Thursday, January 16, 2014


Dear --------, 

How do I say this? It isn’t always about how you write, but what you write. 

I just finished reading your story ------. The prose moved along smoothly, if a bit slowly. There were two problems with this; first of all, even though you write well, I don’t need all the detail. I don’t need a step-by-step explanation of how to do such and so (too much made it tedious). Secondly, I guessed where you were heading long before you got there. 

I have tell you, I was not happy with where I thought we were going. I could see it coming, but I doggedly read on, giving you the benefit of the doubt. Sure enough, by the time we got to the end, we went where I thought you were taking me. 

This letter isn’t about being predictable, although the story was that. It isn’t about over attention to detail, despite how well that detail is done. It's about why I didn’t find your protagonist sympathetic. There are some things in life that you don’t deal with callously. Suicide is one of them. 

What am I to think of a character who refers to someone who is about to kill themselves as a ‘perp’? What am I to think if she has no compassion whatsoever, that she’s only concerned about performing her job well? I’ll tell you. I don’t respect her. I’m not about to support such a character in prose, any more than I would in real life. I’m sorry. I’m sure you’re a nice person and you thought this was an interesting twist, but it isn’t for us. Maybe you can sell the story elsewhere. 

- Susan.


  1. Barb Galler-Smith9:05 AM

    One of the things I admire greatly about you, Susan, is your deep thoughtfulness and how you spot fatal flaws in a story. It's often difficult to tell eager writers that they've missed the mark in critical ways. That you took the time to make these comments speaks so well for you (and OnSpec). Not many short fiction editors would be so forthcoming with comments.

  2. Thank you, Barb. I hope others feel the same way.