I’ve just finished reading through the avalanche of submissions for this year’s Great Clarendon House Writing Challenge, and all I can say is that I wish the competition had room for more than ten selections — many of these 500 word pieces are amazing. But unfortunately I have had to choose only ten.
Some other few points are probably worth mentioning again at this point. I’ve covered these before in this blog and elsewhere, but it’s a good idea to communicate them again for your benefit as writers.
i) Many, many writers sent in submissions in all kinds of different formats. Different fonts, different software, different spacings — just about everything different. I realise that the submission guidelines for the Challenge were not explicit, which is my fault entirely — but a wise writer might have spent a moment taking a look at the general magazine submission guidelines issued by Clarendon House years ago which are on the website. It’s important to pay attention to submission guidelines, not just out of politeness, but because often, as in my case, the way a submission is received technically can shorten its ‘processing time’. In other words, when a submission comes in, an editor has to make decisions what to do with it. In my case, this usually means copying and pasting the work into a larger document, for later perusal. If the work is already formatted more or less as I wish, this is easy; if it needs to be changed in any way, this slows the process down. I haven’t rejected Challenge submissions purely for technical reasons, but you can see how having extra work to do might subconsciously incline an editor to put aside the work.
You want to try to minimise irritating any editor, not just me.
ii) Similar to the point above, when submitting a story it really helps if the story itself, just after the title, contains the name of the author.
This again minimises the work of the editor. If he or she cuts and pastes the work into a larger document, but forgets to add in the name of the person — an extra step for him, in many cases— a work might get ‘lost in the machinery’ and involve minutes of boring and unnecessary work trying to track down where it came from when it comes to reading it. Blame the editor if you like, but it can easily be avoided by the writer. If a name is clearly appended, this never arises. Even better if a short one or two sentence bio accompanies the story itself (rather than is added in an email) as again, if the story is accepted, the editor is saved the trouble of having to chase one later in the sequence.
iii) Most Challenge submissions, especially the quality ones, read well technically — but some had clearly not been checked through prior to being sent. Simple errors, like missing words or obvious mis-spellings, make that initial reading harder for the editor. I know that I will have to go through each and every story with a fine tooth comb looking for everything from a missing space to a slightly inappropriate comma, including the high quality works, but when I’m confronted with a piece of work which clearly needs some basic editing to begin with, it’s a negative experience.
You want to try to minimise giving editors negative experiences.
iv) Another frustration shared by most editors is the email that occasionally comes after the work has been submitted: ‘Sorry, I sent you the wrong draft’ or ‘Can I just make these last minute changes?’ If an editor has already spent time carefully formatting something, especially if he has gotten as far as numbering pages and so on, then this can be quite off-putting. It’s the author’s responsibility to fully check and double-check anything that is about to leave their hands to progress into the world of the editor. The more thoroughly checked it is, the more likely it is to be smoothly received.
Again, try not to annoy your editor.
Having gotten all those points out of the way, you’ll be pleased to hear that you are in for a treat when it comes to the first wave of Challenge submissions, which will be appearing in the next issue of the Inner Circle Writers’ Magazine, due out later this month! It’s only £2.00 per copy — and even less if you subscribe!
You have a role as a reader with regard to these submissions: you have to let me know which are the best FIVE stories out of the ten which will appear! So I look forward to your feedback later!