Challenge,  On Writing

Reading With A Focus

I Am Very Lucky…

With all this reading for the anthology workshop, I am reading as a Pulphouse Fiction Magazine editor. And wow does that make this reading easier.

And sometimes more annoying.

First off, let me explain why all this reading is easier for me than others.

I start off reading and with most of these stories, the writers are good enough to catch me with their depth and openings. (If I was reading a real slush pile, I would reject nine out of ten because the writing didn’t catch me. Those poor openings are easy to reject, but very few of them in these manuscripts. Very, very few.)

So as I get a page or two or three into these stories, I slowly start to surface and realize that I know where the story is going and that it won’t be a Pulphouse type of story. So I get to stop reading, glance at the ending to make sure I am right, then make a note, and move on to the next story.

If at that three page mark there is something strange, a strange character, a plot line I can’t figure out and something that is really different, I keep reading. What is strange? If you don’t understand that, grab Issue Zero of Pulphouse Fiction Magazine. It is for sale on all the regular sites. Just read the first story by Kent Patterson called “Spud Wrangler” and you will know exactly what I mean. Great story of a young cowboy having to stop a stampede (of Idaho bakers.)

When I get done reading a story, I then decide if the story is high enough quality to be in Pulphouse and if it actually does fit.  Most of the stories I am forced to read all the way through I want to buy.

Whether I get to or not is part of the workshop process and the fun.

But not all of the stories that I read all the way through do I want to buy.

And that is when I get annoyed.

If a writer is so good as to make me read all the way to the end of a story I know I will not buy, that is annoying. Story is great, writing held me down so I couldn’t get away, but it was just not a Pulphouse story.

I had two of those tonight in a thirty minute period. Not one, but two!! Growl. Great stories. Damn writers.

Time is everything to an editor and the reading process for this workshop mimics very, very exactly the feeling of no time and too much to read that all editors go through. I just don’t have time to read a story that I will not end up trying to buy in the end.

And yes, I know it is a compliment to the writer, but still… Growl…

(And by the way, when this happens in the real world, the editor takes a deep breath and writes the writer a personal note. Why? Because they hope their time wasn’t really wasted if the writer sends them another story they can read and buy.)



  • Rikki Mongoose

    Probably, it’s a strange question, but I’ve got it re-reading your “Writing in the dark” (when I’m too afraid to start a new story, I do reread it’s middle chapters).

    If timeline isn’t linear for creative mind, can the telling of story be started from a middle scene? Like if I put character into setting, see a great scene – but it’s definitely middle one. And find the beginning scene the same way like I find the end of story?

    Also – do you separate chapters, when you write scene by scene? Or just leave spaces between scenes, then separating them chapter by chapter?

    • dwsmith

      No right answer. You can do it any way you want, and what is even more annoying, no two books write the same way. Ahhh, the fun of art.

      For me, personally, I write every scene as a chapter. Just easier for me, but again, every writer is different and every book is different.

    • Kristine Kathryn Rusch

      I write out of order. Each chapter is its own file, so I can move the chapters around. I also have a “chapter order” file, which guesses where the chapter will fit. That becomes a final road map when I’m done. Sometimes I write chronologically, but on big books, I write this way.

  • Maree

    I’ve taken your short story class so the process you talked about here isn’t new, but reading this felt good today as I was sifting through book samples looking for something to read. Especially when I was looking at something that was good but not my current mood.

    We are all our own editors. Owning that is awesome.

    Also I’m sending my space pet story (that I didn’t finish for the class) out first to a editor that gave me rejection notes