Monday 12 June 2023

Most common pitfalls in submissions


We’ve recently made our selection for our Gifted collection and we wish we could accept all of them. Unfortunately we can only publish twenty-four of the stories submitted. Some stories came very close to being accepted. What were the little things that got in the way?


No story or at least no end

The biggest fault was that there was no story. We came across some submissions that had been really well written and we got very excited that this was going to be one that we would accept and then the end let it down very badly. 

In which way do endings not work?

  • Sometimes nothing much happens – it’s just a damp squib
  • Then at times it can be just too melodramatic
  • And writers can also rely on a deus ex machina – a powerful person or event that swoops in and saves the day.  Just like a god that is pulled on to the stage in a sophisticated piece of flying equipment.


It doesn’t match the theme

It’s very rare that something you have already written will suit a specific call.  And this one is very specific and a little tricky. Normally for competitions and specific calls like this it’s better to write something brand new. There are lots of other competitions and calls for submission where there is no theme. If you’re not successful with our call, you can always try one of the others.  


The quality of the writing

Everybody is at a different stage in the writing career. The less experienced writer will tell too much when they could show. They may change point of view frequently. They may mix up tenses.  There may be grammar and spelling mistakes in the text, alongside typos. They may not have the right voice for the piece.

Much can be gained by joining a critique group. Other members may spot some of these items for you. And very usefully they may be able to tell you what they’ve understood from what you’ve written; do they get the same picture in their head that you had to start with?



Have they followed the guidelines? Have they set out dialogue correctly? Is the text formatted to industry standard?

We won’t necessarily reject because some of this is out of kilter. But if everything else is equal between two writers we’ll pick the one who has been the most professional: they’re more likely to be able to respond to editorial comment in a timely and effective way.


Even so it’s still hard, rejecting these texts, or even just “declining” them.                    

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