Another instance where my character references his gun (a .45 pistol) was met with, “Name your gun.” This being Florida, I wondered: do they mean the brand? Or do people in Florida actually, you know, name their guns?
Millie? Betsy? Fred?
Still not sure about that one.
My point is that the story was read carefully (I got the impression by more than a few people) and some of the comments were really good (“Your character was well-established but starts to lose focus here”). I’m not sure they read it as it was meant, a humorous tale, and I’m certain they stopped short of suspending their disbelief.
But what really got me was this comment in their cover letter: “We’d like to get your story down to the 2,500 word limit for this anthology before considering it.”
Of course, the stated limit was 4,000 words, on both Duotrope and on their website. I’d have written something different if the limit was 2,500 words. But just for fun, I began editing the story with their criticisms in mind, criticisms that stopped about a third of the way through, suggesting they hadn’t read the story to the end.
But there was no way this particular story could be edited down to 2,500 words. So I thanked them for their (granted, tepid) interest and wished them the best of luck.
Now, I suspect what happened is they already accepted a number of higher word limit stories, perhaps from folks they know or folks who have been in their previous anthology or maybe even themselves, and they’re looking for a few lower word limit stories to round out the collection.
And I do sincerely wish them well, but won’t be submitting to them again.
Which brings up something else that’s been going through my mind lately (quite literally), the beginning of “How to succeed in business without really trying.”
At the beginning of the movie (and the play) young J. Pierpont Finch finds a book titled “How to succeed in business without really trying” and starts on Chapter One, which contains the advice “start in the mailroom” on the lowest rung of the ladder.
So Finch follows their advice and gets a job in the mailroom, then opens to Chapter Two which contains the advice “get the hell out of the mailroom.”
I sometimes feel that everything I’ve ever done to advance (heh!) my writing career is keeping me in the mailroom.
In conclusion (and for what it’s worth) my humorous St. Pete zombie tale titled “Nearly Dead” will be expanded and made available for free on Smashwords, alongside “Telegraph Hill.”
Work continues on my full-length Dick Londergan P.I. tale.
“Applewood” is coming!
Meanwhile, I’ll be down here in the mailroom if you need me.