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Friday, August 19, 2016

LETTERS to the SLUSH PILE #22

Dear -------,

In your opening first paragraph, you were off to a great start. Your premise and description were dark and foreboding and they grabbed me. I found myself looking forward to reading the rest of your story with anticipation. Which is why I found paragraph two a bit of a disappointment (yes, I know - I'm already coming off as being annoyingly picky. 'Wow - she got stopped in paragraph two?'You're a good writer. I know this because we've published you before. So what stopped me in my tracks in paragraph two?

You start out with your first sentence describing your protagonist's action - a very specific one that draws my attention to an important object in the setting. The second sentence pulls my attention (and your protagonist's) from that to a description of the sky. The third sentence shows what a group is doing near the important object. The fourth sentence covers more action by a secondary character. The fifth sentence has the secondary character moving the group along. Then we come to the end of the paragraph.

It was a little confusing to keep track of all that was happening. Your sentences were short, and I felt jerked around, like I was being forced to dance a literary version of the polka. A little fleshing out would help, with a stronger focus on your protagonist's point of view. I also suspect you write as I do - the ideas flow from your imagination onto the page, but as they come, they aren't necessarily arriving in a smooth or logical order. You need to take a little more time to rearrange things so they hang together better. Let setting sentences support each other. Let action bits do the same. When you mix them as you've done, it's harder for the reader to keep things straight. I suspect you already know this. (I'm sure you do.) So often, we're blind to our own work. I'm already imagining you smacking your forehead and saying to yourself, 'yeah, damn it, she's right.'

I'm returning to read the rest of your story, now. If On Spec decides to buy it, I'll be making these suggestions to whomever works with you as your editor. (Who knows? That might even be me.)

All the best --------. I hope you found this letter helpful.

- Susan.

P.S. Okay, I finished reading the entire story. I liked it, but your opening has little to do with what happens. I get the feeling this piece is from a much larger work. You need to tailor this so that it reads like a self-contained short story. - S.

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