Thursday, March 18, 2010


For both of you not familiar with computer speak, the title refers to the advice that used to be given to all computer nubes: read the $%^king manual. This sage advice applies to virtually every walk of life but nowhere is it more relevant than to the writer submitting on spec.

Firstly you must remember that every time you submit a story you are entering a contest with every other poor eegit who has sent a submission to that particular market during that particular reading period. In many ways this is like a beauty contest and you need to put your best foot forward right from the beginning. So, even before an editor reads your piece he (or she) will have begun to judge you.

So how many ways are there to get it wrong before your one-man judge, jury (and more than likely, executioner) even gets to word one? Firstly, as you may remember from a previous blog (ELP, read it now, if you haven’t already) there is the cover letter. Nonexistent and it is unlikely the editor will bother to read your submission at all. Too short is forgivable, too long shows a lack of consideration for the poor, overworked, underpaid sap who is already reading far too much for far too little reward.

So what information does the editor require? And here I refer you to the title of this piece which now transmutes into RTFG(uidelines). That’s where the editor will have set out the information that you need in order to SUCCESSFULLY submit to his market. Take a moment to jump away from this blog to check out a random sample of guidelines on, for example, Many of them will be similar but there are many more who insert things like – submit in this exact format or your submission will be binned without being read – and that exact format may include things like file extension (.RTF), font (Times New Roman or Courier), format of manuscript (often detailed minutely, such as line gaps between each paragraph or two spaces after a full stop. You just never know what will be the trigger that will prevent an editor from reading all the way through your story. And if he doesn’t read all the way through then he won’t be buying it.

One of the magazines that ploughs a similar, though professional, furrow to Albedo One, regularly receives 800 submissions per month. They likely average out at about 6000 words each. Do the maths. The readers at this magazine are just waiting for the first excuse they can find to stop reading and reject your story; if that’s in the cover letter or in the formatting so much the better. It is your job to make it beautiful enough to be read, at least cosmetically and by their standards, so that if it fails to please it is because it is a crap story. And at least if you follow the guidelines you will be guaranteed that your story will be judged fairly and on its own intrinsic merits. Which means you will learn from each submission. It might only be that this particular editor dislikes your work, your style or has no taste in fiction.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Big Hole

Having had a week to think about my initial reaction to the Grand Cayon I am now ready, upon mature reflection, to share my views.
We went to Tucson for a gemshow. It is in the middle of a desert. We brought summer wear as every day on our previous visits (eight in the past ten years) it was about seventy degrees farenheit. This time it rained. This time we had arranged a couple of days off to do tourist stuff - like the Canyon. And this time it rained on us. Twice. And it was cold.
Now call me ignorant, 'cos I am, but I thought the Canyon was a hole in the ground. But it turns out to be over seven thousand feet up int he mountains. And the weather was bad. Seven thousand feet up in the mountains there was three feet of snow, so we were told. We'd need cold weather clothes, we were told. Have you ever tried to buy an overcoat in the desert? Not easy, believe me. We spent most a day searching, but finally we found a couple of warm jackets.
Anyway we got coats and went to the Canyon. The snow was there. Three feet deep. And the sun was out. And the temperature was about seventy. Everyone was in tee shirts. We abandoned the coats. And our sweaters. Kept our shirts on. Not everyone did.
So, I saw the Canyon. It's a big hole in the ground, high up in the mountains. Very impressive. But I saw enough in ten minutes. Still, Stacey enjoyed it and took loads of photos.
At least I don't have to go back.