A word about the kind of editing you can expect – and why.
For some odd reason, new authors, especially those who have never submitted work to a publisher before, feel that their writing is golden and perfect. If you’re one of those, you’re in for a huge shock. No one turns out perfect writing completely on their own, not even best selling authors with degrees in language arts. Ourselves included. If you feel you don’t need to be edited, and you’re going to get nasty about it, there are other mags out there which will take your content as is. Go submit to them.
For anyone who doesn’t feel like their work is perfect, we’d like to have a word with you.
We use the oxford comma rule. To explain:
A sentence can have several elements, and all are separated by commas. But space in newspaper columns is limited, and anytime a letter or punctuation mark can be left out, it is. Thus too many people are used to seeing this: The man had a hat, shoes and shirt. Send us that sentence and you’ll get this back: The man had a hat, shoes, and shirt. See that comma after shoes? That’s the oxford comma. You might not see why it’s needed, but “hat, shoes, and shirt” are not the same as “hat, shoes and shirt”. With the oxford comma, you have three separate objects. With out it, you have one object – the hat – and a group of objects – the shoes and shirt. And in some sentences that can lead to confusion or silliness. So get used to using the oxford comma when writing stuff for us.
We also use the Chicago Manual of Style. It’s online, it’s in libraries, it might even be in book stores (remember those?). You might want to get familiar with it.
We want good stories. Content with engaging plots, and intriguing situations. We want stories that’ll grab and hold our readers, and have them emailing us, requesting more from specific authors.
We also want every author to have a good chance at publication with us regardless of present skill level.
Because of that, when deciding to accept a story or not, we pay no attention to how you wrote something, just what you wrote. We read your submission for content, not technical ability. Technical issues can be fixed, as long as the plot is sound. Really lousy writing can become the brightest shining star in the sky with enough editing.
However, that doesn’t mean you dash off a rough draft and send it in. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best to edit before submitting it to us. It doesn’t mean you can be sloppy, or not care about your own work. Doing that will just about ensure a refusal – because your plot will be full of holes, or boring, or worse, non-existent. And your characters will either be copies of yourself, or flat card-board cut-outs with no personality or depth.
A word of warning:
We edit aggressively. You could easily get your manuscript back with more red, blue, and green on it than black. This is why we insist on Word docs, and why, if you don’t know how to use track changes before we start, you will. We have found that when an author can see the changes we’re suggesting, it’s also easy for them to see the problems that need to be fixed. So instead of just giving instructions and frustrating everyone while the author fumbles around trying to understand what we want, and making a hash of their work, we make those changes ourselves. Thus the reason for track changes: not only do they let the author easily see our suggested changes, they also let the author easily reject those changes. And that is fine with us. You never have to accept any of our changes, as long as you fix the problems we are pointing out.
Failure to fix certain problems will result in you getting your manuscript back with those problems pointed out again and instructions to fix them.
And yes, we do edit poems.
A word to our poets – If you’re going to send us a poem without punctuation, expect us to read it over very carefully. With a microscope. Almost never does a poem that has no punctuation work. Punctuation is not a decoration. It’s not optional. It allows the reader to clearly understand what is being conveyed – in both prose and poetry. So if you leave it out, you better do an exceptional job of writing. If anything is confusing or unclear, you’ll be getting it back. Caps we couldn’t care less about, leave them out if you like, but punctuation we do.