Last week's lottery numbers
I've been talking to the editor of a new British webzine who's already in despair about her submissions. They all seem the same, she says. I think every editor out there knows the feeling; you read dozens of well-crafted stories but none of them say anything interesting. This is why talent isn't enough; being able to write well doesn't cut it - you also have to have something to say.
But, to be fair, hers really are all very much the same, and this is because she's suffering under the 'last week's lottery numbers' effect. Because, it's a very new zine, she only has a few sample stories on her website, so people are tending to submit stories like the ones she has on show - after all, that's what we're told to do, read a sample and see if our work fits, right?
The problem is, most people are much better at spotting themes than more ephemeral things like voice. So if your wildly innovative multi-media magazine has a satirical story about a cockroach parliament, you can bet your life that over the next six months you'll get horror stories, true life grunge stories and twist in the tail stories and all they'll have in common is two things - 1, they won't be anything like the stuff you want to publish and 2, they'll have cockroaches in them.
When sending work to a publication, try not to pick last week's lottery numbers!