This story is way too long, I'm sorry... you'd be better off telling in
half the length. Plus it's never a good idea to open at story with a
large block of exposition.
This was part of a very prompt reply from a fantasy/sci-fi magazine.
The short story in question was just over 8000 words and the submission guidelines clearly state - up to 10,000 words.
As for the exposition at the start - it was only 282 words introducing the people and the land, then the ending of a festival in the main city. The next paragraph introduces the main character.
August 26th, 2002, 03:05 AM
1) Length is not about absolute length. Your story may fit within the word limit but still be too long in and of itself. In other words, are there any extraneous words you can cut out? Say sentences out loud to yourself - do you stumble anywhere, or run out of breath? If so, remove the offending words. Can any descriptions be cut in half and yet still retain their essence? Remember the maxim that "less is more". While not always true, it can never hurt to edit with that in mind.
2) The great short stories I've read drop you straight into it. It might be better to keep your exposition for a novel. A good alternative for a short story is to have a very brief, evocative (ie. based on the senses, on something powerful and emotive) rather than descriptive intro. Don't describe the people and the land - launch straight into the story, and let the story itself cover that information. If you don't cover it in the story, chances are it doesn't need to be covered. And I know, it can really suck not being able to elaborate upon a world you've so carefully constructed, but we're talking readability. Not to mention, it's always nice to leave some things up to the reader's imagination!
Hope this is of help. Please remember that it's only my opinion. I've tried to be very straightforward, and this sometimes comes over as blunt - I hope this isn't the case!
Also, it's next to impossible for me to comment with any real meaning unless I've read the story itself. I would be happy to provide more directed, constructive criticism if you have a link to the story somewhere, or an electronic copy you want to share.
August 26th, 2002, 03:10 PM
First off, congratulations on getting a reply that wasn't a form letter. I'm not that well versed in the market, but I would think that this kind of reply means that 1) the editors were seriously considering your story, and 2) they felt it was strong enough that it was worthy of feedback.
Generally I agree with Valada's comments.
My definition of "too long" if I were an editor, would be anything where I glance up at the page number and think "how many more pages is this?" So what this could mean is that there may be a section in the story that slows down the reader. This could be due to a number of problems, or simply a conflict in taste (which is something we writers must put up with.) Sometimes it's hard to know what to keep in a story where on one hand submission guidelines state they are looking for "well developed worlds, character-driven plots, and environments that appeal to all five (six?) senses" and on the other they want it to be fast-paced, to the point, and in as few words as possible (most places do afterall, pay by the word). :confused:
As for opening with exposition, as a writer I can appreciate the work that goes into building a world, but as a reader I don't pay as much attention to such things. Whenever I have to give my dog a pill, I coat it in peanut butter so he'll eat it. As writers we have to do the same thing - coat the necessary stuff with something yummy so they'll eat(read) it.
August 26th, 2002, 09:08 PM
I also had a rejection notice from Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine and they commented on the length of my peice as well. Later I contacted some friends in the field and discovered that F and SF very, very rarely accepts stories from well known writers that are of a considerable lenghth. I was told I would have a better chance if I sent a short story with lots of dialogue, action, and new ideas. A good example I was given of the type of story editors are looking for was called "Zero Tolerance" and it was published in Analog Science Fiction magazine. I can't remember the exact month and year it was published but if you're interested email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I can find you the neccisary information.
August 27th, 2002, 02:27 AM
Thanks for the replies.
I was pleasantly surprised by a quick, personal reply, just not the content.
There are two types of short stories as far as I am concerned. Those that contain a snapshot of a scene, with action and concise strong dialogue, 1000 - 4000 words. Like in the competitions on this site. The other is my way of writing. A larger snapshot of what could or could not be part of a larger work. With details of the setting, character development and not just straight to the main scene, bang, blink and you miss it.
And considering the mag stated up to 10,000 words instead of the normal 8000, I thought they'd take either type. I could have cut it to about 6000, so it's just the main scene, but I didn't want to write it that way. As for half the length, which would be 4000 words, it wouldn't be the same story. Also, there is the pay issue. They pay 3 cents (Australian) which is pretty good. Now if I wrote a 3000 - 4000 word story, i'd get half the pay and that's before tax.
Anyway, I'll post it on the site so people can read it, since I'm not sure where to send it next.
I probably sound like I'm whining, but the reply was not quite specific enough for me to fully understand their reasoning.
August 27th, 2002, 10:30 PM
What magazine was it, Milamber?
August 28th, 2002, 01:43 AM
Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine
Heard about it from a post by Erebus.
August 28th, 2002, 03:04 AM
Yeah, I took a look at that link too, and even considered subscribing (I noted that they are fellow-Canberrans, or at least their postal centre is located in Canberra). Sounded interesting, although in terms of writing, I'm not a short-story writer by preference (although have studied the form and have edited them). They have a network of readers/assessors, to my knowledge, which may (just may, I have no actual idea) mean that different assessors will be looking for different things within a broad spectrum of conformity. If I were you, I would try tightening up the story a bit (cut it by 1000 words if you can?) and resubmit it with a covering note stating that you were told the only problem with the story was its length, and that you have now rectified "the problem". Surely it can't hurt to try? At least it would get you a foot in the door, which would help with your next submission to any magazine or publisher.
August 29th, 2002, 02:09 AM
They said half the length, which means cutting 4000. I could cut early scenes out (about 2000). I thick they didn't like my detail of the setting and my character development.
The good thing about Andromeda is they prefer e-mail submissions, which is almost unheard of.
Also try http://sf.org.au/aurealis/ , the other one Eerebus told me about.
August 30th, 2002, 02:13 AM
In the meantime, it's here: http://groups.msn.com/TheWritersAssociation/thefiringlineextended.msnw
Not sure if you need an MSN login (eg. Hotmail) or not.