on Fiction University:
Many years ago, the legendary, multiple award-winning editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, Gardner Dozois, was telling my Clarion West class about the magazine’s slushpile. Once you got rid of the garbage, he said, you were left with quite a few publishable stories. The challenge then was finding the one that stood out from all the “not bad” ones, the story that achieved greatness and would resonate with readers. A few years later, when I had my own slushpile for the Panverse series of SFF novella anthologies I edited and published, I discovered he was absolutely right. And in the several years since, working as a freelance editor/copyeditor, I find the same to be true.
All things being equal, it’s not that hard to write a publishable story. Make the reader care, tell an interesting story, provide an interesting setting or background, and keep the reader turning the pages. Meat and potatoes. But how do you write that great story?