I’m currently selecting work for an anthology. Writers were given a theme – “Resolutions” and a word count 1,000 – 5,000 words. I’m working with another member of the team. We have to select 24 stories from 176.
It’s tricky. It’s easiest in fact to identify ones that we’re going to decline straight away. In the easiest of these have been the ones that don’t match the word limits. Sometimes as well you start reading and before you reach the end of the first page you know that this story won’t work.
In order to get some objectivity we’re awarding points for the stories, how well they match the theme and how professional the writer has been. However, the ones that seem acceptable all score highly on these matters so many of the publishable stories are coming out with a similar score.
As I work my way through the selection I’m rejecting more stories because I know I’ve already got better ones. And there are some stories I like better than others even though technically they have the same score.
At some point we’ll have to put them in rank order and then also deanaonymise. We’ve gone for anonymous submissions this time so that we avoid the situation of thinking “Oh this is by X Y so we know that will be good.” Nevertheless, I’m sure I can identify the writers of some of the stories I’ve read. We also want to check that we’ve not got more than one by the same writer.
On the whole, the better written ones are more successful. This may sound rather obvious. It is indeed true that those who write better can also craft stories more easily. But not always. For a few I’ve got to the very last page sure that a story was going to be accepted and then found that the ending disappointed. There either was no story or it all resolved too simplistically.
In my selectin there is one exception. There is a delightful story by a writer who appears to be inexperienced. It will need a lot of editing but it is going to be good.
What is the bottom line for us? We’re certainly not womag, romantic, genre or commercial, but then we’re not particularly literary either. We’re looking really for writing that stands out. That is the bottom line for us. Oh, and another advantage of selecting anonymously is that we never consider whether the writer has marketing prowess or not. We’re interested in good quality books rather than what will sell well.