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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shroud Submission Update: The Importance of Revisions

We've almost completed a full month of our submission period and I have had the pleasure of reading dozens of exceptionally well-crafted short stories.  A big "thank you" to the writers that have chosen Shroud for possible publication.

We have also begun to make notifications, thus making response times currently at LESS than one month.  In most cases we will try and offer a personalized response with some constructive feedback, but not always.

Why not always?

Well, here's the thing.  If your story has substantial merit, but needs a a few tweaks, then we will humbly make our suggestion(s).  However, if it appears that your story has not made it through a revision phase then we will likely send you a polite "pass."

As writers, we cannot expect a first draft to be publishable.  It may be good, it may be original and it may be entertaining, but it is not publishable.  All writing requires subsequent revisions.

Ursula K. Le Guin said that “forced to weigh your words, you find out which are the styrofoam and which are the heavy gold. Severe cutting intensifies your style.”

I am seeing a large number of Shroud submissions that are at the 5000 word mark but could clearly be cut down substantially.  Many contain unnecessary adjectives and adverbs, run-on sentences, excessive exposition and summary, unnecessary scenes, unnecessary dialogue attribution, etc. etc.

This is not to say that longer stories are inherently "bad" or "wrong."  However, there are many of these longer submissions that would benefit from the "intense cutting."

A word on adjectives and adverbs from Chekov:

“When you read proof, take out the adjectives and adverbs wherever you can. You use so many of them that the reader finds it hard to concentrate and he gets tired. You can understand what I mean when I say ‘The man sat on the grass.’ You understand because the sentence is clear and there is nothing to distract your attention. Conversely, the brain has trouble understanding me if I say ‘A tall, narrow-chested man of medium height with a red beard sat on green grass trampled by passers-by, sat mutely, looking about timidly and fearfully.’ This doesn’t get its meaning through to the brain immediately, which is what good writing must do, and fast.”

We must learn to chip away at our sentences so that they support the timing and tone of the scene and/or the nature, disposition and emotional state of the character.  Every sentence does not require rich and dense descriptors and flowery prose--some will, some won't.

So please. if you are rushing to meet the deadline for this submission period and skip any meaningful revisions, please understand that you will likely (and unfortunately) receive an unspecific "pass."

Best of luck and keep writing!


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