How We Make Our Decisions

As we have said before in blog posts, we value being transparent to the writers who submit to us. We told you awhile back what we are looking for in submissions. Now, we want you to know why and how we accept or reject your work.

Not too long ago I was in the thick of a very long journey­–trying to get an agent. I received a total of about 50 rejections in the past year (and in all the years total of my “career” as a writer, I’ve received hundreds). Many of these rejections were lovely in that the rejector spoke quite highly of my writing. However, I usually walked away scratching my head and asking,  “Okay…you like my work. But you rejected me. And in the letter there’s nothing, well, negative. Nothing about the WHY of it all. Was it sale-ability? Was it subject matter?”

So when I created SUCKER, I vowed to be as forthright as possible in my rejections. I vowed this because I realized that in my own journey, I would get a rejection and feel powerless, hopeless because there wasn’t anything to work off of.  So as I developed SUCKER, I thought I’m no longer powerless if I make the conscious choice to be the change I want to be. So maybe I can’t receive a rejection that is informative…But maybe I can give one.

Side bar: I got myself a YES recently. : ) It took years and years of hard work and sacrifice, and it will now require even more of that. So when I think about my entire journey into the world of publishing–as both writer and editor–I realize that the easiest part, the effortless, feel-good part is that now I get to offer writers something to work off of when they receive that “no”. I get to offer a possibility. When you offer feedback, you offer hope, and that’s all a writer needs.

Below is the criteria sheet that our SUCKER staff readers use when they receive a submission. They do not make the final decision about stories–I read their thoughts and then take a look at the piece myself for the final decision.

————————————————————————————————————————————————

CRITERIA FOR ACCEPTING OR MENTORING SUBMISSIONS


Definitions to know:

1. YA Fiction=stories which feature a protagonist that is 14-21 and are told from that perspective–not an adult looking back.

2. Showing versus telling= TELLING: “She went to Starbucks and told the barista off and then went home and sat in her room thinking about how sad she was.” SHOWING: “Fuck you,” Stacey told the crooked looking Barista behind the register. “What the hell do you know, you asswipe?” Then she grabbed her coffee and stalked off, forgetting to stop at the condiment bar and get her sugar. She ran out of the coffee shop and almost tripped as she approached her car, tears flooding her face…

*Showing=action, dialogue, movement. Telling=none of those three things. Notice “went” versus “ran”. You see more in showing than you do in telling.

Directions: Please answer “yes” or “no” to these questions and add comments to support. Cut and paste examples from the story with page numbers if necessary.

TITLE OF THIS PIECE IS:

YOUR NAME:

  1. Is this piece really YA fiction? (Not an adult retrospective voice)

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

  1. Does the protagonist have a distinct and interesting/engaging voice?

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

  1. Does the opening have a strong grab or hook?

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

  1. Is there a “clincher” and satisfying (not neat and tidy necessarily) ending? YES/NO

COMMENTS:

  1. Does the main character experience a shift (growth, epiphany, change) by the end?

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

  1. Is the story a page-turner?

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

  1. Is there a sense of hope in the end? Not corny/preachy hope, more like possibility or “light”.

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

  1. Is the writing solid or is it filled with lazy clichéd phrases, stilted awkward sentences, and inauthentic dialogue?

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

  1. Is there more telling (little dialogue or action) than showing (mainly dialogue and/or action)?

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

10. Is there an edge to this piece (maybe the voice is gritty or rough, maybe the subjects dealt with are sex, sexuality, drugs, imperfect relationships, etc.)?

YES/NO

COMMENTS:

11. ULTIMATELY, DO YOU THINK WE SHOULD:

  • ACCEPT (WITH MINOR EDITING)
  • REJECT
  • MENTOR (HELP THEM REVISE BECAUSE IT’S GOT A SPARK)

*Your response is…..and you feel this way because….

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