Alright. First real post. So let’s cover some basics. You’ve written a story. You want to send it in to your favourite magazine. Is it done? Are you sure?
Incomplete and unedited stories are one of the most frustrating things for a first reader to come across. Spelling, grammar, and other structural errors can earn even the most otherwise compelling story with an intriguing premise and excellent pacing a one way trip to the discard pile. Why? It shows that the author didn’t bother to take the time to fix simple mistakes, format properly, and iron out obvious kinks that anyone with the most basic command of the English language can spot. I’ve done it myself, but not lately.
Over-excitement at finishing one’s prospective masterpiece is one cause. Another is what I like to call story-blindness, a form of self-delusion common among authors. After staring at a screen for so many hours, the words in front of you are replaced by the perfect story you envision in your mind, leaving you oblivious to simple errors. Take a deep breath, give your head a shake, and pay attention to your own words. Have a friend read it, find an editor, and factor the time rewrites will take into your planned writing schedule.
That covers editing. But just what do I mean by an incomplete story? In this case, something that tells us all about a character’s early experiences and finishes abruptly with an ending like:
“He realized his journey was just beginning….”
“The true battle had just begun.”
Cliffhangers are one thing, if you plan on continuing at another time. There are plenty of markets that publish serial fiction, where this sort of thing is perfectly acceptable. Maybe I should clarify further. No one in the biz expects a story to contain a character’s entire life, but it should contain a complete series of events. There’s a difference between having an ambiguous ending to an actual story, and just having a mildly interesting sequence of events that finishes prematurely with the plot and characters still halfway through their development.
It’s frequently obvious that the author of such work had intended or originally written a much longer piece, but decided to crop it down based on word count requirements, laziness, or some other reason. It’s incredibly frustrating as a reader to sit down, start reading, and be left flat with a story that didn’t really go anywhere. By doing so, writers very effectively piss off the people that they need to love and appreciate their work in order to get it published. Save yourselves some effort, and some prospective heartache-based rejection, finish your work before submitting.
That’s all for now.