It was my first job out of university: I was bright-eyed and idealistic and imagined that I might become some kind of beneficent tweedy sprite, conveying the writing of unknown literary artistes to the masses. By the time I left my job in publishing a few weeks ago, my idealism was in tatters, destroyed by the piles of typescripts I received from people who told me that their fondest desire was to write full time while sitting in a villa overlooking the Mediteranian, despite the fact that they didn't know how to spell it. ... The envelopes and emails rolled in, and I rolled them out with the standard knockback letter. It stopped being funny; it felt arduous. I hated that it was my job to shatter people's dreams of being published, but I also hated that so many of them had such illiterate dreams. The physical act of writing a book may not be difficult, but there's a big difference between smacking away at a keyboard and writing something that anyone who doesn't really love you wants to read. The majority of people who submitted their work went wrong after the first few pages at best, if the cover letter wasn't dreadful.If you haven't slashed your writerly wrists yet, you might want to read about Patricia Chui's slush pile experiences on Salon.com:
It's a worthy sentiment to give every aspiring writer a shot, no matter how long that shot may be. After all, every slush writer fervently believes that his manuscript is just as good as what's being sold at Barnes & Noble and that all he needs is a snappy cover letter and a foot in the door to get a publisher to realize it, too. Yet the sad truth is that the vast majority of slush is, to put it kindly, unpublishable. Not good or bad, just ... there, bland and forgettable, like an unadorned rice cake. If the odds of discovering something special in the mix are slim, it isn't because publishable manuscripts are sprinkled with pixie dust, but because so much of what's submitted seems like varying degrees of the exact same thing.If you're a Malaysian writer, your chances of getting published locally are very much higher simply because local publishers are desperate to have something decent to put out and quotas to meet. MPH editor Eric Forbes doesn't mince words when he tells Malaysian authors why their work sucks:
Whether we like it or not, the fact of the matter is that most writers lack even the most basic of language skills. There are many common mistakes that writers make that they are unaware of. These are the stuff editors look out for: grammar (why? simply because most writers lack knowledge of basic grammar); punctuation (to make sure the commas, full-stops, colons, semicolons, hyphens and dashes are placed at all the right places); inconsistencies; unnecessarily repetitious phrases; readability (toning down on circumlocutious writing and overly long paragraphs by breaking them down into manageable chunks); pruning clichés (or allowing its sparing use); correcting the spelling and ensuring the use of consistent spelling throughout the book; checking facts and figures; revising and rewriting sentences and reorganising paragraphs for clarity of thought and fluidity; doing away with excess research and making sure the writer writes more if there is a dearth of content.Manuscripts like these wouldn't even get a look in in the UK or the US, you know.