Let’s talk about you and me… Okay, okay, so my flashback to the ’90s is a little sad but kinda on point for this blog post. As one of the editors for the SNAFU anthologies, and with an upcoming submission window opening, Matthew Summers and I would like to talk about stories, slush, and selections.
Disclaimer time. The information provided here does not guarantee Matt and I will select your story for publication – plot, character, and voice will. But don’t send us a romance tale when it’s military monster horror we’re after. We will cut you.
Right then. Let’s kick this baby off with the guidelines for the open sub window for SNAFU: Last Stand (just click that link). While stories subbed to Cohesion Press have specific marks that need to be hit, one thing EVERYONE needs to understand when subbing a tale to ANY market is to not only READ the guidelines but ADHERE to them (the adhering is the most important part). Know your market.
Slush, we’ve all been there. Jostling for position, stuck in the hell that is the slush pile, shouting ‘look at me’ as you push toward the roped-off area that is the shortlist. So how do you get past the cordon? Look, reading is subjective – what I like someone else may not (they’re wrong), but if the past couple of SNAFUs have taught me anything, it’s that Matt and I are pretty much on the same page when it comes to story selection. Not once have we had to fight it out (I’d win, because I fight dirty, just sayin’). But your opening line, your opening paragraph, has to hook us and the following paragraphs need to reel us in. Your start needs to be strong, and it needs to build from there.
Your aim, at this point, is to get onto that shortlist, and a killer opening scene is just the way to do it. Does that mean exploding out of the gate all guns blazing? Perhaps. We love high-action tales, and that’s bound to grab our attention. But it can also be that one line that sets the tone for what’s to come. One of my favourite opening lines from a story in SNAFU: Resurrection is from Conviction by NX Sharps – ‘On the 152nd day of our posting at Fort Conviction, Private Olyver Bagwell shit himself to death.’ That certainly had us take notice.
But the follow-up has to hold water. If your story doesn’t make good on its opening promise, then you could be in some trouble. Think about the story you’re wanting to tell, of the character(s) leading us through. A tale well written isn’t going to resonate as much as one that has me and Matt fate-invested.
That being said, well-written is definitely going to get you a look-in. We want narrative that moves a story forward, we want wordsmiths who know how to give us those evocative visuals that bring the horror, the fear, the dread. Active voice is your friend here. Spelling and grammar? We got that, but too many errors and we’re pulled from the story – it’s the same for all those babies sitting in slush piles.
With the theme of Last Stand, characters will need to make their mark here. Interpret Last Stand as you will, there are an infinite number of ways to incorporate that into your story, but make that tale linger, make us think about it long after we’ve finished reading. And give us action. Make our hearts beat furiously, give us those ‘oh shit’ moments, and make your monsters fucking terrifying. Remember, this is horror, monster horror… with guns and shit.
One of the best and hardest part of this process is the final selection from the shortlist. Matt and I have passed on some truly great stories, which is always a difficult thing to do. And we don’t take these decisions lightly – a lot of time goes into decision-making, a lot of discussion and back and forths until we have the mixture just right. We don’t make acceptances as we go; something we love early on may not make the cut because a later story in a similar vein resonates more. Our aim here is to provide our readers with a variety of kick-arse tales, where you don’t know what’s coming but you’re hanging for it just the same. The overriding theme that ties them together, obviously, is ‘last stand’. Make it count.
So while I hope this helps you to understand our process, I also hope it helps you to understand the process for any slush pile you find yourself in. Writing truly is the best gig in the world, and rejections are a part of that. We know. Matt and I both sit the other side of the table, we’ve had stories accepted and we’ve faced that sting of rejection. We understand the work, the effort, the time and the angst that goes into getting those words onto the page, of wrangling your imagination into narrative. We salute every one of you.
And for those of you who make it to that final ToC, just a note here to let you know the work has only just begun. There will be edits. We may ask for tweaks, we may ask for rewrites, we may cut a little, we may cut a lot. Thing is, we’ve been doing this a long time, we know our audience and we know what they like. Be professional, not precious. Co-operation is key here. That’s a two-way street, and we have cut stories because of bad author behaviour. Don’t be that person. Keep communication lines open and listen to us as we’ll listen to you. Our aim here is to get the most out of your story, and we will work hard to make it so.
But just before I go, as you may have seen, the introduction for SNAFU: Last Stand will be written by Tim Miller (yes, of Deadpool and the new Terminator fame). As such, we understand the slush pile may well be large – Tim will be reading the final tales. And if that isn’t a reason to send us your very best, I don’t know what is.
Submission window for SNAFU: Last Stand opens April 1st, 2019. (No, that’s not a joke. Yes, we are laughing.)