Why I Don’t Want to Read Your Story

Photo of French writer Colette, to accompany a blog post by speculative fiction writer Cat Rambo.

Colette's husband allegedly locked her in an attic to keep her focused on her writing. Somedays this seems like an enviable solution.

I get a lot of requests to look at people’s stories. Sometimes people just send them to me. This has prompted this post, but it is not directed at any specific recent requests. (I should note that this is different than my offer to read for awards – I’m happy to read those.) I’m talking about stories of the still unpublished variety.

I’m sorry. I really am. I know it’s a great story. But here’s some reasons why I’m not thrilled by your offer to let me read it.

I do read fast, but I have a lot to read. I’m reading for the Norton Award this year, which has meant an onslaught of books. I’m reading to stay abreast of the field and so I can make intelligent award nomination decisions. And I’m reading for my own pleasure.

You’re not asking me to read it, really, but also to critique it. That takes time, and even just a little crit is a piranha-like bite out of a day already besieged.

You’re asking me to do it for free. I charge to critique stories. Right now I’m not taking any, because I want to focus on my own work. The same goes for Kickstarters asking me for crits as donation incentives this year. I got bit in the butt with a bunch of these all at once, and it’s just not working for me. I’ll revisit this policy in 2015.

You may not want to hear what I have to say. A few years ago someone pressed a manuscript in my hands, and I took the time to go through it pretty thoroughly and explain why it wasn’t ready for primetime and what changes needed to be made. The recipient made it clear that he’d been wanting to hear praise and market suggestions. That was a bit discouraging.

I am not in a position to publish your story. If that’s what you’re hoping, I’m not currently editing a magazine and the couple of editing projects I have coming up are pretty specific in theme. It is extremely unlikely that I will read your story, shout “Huzzah!” and send it off to another editor saying they should buy it.

If you absolutely must have me read your story, you do have the option of taking my workshop. I offer plenty of classes and there’s new sections of both the Writing F&SF Stories and the Advanced Workshop opening soon.

This is hard for me because I have a difficult time saying no to requests. But they add up into vast piles of undone work that dampen all productive effort. So despite all the convulsions and pain this is causing my inner Midwesterner, who desperately wants to be polite… save us both the trouble and send it to your crit group. At least for now. Okay?

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About Cat

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches by the shores of an eagle-haunted lake in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov's, Clarkesworld Magazine, and the magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her story, "Five Ways to Fall in Love on Planet Porcelain," from her collection Near + Far (Hydra House Books), was a 2012 Nebula nominee. Her editorship of Fantasy Magazine earned her a World Fantasy Award nomination in 2012. She is the current President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). She is currently working on Exiles of Tabat, the third book of the Tabat Quartet. A new story collection, Neither Here Nor There, appears from Hydra House this fall.
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