Why You Must Strike a Red Line through Your Own Story

Her raven black hair flowed like a majestic waterfall over the soft slopes of her shoulders and onto the flawless porcelain skin of her back.

(I can’t tell you how many times I have read some derivative of this line.)



In my introductory post, I told you that I was a slush reader for everydayfiction.com. As I continue on into my blogging career here at NovelNook, I would like to expound on that a little bit. There are several reasons for this. One, many of you may not know what a slush reader is, or what they do. Two, many of the opinions, and information, that I will be passing along to you come from my slush reading experience. Three, you can benefit from knowing what goes on behind the scenes in the publishing industry.

What is a Slush Reader?

(I’m glad you asked!)

A slush reader is the first line of contact after you submit a story for publication. Now, I’m not completely sure if every publishing house does it the way Every Day Fiction does it. But I am sure that they have some similar workflow in place.

Here’s what happens when you submit a story; It goes into a pile of unread, (and unsolicited), material referred to as the slush.

(Cool article on the origin of the term “Slush Pile”. Click here.)

The slush reader is the first line of defense for an editor’s time. Editors are very busy people, and they just don’t have the time to thoroughly read every submission that goes into the pile. So, the slush reader pulls a story from the pile, reads the story, gives it a rating, a quick review; and then passes it on to an editorial assistant. The editorial assistant then reads the story, and based on their professional opinion, and the opinions of the slush readers (stories are generally read by more than one in order to counteract personal bias), the editorial assistant will write up their own review and  either reject the story right there, or, pass it along to an editor for further consideration. Once the story makes it to an editor, it’s considered close to publishable. That editor can opt  to publish the story, pass it to another editor for a second opinion, ask for a revision, or, reject the story. There are several levels of editors leading all the way up to the managing editor. Some stories go through many levels before a decision is made.

The Editorial Workflow
editorial publishing process

Illustration by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

From my experience in the publishing industry, these are the primary reasons that a story is rejected; poor or non-existent editing, cliche subject matter, an incomplete story arc, an overabundance of descriptive adjectives, an inconsistent narrator point-of-view, too much exposition, implausible situations, and unrealistic dialog. There are more- but I’ll stop there.

What does all this have to do with NovelNook? This is self-publishing.

I’m glad you asked that question, as well! While our guidelines state that your book will be read for explicit or non-publishable content, it will not be edited or reviewed in general. This is an important point for you. While no one likes to receive a rejection notice; it does have value. It tells you that someone (or a team of someone’s) didn’t feel that your story was technically or creatively up to publishable standards. In other words, it’s not going to ring well with the public. And that means the potential for poor reviews and lousy sales.

That’s a Good point! I want sales.
Show me the Money

Illustration by Clarisa Ponce de Leon

Of course you do! We all do. So, you must take it upon yourself to be your own slush reader, editorial assistant, and editor. You must find people (not your family and your friends) that will give you an HONEST opinion of your story. You must be a ruthless editor, or find (hire) someone who can do the job for you. And finally, you must have an open mind to what these people have to say. And you must do this BEFORE you publish. Don’t be in a rush to get it out there.

Follow this blog, and we will give you ongoing tips on how to make your book, (your story), even more successful as you continue down your path of publication.

I hope you’ll consider what I’ve had to say, because everyone here at NovelNook.com wants you to be SUCCESSFUL!

I am very opinionated about the craft of writing, and life in general. But… I am well-tempered with an enthusiasm for debate. Please leave comments, even the ugly ones, I dare you.

You can follow me at

Facebook     Twitter     LinkedIn     Pinterest     Amazon

I’m also an avid reader. If you desire success in your writing career, you should be too.

I’m currently reading, Dracula, by Bram Stoker.

All my best on a beautiful day in South Carolina.



8 thoughts on “Why You Must Strike a Red Line through Your Own Story

  1. This is the third post I’ve read of yours and I have to say you make some good points. Not that I haven’t heard it all before, but it is good to get a refresher now and then. Thanks.

    • Thank you David. What is that saying? There is nothing new left in the world. You just have to put your twist on what already exists. And although, I don’t completely believe that. You’re right, just about everything that there is to say on the craft of writing has already been said. My goal is to say it in an educational, but entertaining, way at the same time. That’s my game plan.

  2. Wow, love this breakdown for writers so that they can understand the editing process. Thanks for sharing the information in such a great way – Love the illustrations too! :-) Now I know more about slush readers!

  3. When Steven King writes “Her raven black hair flowed like a majestic waterfall over the soft slopes of her shoulders and onto the flawless porcelain skin of her back,” it’s OK. Thing is, he’s too good a writer to write such tripe ;-)
    It seems aspiring writers are of a worse kind than Idol participants. We truly hate being told our stuff sucks, and yet, as you mention, it is of utmost importance to know your stuff sucks, so you can desucktify it.

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