I've written about slush piles before. As a reminder: essentially, that's where a submitted work goes when sent to a publisher/editor; picture a big pile of manuscripts, loosely stacked and falling over, for the editor to dig through. That's the slush pile. Some might randomly pluck one to read at a time, some employ the computer "FIFO" method (first in, first out). But they all use some variation of it. I was a slush pile reader once and enjoyed it.
It's oft said that one can learn from our mistakes as much as our successes. I think that applies to other people's mistakes, if we let ourselves do so. In that vein, I have spent some time reading around the blogs of slush pile editors, divining some of the stupid shit we, as authors, collectively do in the course of our submissions.
One example: this here is a query letter, sent from a prospective author to an editor, with the editor's notes in red. Jesus Christ, I've done some stupid writing before, but dang…. I pray to to various deities that I never send anything this bad to anyone, ever.
Or of course, you could just read Slush Pile Hell or Slush Pile Horrors. Yikes, to the n-th degree.
There are repeated mistake through many of these vignettes but the common themes seem to be the lack of professionalism, on behalf of the writers. If nothing else, these stories serve as grim reminders to me that being a writer is a job (not a hobby), that it does take work and dedication, and above all, you have to think like a professional and behave as such. That doesn't guarantee success but it does cultivate the ground. I used this analogy in the past but it's still pertinent. In the movie Bull Durham, Kevin Costner's character says to the young punk pitcher, "You have fungus on your shower shoes. That's disgusting. If you make it to [The Major Leagues of Baseball] and win twenty games, you can have mold on your shower shoes and the press will say you're colorful. Until then, it just means you're a slob."
What does that mean? Well, Stephen King, James Patterson, or J.K. Rowling can probably send their editor their book in whatever the hell format they want, or send it piecemeal, or write it on a bar napkin in crayon, if they want. But unless you have that kind of success, you must behave a like a pro. At all times. Read through the slush pile tales. No matter how great their writing, the world will probably never know about it.
Because they were slobs.
(Muse: If you want some semi-decent slush advice, try here or here, since Mr. Snooty here decided not post about the positive.)
I was getting there, you stupid #&%. The first blog has some decent advice overall, apart from that particular post – and the second is tailored to screenplays but the advice is general enough to be good for all writing. Good luck!