FOR WRITERS: Do Editors Really Reject You For That…A Writer’s Lament

A question I’m asked frequently in my short fiction workshops goes like this: Do you really take into consideration things like elements of plot and the part of a story when you’re considering them for publication?

My response is: Yes, but maybe not the way you’re thinking.

I know that’s a dodgy answer. But give me a chance to explain myself.

When I’m reading a story for publication in Apex Magazine, I don’t have a checklist that I mark off: introduction—check, rising action—check, climax—check, etc. The basic elements of plot aren’t artificial constructs that editors insist you adhere to, but merely tools to get the job done.

What is that job? To write a story good enough for publication!

While considering a story, if it is one that I’m greatly enjoying, I will take notes and share them with the author. What the authors do with the notes is up to them.

Another thing to remember is that there are always exceptions to the rule. Many of the most memorable and best stories play with story structure in service of plot, theme, and tone.

Some of my favorite Apex Magazine stories are rather unconventional. A couple of examples: “The Performance Artist” by Lettie Prell and “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky.

Naturally, some of my favorite Apex Magazine stories have a conventional structure. A couple more examples: “Pimp My Airship” by Maurice Broaddus and “Frank” by Betsy Phillips.

As a writer, you should understand the basic mechanics of short fiction. But it isn’t something to fret about if you’re hoping to sell your fiction. A great story is a great story. End of story…

(Updated 5/7/22)

One response to “FOR WRITERS: Do Editors Really Reject You For That…A Writer’s Lament”

  1. shanadubois Avatar

    This makes sense. I think a lot of new writers just starting get too focused on the “I need to get this published” instead of just getting lost in the joy of creating.

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