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Hey, spec fic magazine editors - one of the things I suggest to new writers is that they try a stint of slush reading at some point. It's a great way to get a feel for what makes one submission stand out over another as well as a chance to see things from an editorial side. If you're currently looking for slush readers or planning to somewhere down the line, want to post something about it in the comments here?
Sarah Olson's profile photoWill Savage's profile photoA.A. Leil's profile photoCat Rambo's profile photo
Should those interested in being slush readers leave a comment here as well?

I'm game for science fiction and fantasy (regarding the latter, mainly epic, heroic, sword & sorcery, and adventure style).

I have a bit of proofreading and copyediting experience and edit my own fledgling news and reviews "ezine."
I've been reading slush for Apex Magazine for over a year, and I highly recommend it. It has helped immensely with my writing. I'm not sure if Apex is looking for more slushies right now - but maybe our fearless leader +Jason Sizemore will jump in...

However, I did see this on twitter the other day (Clarkesworld is looking):
I was a volunteer slush reader for Baen for a year. They sent me a fun little award for the work I did :) I'd be willing to do it again sometime.
My literary interests are pretty narrow, but I'd be a slush reader. :)
I agree--I learned so much during my stint as an editor.
+Sarah Olson, thanks. 5 stories per day... Is that typical? Or is Clarkesworld just understaffed or receiving a lot more slush or both?
I believe our minimum contribution at Apex is to read at least 5 stories per week, so it depends on the magazine. 
FWIW, five a day seems pretty aggressive to me. But at Fantasy Magazine, we were getting 500-600 a month when I was there, so depending on the number of slush readers, it may be quite necessary.
Slush reading improved my writing more than I could have imagined, but it also put me in an evaluative, analytic headset that sometimes made it hard to see the good in my own writing. That passed, and I'm a much stronger writer for it, but it was a scary time.

For those interested in slush reading, at least at Shimmer, we're not just looking for good fiction, but fiction that fits the vibe of the magazine. If you're interested in reading slush, you'll need to garner a flexibility in your analysis of what makes fiction "work." The times that I still read slush, I have to mostly let go of "do I like this?" and more think about "does this work?" and more importantly "does this work for my magazine?"

Sure, as an editor, you better believe I'm buying fiction that I love, but as a slush reader I'm passing up the ladder fiction that has potential for our market. It's a somewhat nuanced role.

Btw, Shimmer is always looking for slushies who are bent toward the weird. You can probably count on 1 to 2 stories a day.

Thanks for this thread, Cat!
If anyone wants to dip their toe in the slush pool without committing to be a slush reader, you could do worse than checking out one of the online writing workshops. (Critters, for example, is free.)

Sure, it's not the real thing - for one thing, most workshops require critiques, which tends to filter out the low end of the slush - but the just-okay stories can be instructive in their own way: the beginning that might be fine if you hadn't seen twenty identical ones in this workshop, the overused ideas that don't generally make it into the pro mags, and the like.

(That said, much as the majority of the slush is nothing special, I'd say that the majority of the critiques are nothing special - it's astounding how many people who AFAICT never read SFF believe they can tell others how to write it.)
The only online critique site I use is the SF/F Online Writing Workshop ( found here: The reviews I've gotten so far have been amazing. I'd highly recommend posting your work there for critique, and in order to do so, you need to critique others as well. While reading slush is useful (and something I highly recommend as well), it also helps to be able to pinpoint what it is about the story you dislike, which you don't necessarily need to do while slushing (most send generic rejections). And the added bonus is you get feedback on your own work as well.

I've found the quality of stories at this workshop to be better than other review sites, and they are SF/F/H specific. It does cost a small yearly fee, but I think it's worth it. My two cents.
Absolutely, online writing crit groups are great and you learn as much from doing a critique as getting one -- sometimes more. I'm not suggesting slushing as a substitute for that.

But it's different than looking at an actual magazine's slush pile, which is what I'm suggesting. You learn a lot from looking at the cover letters, for one, as well as learning how easy it is to reject something based on the first few paragraphs. And you get a feel for what editors look for, what they see a lot of, and what they consider bad behavior.
Sounds like both options are beneficial and worthwhile.
Absolutely! I don't think any time spent thinking or looking at writing is wasted for a writer, actually. Unless they're doing it instead of writing.... ;)
I recommend doing both (I do) for all the reasons listed above, especially the ones Cat mentioned.

Also, slushing has made me fully aware that THIS IS A BUSINESS and when you are doing business you must BE PROFESSIONAL. When writers send back angry e-mails after being rejected, we remember. Don't be a jerk. PLEASE.
I will be doing both. Especially if my slush reading application is accepted. (Fingers crossed)

My years of technical/business/marketing writing have taught me a lot about being professional. I can't imagine how anyone thinks an angry e-mail/tweet/Facebook post/etc won't make getting published more difficult. That will follow you around forever.
+Sarah Olson Yes, yes, YES! I still tell the story of the woman who wrote back to tell me that her story didn't have any typos because her husband and mother had both looked at it and not found any. (It had SO many of them, including a character changing name midway through the story.)
A belated thanks for this post, Cat. I know it's been said to not to respond to a rejection letter, but is it bad to just respond with a 'thanks for taking a look' message? I've done that a few times. Also, since I started writing seriously about a year and a half ago, I've participated in online workshops and run my own live one as well, and read half a dozen books on craft. I know I still have a lot to learn as a new writer, but I've been wondering more and more if I need to take a 'next step', perhaps slush reading. Is there anything else you would recommend (other than write, write, write)?
I don't think you're ever going to offend someone by being polite, and a "thanks for taking a look" note falls in that category. I wouldn't write one unless the editor has gone out of their way with a personal note about the piece or something like that, though.

Write, write, write should always come first, but reading is important too. Not just books about craft (although they're great) but great fiction. Read once for pleasure, then go back and read again to figure out how they did what they did. I'm about to take a Terry Pratchett Discworld novel apart and try to figure out the comedic pacing of it, because he does that so beautifully and I want to understand how so I can do that too.
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