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Editorial Down-Talking?

I was considering submitting a story to a new anthology, but wasn’t 100% sure about whether the story suited the theme or word limit. Also, it had already been submitted elsewhere, and I wasn’t sure on the new anthology’s policy on simsubs. So I sent an e-mail inquiring.

Very soon a reply arrived from the editor. The thematic question he dealt with easily. What interests me here are his replies to the other two questions:

Word limit is pretty strict. I have yet to see a 3200 word story that could not be cut down to 3000 with a little effort.

Simultaneous submissions are not permitted and is enforced. I wish your story well that you sent to the other market, but you have nearly thirty days to write a new story.

Of course his policies are whatever they are. What interests me is the way he put them.

Take that second sentence: "I have yet to see a 3200 word story that could not be cut down to 3000 with a little effort." I’m sure that’s true — of first drafts. But after six weeks of polishing, cutting and revisions? After the story is cut from its (let’s say) original 3,500 or 3,700 words down to 3,200? My first thought was, "This guy normally deals with writers who send him early drafts."

Then there’s the word "enforced" in the second paragraph. Enforced by whom, I wonder? Does he report the submissions to the SimSub Police? (Oooh, there’s a plot bunny…) So my second thought was "This guy normally deals with young, new writers who need to be told more than ‘these are my wishes.’"

And then there’s the telltale last sentence: "[Y]ou have thirty days to write a new story." So my third thought was, "I know for sure that he mostly deals with rookies."  You may have thirty days for your first draft, but I’ve never produced something I’d dare send out to anyone in anything less than two months; I have a four-draft process, which often winds up being a six-draft process, and my impression is that the more experienced writers have a longer process yet.

So I came away from this e-mail thinking that, if I were published in this anthology, I’d find myself in the company of newbies who’d sent this guy first drafts for extensive revision by him. This turned me off from submitting at all.

But of course, I may have it all wrong. He may simply have been writing carelessly. Ah, but we’re in the language business, ain’t we?

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