The slush pile. The words evokes a certain kind of horror for writers, a kind of literary limbo where their manuscripts wait to be sent to publication heaven or rejection hell. And the editor is God.Read the whole thing. The mind-bending zanies recounted by the good folks from Weird Tales, Tor Books and Realms of Fantasy are alone worth the time it takes to peruse the article. (My favorite? Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction’s Gordon Van Gelder discussing how an individual sent him a manuscript accompanied with a picture of herself in bondage gear. The cover letter read, "The author is very interested in meeting with you." He promptly turned it down.) There’s an important lesson, though, hidden amongst all the fun: The only gimmick that gets your name in print is the trick of penning a strong story.
This is the dance they do: The writers write. They submit to an agency or publication. Their unsolicited manuscripts (that is, stories and books not requested in advance) become the slush pile.
The readers read. They reach into the stack of manuscripts and read until they find themselves uninterested. They reject. If the writing is clever, the plot filled with tension and momentum, if the reader reaches the end with a satisfied smile, the reader accepts. The writer is published.
But sometimes writers, against all advice and heedless of literary guidelines, take it upon themselves to make their manuscripts stand apart from the hundreds of others on the slush pile.
(Picture: CC 2007 by TCM Hitchhiker)