The writing world is laden with rules. As I noted in my last post, adverbs and adjectives are now things editors want limited. An author must show and not tell the story. Perhaps one of the most important rules: prose should be written in active voice. Passive on occasion and when necessary is permissible, but in limited contexts.
The final rule is read a journal before submitting. This makes sense, right? Reading what a publisher likes will mean the author gets a feel for what the editors like. However, if one is to read some of the professional or semi-pro zines, you’ll often find stories that break all the rules of writing.
One might be tempted to argue that once authors know the rules they are free to break them when appropriate. That’s fair, but on one pro website, which I won’t name, I often come across stories that are passive. This happens with alarming frequency, roughly two stories out of five posted per week are passive, lack characters, or tell the story instead of leading the audience to water.
My impulse is to mentally edit these stories, then get frustrated that these stories won out over dozens (possibly hundreds) of other stories. Don’t misunderstand me, not all magazines are like this. One I appreciate is Flash Fiction Online. Overall I find the authors they publish to be top notch, and the prose are inspiring for most pieces.
The magazines I have in mind though are quick to reject/critique pieces that fall out of line with the established rules of the industry en mass. Writers are the left with conflicting messaging. The truth is: the publishing world is arbitrary. Your odds of getting accepted will increase following basic criteria, but in the end, it boils down to the right story landing in front of the right editor at the right time.
The result is a frustrating, confusing process that can feel impossible to break into. However, there’s hope. The only way to fail is to give up. Does that sound cliched? Yes, it is, but that doesn’t make it less true. Write, persist, and don’t let the challenge dissuade you. If this is your calling write no matter what someone else says.
I like to use a jiu-jitsu quote when it comes to writing: “A black belt is just a white belt who never gave up.”
That gives me some hope in the face of the entire publishing process, which I can relate to in your post. Anyway, thanks for sharing!
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That’s a great way of looking at it! Thanks for reading!