Thursday, February 27, 2014


Dear X and Y,

I'm writing to you both because although your stories are different (X, yours is a contemporary fantasy featuring trolls, and Y, yours is an epic fantasy with were-foxes) they both have the same problem in common. Both trolls and foxes aren't really trolls or foxes. They're human beings running around in troll and fox suits.  

You've both told me an engaging story. I was interested in your plots and the troubles your characters encountered. Your main drawback is you both need to show me how your characters are different from human beings. When I read about dog, cat, dragon, elf, dwarf, or even bug-eyed monster protagonists (or antagonists), I want to have a sense of their dog-ness, cat-ness, dragon-ness, etc., - whatever separates and makes them really different from us. Intrigue me with your insights about their instincts, abilities, talents, understanding of their world - perhaps even their social structures and morality. Do your research. Mine your imagination. Show me something I won't expect or will make me think, 'Yes! That's how they would be.'

You're both good writers. With a little thought, I'm sure you won't this find hard to do.

- Susan.


  1. Dear Susan,

    Your "Letters to the Slush Pile" and "The ABC's of How..." should be compulsory reading for all aspiring writers.

    Every one is like a master class in writing. They're both educational and richly entertaining. There are so many books on writing out there, but if you ever wrote one, I'd snap it up in a flash!

    My only request is that you write more letters, and my hope is that one day you'll write a letter about one of my stories! I'd be honoured!

  2. Thank you so much for your comment, MPD. I'm glad you find these helpful. Comments like yours only encourage me to do more (and so I shall). All the best to you in your writing endeavors.

  3. I wish this had existed when I was a kid. (Of course the internet barely existed but we won't go into that) I can remember getting the rejection letter from On Spec and being CRUSHED. Did not help my sister got hers at the same time, except hers was a handwritten letter detailing why they said no. Mine was a form letter with 'cliche' and a couple other things checked off.
    I'm not complaining, I know and understand now why it was rejected. But if this resource had been available I would have come to that understanding so much sooner, and improved no doubt much sooner. I am quite enjoying your blog, its been very helpful in my continuing effort to improve my writing.

  4. Hi, Tamara. I'm glad you're enjoying the blog and that you're finding it helpful. I'm really sorry that you received a form letter from us like that. I wish there had been a better way to handle these things with more consideration. We've all been rejected. I know you know that's part of the learning process. I'm glad that in spite of the early rejection you're still writing. I guess if we're writers, what else can we do? We write, we carry on. For the most part, it's the experience of doing it that teaches us how to become better. I'm stunned at the positive responses the blog has been receiving. Thank you.