Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Wordy Wednesday - Reflections from the Editor's Desk: Notes from the Slush Pile

Happy Wednesday, everyone! Celia, here. I read submissions from Champagne’s slush pile and nothing makes me happier than when I uncover a gem of a story. Maybe it will be yours.

Here are a few tips from the slushy trenches to help us discover your shiny jewel.


* Do create a solid hook in your first chapter.
You may have heard agents and editors say this, and it holds true for slush pile submissions, too. If you start with a bang from sentence one/page one/chapter one, you’re more likely to keep your reader turning those pages.

* Do copy edit your manuscript (MS) before submitting.
If your MS is riddled with typos, missing words, grammatical errors, odd formatting, run-on sentences, etc., you risk pulling your reader out of the story. Polish, polish, then polish some more.

* Do review your GMC (goals, motivation, characterization).
Do your characters have solid goals? Clear internal and external motivation? Are they vividly drawn and unique? A strong hero and/or heroine will anchor the reader to your story.


* Do not head hop.
Head hopping within a scene disorients and distracts. One head at a time, please.

* Do not info dump. A truckload of TMI -- be it in dialogue or narrative -- threatens to slow the pace of your story, risks muddying the plot if not germane to it, and just might bore the reader.

* Do not forget there are five senses (or more, if you write paranormal like I do J).
Adding scents, tastes, sounds, and more spices things up on the page and brings your world alive.

Happy writing and good luck with your submissions!

Celia Breslin

Author, Line Editor, Slush Pile Reader
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  1. Great tips, Celia. I have a checklist I use before any submission and these are included.

  2. Hi Laurie, Thanks for stopping by. Checklists = good. Have a great day!

  3. My first submission was years ago, long before the advent of digital works and I did everything wrong. I do mean everything. I blogged about all my mistakes, too numerous to list here, but I think I did everyone of the don't on your list and a few more. But I learned and am still learning. Your do list is great.

    1. Hi Allison, Thanks for stopping by. The few dos/don'ts listed here, are, as I'm sure you know, just a few of the many we all need to consider when polishing the MS. Happy writing! :)

  4. A good post, Celia. Looking back on my submission journey, with two novel-length manuscripts in the "forget about me" box, I certainly agree that submitting too soon without the right amount of polish is a big mistake.

    Even with something under contract, we still need to work hard - whether your manuscript is going to the slush pile or to the editor you worked with previously, it still has to have the right bang. Actually, when you've already got one published, the expectation is higher: whatever you've learned in the editing process should be incorporated into your next one.

    Best to start early. My rule of thumb before I send anything out is this:

    If I don't feel like it's ready to go to print as I've sent it, then it's not ready to submit. Of course, it WON'T be ready to go to print as I've sent it - a book can ALWAYS be better, which is why we have editors - but there should be absolutely nothing you feel still needs changing.

    1. Hi Graeme, Thanks for sharing your perspective. You've reminded me of the da Vinci quote: "Art is never finished, only abandoned." Conversely, your thoughts also bring to mind something an art teacher told me once, that also applies, imho, to writing. We start with a "door" wide open, and as we create and polish and refine, the opening starts to narrow until the door finally closes...

  5. So true Celia! I truly believe, though there is always "more" you can do, the book production process is about making that door so small it's not noticeable.

  6. Definitely helpful to keep your point of view to one character per scene! Confusing otherwise. Great info, Celia!