In a nutshell: because it’s mean.
I’ll expand on that a little.
Look, slushers and editors, I don’t want to make you feel bad. I just want you to stop making other people feel bad.
People know when they submitted to your market. They know what your turnaround is. They follow you on Twitter or Facebook because they either like you, respect you, or if you’re very lucky, both. They’re watching your Twitter stream closely, because they know you have their story. And then you say something snarky and belittling about it. They know what they sent you–of course they recognize themselves.*
Slushers, editors–how could you?!
You just hurt the feelings of an aspiring writer, someone who looked up to you, someone who desperately wants your approval. Someone who is just like you once were.
I get it. You’re venting, because you’ve seen the same mistakes over and over again. But there was a time when you didn’t know the things that you know now, when you were making those mistakes yourself. If they knew about the clichés you’re making fun of, they wouldn’t be using them. It takes years of hard work and careful study to learn the dos and don’ts of spec fic writing. And you’re making fun of them because they don’t know what you have learned over the course of years. They don’t know yet because they haven’t discovered the resources that would tell them. It all seems obvious to you now, yes, but you’re forgetting that you learned it. None of us sprang fully formed from the brow of Zeus.
They submitted it because it was the best they knew how to make it right now. A year from now they’ll submit something better, but for now, this is where they’re at. They did the best they could.
Griping about typos and homophones and the misuse of the occasional word is just as bad. They are not being lazy. They are not stupid. They made a mistake. Maybe they’re actually dyslexic! There’s often a copy editor who cleans up after you, too.
I once twittered something about a submission I was reading, and I realized belatedly that it sounded snarky. It wasn’t meant to. It was about a cover letter that came with the story. It was 700 words long, and I twittered something about how the writer didn’t need it. I didn’t mean for it to be sarcastic at all–I was genuinely bummed for that author, because he put so much effort into that cover letter, because he just didn’t know that he didn’t need it. The thing is, I remember when I didn’t understand cover letters either, when the advice I was getting was bad advice (“Include why you’re the best person to write this story!” This is fiction. That advice doesn’t apply here.) I remember sweating over it, not having a reliable source of information for someone in my position.
And I thought: What if that author follows me? What if he saw that? What if he took it as sarcasm and thought I was making fun of him?
I decided after that I just wouldn’t twitter about what I was reading anymore.
There’s another factor here: I represent the publication I am reading for, and perhaps more importantly I represent its editor, and what I do and say on the internet reflects back on him. I am fortunate enough to work for an editor who is interested in your story, not your typing skills (do not use the Overlord’s benevolence as an excuse to not proofread!) I work for an editor, in fact, who actually edits, and is damned good at it. He’s human (I know! I was as surprised as you are) and he gets that you’re just another human being making art. Lightspeed needs to be a safe and accessible place for you, both as a reader and as a writer. You should not be afraid that you’ll be mocked on the internet when you submit to us.
Slushers and editors, you are the face of your publication–how do you want it to be seen?
Personally, I don’t submit to editors who publicly mock writers anymore. That probably doesn’t matter to anyone but me. But I also don’t subscribe to their publications.
I’ve actually had to sit on this post for two days, because when I originally wrote it I was very angry. I’ve had to unfollow a lot of people who are relevant to my interests because their streams were just too upsetting when they slushed. (I’ve since discovered Muuter. It is handy.)
I hope that I’ve groomed the worst of the anger out and left the important part: I implore you, please, be nice or be silent. The world is already full of reasons for writers to give up. It is such a steep climb. The years of rejection letters are bad enough. If you can’t make it better for them, at least don’t make it worse.
I see those same mistakes that other slushers are snarking about, but I think there’s a better way of informing writers about them. I’ll do what I can here. I need to bulk up my own Resources page on the site, and I’ll start posting some entries that might be helpful. I talked to the Overlord and got the go-ahead to blog about the slush, with some fairly obvious guidelines (no talking about specific stories or authors, etc.) I’m still new at this, but if there’s anything specific you’d like me to address, feel free to hit me up in the comments and I’ll do my best.
In the mean time, keep making the best art you can, and don’t let the snark get you down. We’re all on the same side. We just might have to remind a few people from time to time.
* This has happened to people I know.