His other work turned up in the On Spec slush pile occasionally. His stories were interesting enough to make it through the first pass, but they didn’t engage the editors enough for us to want to buy them. I thought back to what he’d sent us and tried to pinpoint what the stories were missing. Each work was reasonably good, well written, but it lacked a certain something. What exactly? Was there a common fault? It was then that I had an ‘ah hah!’ moment.
As an editor, the work I want to buy is always strong on theme and reflects the writer’s need to provide an emotional, moving (or entertaining) experience for me, the reader. The stories that appeal most are about well fleshed characters who want something intensely, who care deeply about something (or hate it), and who want to make a change. They are stories that are original, clever, beautiful, dark. They're either labours of love that have been written with passion, or they’re laugh-out-loud funny, written by a writer who knows how to entertain and charm.
Here's what I would ask that writer, actually any writer who wants to improve their work. If your main goal is to get a story out there and/or to circulate to as many publishers as possible until one of them picks up the piece, how involved are you with your work? I don't mean in a business sense, but in a deep, significant way, sense. How much of yourself have you invested into the piece? How much have you shared about what you think is important? Stories should challenge, entertain, touch, and/or make a difference. They should affect the reader. Because if they don’t, the sad fact is, you’re wasting both your and the reader’s time.