I’m reading your entries

Whenever I submit to an anthology, I look at the response email with pretty much this look before clicking open to read it…

finding doryDid you like my story? Please say yes.

As the tables have turned, I thought it might be interesting to be transparent about my first experience as an editor.

I posted the call in late June, and I was shocked at how fast entries started to appear in my inbox. I made a point of replying to each email to let them know I’d received their entry, or to clarify my submission guidelines. There was a lull, and then in August there was another wave (that unfortunately coincided with an unplanned move) and today I found three emails where I’d received the entry but never responded. I feel like an ass and I’m sorry, three people who know who you are.

A few of you wrote and asked if I’d automatically reject something that arrived at 12:01am on Sept 1

I always wonder about this, too, and I’m almost always a last minute entry. Just ask any of my editors.

The answer I gave them–and now all of you–is that due to living in Asia, I’m 12 hours ahead of the East Coast of the US and 15 ahead of the West Coast, etc. September 1st was the day we celebrated Teacher’s Day at my daughter’s schools and they were both home on Friday September 2nd. As I told the people who asked–I wasn’t really watching the clock. This is also a charity anthology, so while other editors have their own rules, for a variety of reasons no, I wasn’t watching the clock.

How many submissions did I get?

Nearly thirty, and no, I wasn’t prepared for that. I don’t know if it’s just my own insecurities, but I was worried that I wouldn’t get enough submissions to make a full anthology. But an embarrassment of riches cuts both ways. Yes, I would make a full anthology. The downside is that I will end up rejecting stories that I love.

Have you read everything yet?

No. I’m trying. Professionally–I also have a story I need to edit, two to write, and some other commitments. Personally–I have two young children who have been on vacation for a week and don’t get back to school until Tuesday. (Send chocolate and earplugs.)

What are your top pet peeves from this process (thus far)

1–Not reading the call. (sending me file types I can’t open, sending working the body of your email)

2–Not putting your name on  your work.  I had multiple stories and poems with a title and no author’s name. Put your name on your work (this actually ties for #1 pet peeve)

3–Not adhering to the specified formatting. (I have sympathy because formatting was something I fucked up for years, and have only really figured out recently. I remember Lynn Townsend asking me to do something formatting related and my reaction was ??? That said, being on the receiving end makes it frustrating because now I have to reformat work).

When will I hear from you?

By October 1. As early as I can manage. I’m not blogging etc because I’m trying to prioritize reading.

Does a yes mean I’m done?

No, there will be edits. I find typos is Nora Roberts books. Mostly it will very little, as the competition is stiff (pun intended, sort of).

Does a no mean that my story/poem was bad?

Some stories are by authors who are still rough diamonds. Others are incredibly written but I can’t have five stories with the same theme. A rejection isn’t actually personal, although having received many I can say it still sucks. I’m sorry, Baby Dory with the giant eyes.


Troublesome words

I’ve begun the edits on the Siem Reap Story.

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Every author falls prey to words and phrases that pop up a little too frequently in their work.  You may have noticed one of mine in my excerpt posted on Jan 18.

“And you decided to just gate crash my dream vacation as a way to catch up? If you wanted to get in touch with me to warn me you’d be at the wedding, you could’ve just used Facebook like a normal person.”

I utilized the find tool and found 69 uses of the word “just” in my first draft.

Here’s the edited version of the same paragraph.  You’ll notice that “just” has been omitted.

Exasperated, she threw the soda into the trash and turned to face him. “If you wanted to warn me you’d be at the wedding, you could’ve used Facebook or email like a normal person. Or Rachel could’ve told me that you would be there. What made you think crashing my dream vacation would be fun?”

“Just” is a word that becomes far to easy to rely upon, and is most often unnecessary filler.  Other words that fall into that category are “actually” (5x) , “very” (45x), “really” (21x), trying (12x), “some” (63x) and “almost” (10x). I’ve learned about some of these weaknesses on my own, others were pointed out by beta readers.

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The other thing I do a find search on before I begin to edit a piece in earnest is “began” (53x).

RJ took possession of her mouth. The taste of him, the feel of him was overwhelming and another orgasm began to build. His tongue seduced hers as he began to move within her. Her hands fisted in his hair, keeping their mouths fused. She needed him more than oxygen. The kisses grew hungrier as if they could make up for every missed kiss over the past six years. RJ’s hips caught the same frenzied pace as their kisses.

Everything began to spin out of control, and the orgasm hit her like a monsoon

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten was from Lynn Townsend, who told me that characters should only begin to do something if the action is about to be interrupted “He began to walk across the room, but tripped over his cat.”

He took possession of her mouth. The taste of him, the feel of him, was overwhelming. His tongue seduced hers. Her hands fisted in his hair, keeping their mouths fused. The kisses grew hungrier, as if they could make up for every missed opportunity over the past six years. RJ’s hips caught the same frenzied pace as their mating tongues.

The orgasm was a monsoon.

Dropping “began” makes for a stronger story. In the example above, you’ll find I didn’t replace began with a different word. If there is a “began,” (or any of the other go-to words) it’s a hint that the entire sentence should probably get an edit.

Now that I’ve shared some of my most troublesome words–what are yours?