Lessons from the Slush Pile: the Numbers

Lessons from the Slush Pile: the Numbers

It’s only been 19 days since I started slushing for a Publication Which Shall Not Be Named. I have not seen the level of dreck that I had been led to believe slush piles are full of – what I see is a lot of mediocrity, and I certainly recognize my own work as being in good company at that level. There is much to be said about the content and technique I see, but today I want to talk about the math.

In those 19 days (I started January 3,) I have read 133 stories. Of those, I have recommended about 20 to the editor, though I deeply loved only three of them.

Of those 20, Editor has requested one rewrite – one of my three favorites, I was gratified to know – and accepted none.


Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Guess what: it’s worse.

That’s just the part of the slush that I see. Not the part that Editor reads while I’m busy with my day job, or the part that other slushers are reading. I dropped Editor a line early this morning to see if I could get some real numbers.

Editor has actually received 460+ stories in the past 21 days, and has accepted none of them.

That, my friends, is what we’re up against.

Those three that I loved kind of plague me. One of them came in last night, and I pushed it to Editor full of hope for that author, because I thought it was a beautifully written story that deserves readers. I was disappointed when it was rejected. I hope that someone else will see in it what I saw, and print it.

This information has been messing with me, I’ll admit. One second I’m overwhelmed, knowing how far I have to go before I could possibly attain the level of skill and originality that is required to get picked off the slush pile. The next second I’m ready to go wage war against mediocrity in my own writing.

The odds against us are just staggering. What lengths are we willing to go? How hard are we willing to work?

How bad, exactly, do we want it?

4 thoughts on “Lessons from the Slush Pile: the Numbers

  1. Clair, it really does. And we can get there, I’m sure of it. It’s just going to take an incredible amount of work.

    Wendy, I’ll join you at the fire tomorrow! (Well, right after the zombies and nachos.)

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