Searching for good writing…

I am currently working my way through two-hundred-and-seven submissions for an anthology of poetry and prose I plan to publish early in 2021. It’s an interesting experience.

As a first stage I’ve taken to dividing pieces into three groups: Shortlist – those that are clearly good and likely to make the final cut; Longlist – which are the ‘possibles’, the ones I’m not yet sold on; Rejected – well, the word speaks for itself.

The process itself is fine, and the categories are stacking up in the following approximate ratios: 30% – 30% – 40%. Some themes from the experience:

  • Good writing is actually much harder to find than I had expected. There’s a lot of writing out there, obviously – you only have to browse the Internet / WordPress sites to see that. But quality? That’s a different matter altogether. I am already considering a slightly slimmer volume to avoid compromise.
  • Not surprisingly, there are an awful lot of pieces about Covid-19. Understandable that people should want to try and decipher it, their relationship to it, but most of the time the work is unimaginative, more telling than showing…
  • Typos abound! And not just typos, but the odd example of ‘loose’ writing in some of the pieces i.e. a clumsy repetition of a word; a word that’s simply not needed.

This latter point throws up a dilemma of its own: to suggest edits or not? Given the aim of the exercise is to come up with the best book possible – and to showcase those writers included in it to their best advantage – there can only be one answer. Yet what right have I to do so? That nags at me. My answer is simply that I have a responsibility to do so…

In perhaps two or three weeks I should have my draft final selection, at which point I’ll go back to the authors of those pieces to confirm their inclusion – and, in some cases, to correct typos / request minor edits. But between now and then, more reading, more sifting, more searching for the rare work that truly leaps from the page.

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