Monday, February 2, 2009


Knee-deep mud. The piranha-infested waters of the Amazon. A biomedical-waste pit. These are things that most writers would rather wade through than a publication’s slush pile. Well, maybe not that last one. But hope fades fast when you consider the chances of an overworked assistant giving your unsolicited manuscript more than a few seconds’ consideration. How can you hope to break through? Douglas Cohen of Monstrous Musings offers tips for new writers, as well as the first few paragraphs of fourteen shorts that surmounted the slush and made it into the pages of Realms of Fantasy. Excerpts:

In the world of writing short stories, hell, in the world of fiction writing in general, with very few exceptions, no writer starts a career in anyplace other than the slush pile of an editor or agent. Even the best of us were once nobodies, striving to make an impression upon the critical eye of someone who can help build or launch our careers. Chances are you’ve never met these people. It’s also rather likely these people’s opinions mean more to you than those of many people you have met. Interesting, when you take the time to consider that. Regardless, there is no secret to getting out of the slush pile. I repeat: there is no secret to getting out of the slush pile. No secret handshakes or decoder rings. Barring those rare exceptions, you get out of the slush pile in one of two ways. The first way is that you’ve earned this privilege through your previous fiction publications. Of course, these people used to be a piece of slush as well, and the way they originally got out of the slush pile is non-secret number two: they wrote a story the editor decided to publish.
Read the whole thing.

(Picture: CC 2007 by


Chestertonian Rambler said...

This is good news, I suppose, for those of us who continually find our stories on the wrong end of a slush pile. Moral: Keep trying.

Loren Eaton said...

The most frustrating thing I find about the slush pile is the abysmally long response time for most markets. One award-winning publication (whose name will remain anonymous to protect the guilty) took an entire year to respond.

Chestertonian Rambler said...

On the other hand, though, there is F&SF.

They've yet to accept a story of mine, but both my submissions came back within two weeks. For that, they earn my great admiration.

Loren Eaton said...

They must have liked them. John Joseph Adams (who personally signs each and every rejection letter) gets mine back to me within a week.