Back in July, I wrote the Top 5 Slushpile Woes and did my best to share what I've found to be the top reasons I see stories get rejected. But what about acceptances? Why do some stories succeed when others fail? What makes for a successful submission?
Today I offer you a glimpse behind the slush curtain with the Top 5 Slushpile Joys, also known as the Things that Make Slush Monkeys Happy.
A great piece of fiction possesses a sense of language and identity. The spin of a phrase, the way with words, these are all how we judge voice. It is the character of a the story itself, instead of the personalities within it. Voice takes on a life of its own, and a good voice will often carry the reader into the world of the story with language alone. When a slush reader discovers a captivating voice, it's a real treat.
Voice is difficult to master and unique to each author. It can only be found through practice. If you look back on your body of work, you'll find your voice.
2. Knows Reader is Intelligent
When the author knows that I can deduce things on my own, when they show me scenes rather than tell me the message, I am a happy slush monkey. Some exposition may be necessary for clarity, but I recommend the axiom of when in doubt, cut it out.
3. Character, Character, Character!
The best stories are driven by the characters within them. These are realistic, compelling people whom we can attach ourselves to. They interest us and demonstrate to us something about the human condition. Sometimes, characters can be so powerful they become greater than the story itself. There's a whole genre devoted to fiction like that.
4. Real Story
A story arch is a delicate matter. Slush monkeys love to see a plot progress from beginning to end, but many times, searching for plot in a submission can be akin to digging for the proverbial needle in a haystack. Your story (at least in genre fiction) should have an actual story. Good character and voice may conceal the lack of a plot for some time, but in the end, the slush monkey will realize it's not there. Then, we will be sad. :(
5. And Now for Something Completely Different
Most people think there is nothing original left in fiction. You can't tell a new story any longer. To some extent, I think that's true. But there are still days when I can dig into the slushpile and find a gem. Something unique. Something I've never seen before. These treasures are what make being a slush monkey enjoyable.
That being said, often times the difference is not in the story itself, but in how you tell it. There are still interesting ways left to tell the hero's journey, and there's a reason the hero's journey has been a compelling tale for thousands of years.
Until next time folks, happy slushing!