I currently have three manuscripts traveling across the country and cyberspace on their “2010 Hope and Rejection” tour. I’m an official author now because I have the rejection slips to prove it.
I’m finding that the hardest part of this process is that you don’t get any feedback. This isn’t a complaint against editors; they are unbelieveably busy and are making their way through a lot of slush (and my stories are nothing if not slushy). They simply don’t have time to coddle a new writer. I’ve got no issue with this…I simply wish it wasn’t the case so that maybe I could learn something about doing this “becoming a professional writer” thing better.
Today I received a returned manuscript with the standard “we cannot use this at this time” message. At least it didn’t have “LAME” scrawled across the top in red pencil. Included with the letter was a reprint of the magazine’s submission guidelines. Here I found a single phrase that was underlined: do not leave extra space; as in, “do not leave extra space between paragraphs”.
Baffled, I took another look at the enclosed rejected manuscript. Between each paragraph an extra space glared at me, grinning and capering like a mocking harlequin. Groaning, I consulted my formatting and, sure enough, the default paragraph setting called for a 10 pt space between each paragraph.
I had gone over this manuscript several times, on computer screen and in print, before sending it. I had consulted and (I thought) emulated the excellent “Manuscript Preparation” document by Vonda McIntyre provided by the SWFA website. I thought it was ready…but I thought wrong.
Granted, the story was most likely not rejected based on this relatively small flaw. Editors want good stories and will overlook such things if presented with one. But it certainly opened my eyes to fact that (a) there is a real difference between the “pros” and other editors and (b) that difference is that they really are paying attention.
So, to whomever took the 0.5 seconds it took to underline that phrase, I thank you. I’ve now gone in and repaired all of my manuscripts. I won’t be caught out on that issue with further submissions. Little things do mean a lot, be they formatting mistakes or the time it takes to highlight them.