This post is for fiction writers thinking about submitting their work to Indiana Review. We receive somewhere between 3,500 and 4,000 fiction submissions each year, and I spend a good deal of my time digging through those submissions to separate the bad stories from the good-and-potentially-great stories. So I thought I’d offer some insight into how I decide which stories make it out of our slush pile and which are rejected quickly.
Some stories are easy to reject. I’m always amazed by the number of stories we receive with typos, grammatical errors, incorrectly punctuated dialogue, and other glaring mistakes in the opening pages. Those stories almost always get dumped right away. Same goes for stories with blatantly racist, homophobic, or misogynistic language in the opening pages. If, for instance, a female character is introduced on the first page and all we learn about her is the color of her hair and the size/shape of her breasts, I’m unlikely to read the second page.
I also reject certain stories from our slush pile not because they’re poorly written, but simply because I read the first three or four pages and say to myself, “I’ve read this story before.” There are a few recurring subjects that come up in so many of our submissions that they verge on clichés, and it’s rare for stories that deal with these subjects to distinguish themselves from the crowd of stories in the slush pile. That’s not to say that these subjects can’t make for fine stories; it’s just that I rarely come across unique takes on these subjects.
The three types of stories I most often reject because I feel like I’ve read them before: Read more…