SLUSH LESSON #4: Editing

SLUSH LESSON #4: ERR: Why Edditing is Imortant,

Sometimes I think the same people who don’t read guidelines are the same people who blatantly cast off the most rudimentary of writing basics. Time after time, I get submissions in the slush that look like the first whipped-out draft of a story. They’re riddled with grammatical, spelling, and punctuation errors, even on the first page, in the first paragraph, even in the very first sentence. It’s appalling to pick up a story, when you’re committing your time to reading it and give it serious consideration for the publication you work for, and to see that the author himself hasn’t even bothered to read through his own work to make sure it shines. It’s a little insulting, and it’s a waste of an editor’s time.

The writer in me finds it even more revolting, because when I submit a manuscript, I’m always filled with righteous terror that I’ll miss a comma or leave in a sentence one of my readers put in to point out a weak point in the story (which, sadly, I’ve done much, much too recently—and yes, I’m ashamed of myself). I can’t even imagine submitting something that isn’t up to manuscript standards, especially on the first three pages, without a severe nervous reaction.

Strangely, it’s common enough that on one of our Apex form rejections we actually have a check-off spot for it. So does Asimov’s, I believe, on their form letter. The thought of submitting to a pro-paying magazine without bothering to edit! I don’t know if it’s innocent ignorance or outright hubris.

But one thing I have learned from this, since this is something I knew even before slushing (though seeing how often others commit this offense has been shocking), is that your story won’t be rejected for one or two glitches. Even some of the best stories we’ve had submitted to us contain a few errors. It’s not a big deal. If the story is good, a missed period or a duplicated word can be overlooked. It’s pretty common knowledge that even when you go through a manuscript with a fine-toothed, multi-reader’d comb, things slip through (see said reader-comment left in, above).

However, this doesn’t mean you should blatantly leave in errors if you see them. Editor’s are patient, but they’re not that patient. A few isolated errors in an otherwise really well written story is no big deal; a fistful in even a tolerable story could mean the difference between a yay or a nay.

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