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Lusty Lady

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Friday, June 12, 2009

Writing guidelines: there for a reason

I'm going through submissions for Please, Sir, and have been pretty disappointed that about half the submissions I received were incorrectly formatted. (I say that to emphasize it's not just one or two, that wouldn't be the end of the world, but about half, and this is an ongoing problem - my guidelines are so long because every time I put out a call I see the same errors over and over, and it's, frankly, annoying.) I give people a pass if it's the first time submitting to me, but I wanted to share why this is so frustrating and time-consuming for me.

You might think, so what? The writing is what matters. But actually, the formatting is what first grabs my eye and when I have to manually indent paragraphs and reformat spacing and all those things that are clearly stated in my guidelines, it's a giant waste of time.

Then I'm in the bind of asking someone to reformat when I may not even want their story, or doing it myself, or just reading it with the incorrect formatting and deciding then.

It's not that it's necessarily a dealbreaker, it's more than cumulatively, when half of submissions have not followed the guidelines, it makes it much easier for me as a busy person to look at the ones that are formatted correctly. I would never sacrifice quality over formatting, but at the same time, I do a silent, non-moving jump for joy when I see a writer whose work I like and have published before...and know they have formatted it correctly before I even open it.

I in no way want to discourage people from submitting to my books. With the next few I'm editing for Cleis Press, I hope that, like with Peep Show, I can include writers I've never published before. I would love to read more stories like Elizabeth Coldwell's - she's someone whose work is relatively new to me but each time is just perfect. See "Lunch" in Yes, Sir for an example. That's what I'm looking for with Please, Sir (not literally that concept again, just writing as fine as that).

Anyway, I'm excited about the Please, Sir and Please, Ma'am books and a few others I'm working on, but just wanted to emphasize that guidelines, mine, anyway, really are there for a reason. I'd soooooo much rather someone ask a question if they don't understand something in them than send me something that will take me time to reconfigure before I even get a chance to read the story!

I'll end on a happy note: The deadline for these books is July 1st and both are wide open. I'm reading stories early and definitely need more.

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