I signed up for Six Sentence Sunday again this week, so I know what I’m going to be doing this Sunday: reading other people’s posts.
Thank heaven for browsers with tabs. I go through the list of links for the week, more or less in order, and open twenty tabs at a time. I read each entry a couple of times and then see if I have anything to say; if so, I say it, right away. When I’ve read the last one, I close up that batch of twenty links and open the next batch.
I do my Six Sentence Sunday reading in more than one session. I want my eyes and ears fresh, attuned to the sizzle of wanting to read more, ready to make the effort to lay hands on what works and wrap words around it in a way that will be useful to the author — and ultimately to me. The better I become at reading other people’s work, the more ruthlessly I edit my own. Know what works, and cut what doesn’t.
From time to time I open a link and it starts playing music. I curse, close it as fast as I can (often having to close a whole lot of other tabs before identifying the real offender), and then blackball it. It’s a consent issue. It’s fine if you have video or audio content on your site, but you have to give me the choice about clicking to play it. Force it on me, and you’re in the same class with neighbors who “share” musical selections cranked to 10 at two o’clock in the morning.
Six Sentence Sunday reminds me that I’m not only a writer but a reader. Going through 120 authors’ links and reading them all gives me sympathy for those who read for a living and don’t have the option of taking long and luxurious breaks: freshman composition graders, for example, or editorial interns reading their way through the slush pile.
Ah yes, the slush pile. One of my writers’ groups has invited editors from literary magazines to speak about editorial process. What stands out is that they accept maybe a few percent of all manuscripts sent them, but they read them all.
Or at least they start reading them.
Second hand a friend-of-a-friend who reads slush: “One bad sentence and I’m out of there.” In spite of stated manuscript submission guidelines, he still gets the rose-scented manuscripts on pink paper. (Guess what happens to those.) I’m in complete, merciless agreement with that: if I were staring at a pile of manuscripts, I’d be finding any excuse to get them off my desk. It’s like grading papers, only you don’t have to write comments. So you look at that six sentence opener…
… that is, if the link doesn’t play loud music without my consent (the web equivalent of scented paper), or indulge itself in background graphics that make the foreground text illegible, or bury the excerpt in a pile of annotation.
Write (the first) six sentences with sizzle, make the rest live up to the promise, and I might win the jackpot in the Slush Pile Sweepstakes.