chuckt wrote:I'm not surprised by such a bias. Seems like a high percentage of the mags have limits at 6,000 and below. So there probably is an institutional bias toward smaller size. And I would guess editors will want to risk less mag-space on newer writers? And also leave room for more new writers?
Chuckt: You've hit one of the reasons, and you're talking about 'zines, and all of that is true. Space is prime, and new writers don't have a following, while famous writers listed on the cover help sell the 'zine. An editor might take a chance on a new writer with a small work, but publishing their novelette and taking out space that could have held a story or three by Hugo or Nebula winners? Alas, for new writers, editors have to make a call that will sell more issues for them and hopefully garner another award, which will again increase sales. It's a business, after all, and businesses need to make money. Especially this one, as so many 'zines don't make money and inevitably close their doors.
Of course, WotF is a contest, with a bestselling anthology that it also publishes. So it's a slightly different animal. Here's a few reasons some judges have publicly stated why they don't like max word count stories. We'll start with Dave. There's a topic in here about word count where Dave weighed in. I suggest people read it. On my Facebook, Dave told me when he sees a sub at 17K, he views it immediately with suspicion. Okay, that's a count against you before the judge even starts reading! You don't want the judge to doubt you at all, and first thing he's thinking when he sees 17K is "boy, I've got to read another LONG story to read and I have hundreds to go through" and second thing is "I wonder if this word count is the truth?" Dave says he checks word count when he sees something like 17K or 16,995, and guess what? MOST have lied, and the story is way over, thousands of words over, and they're just trying to sneak it in! After hundreds of people have tried to dupe you with this lie, I'd be wary too. And trust me, you don't want a judge with hundreds of stories in his stack to have to do any extra work to read your story. Judges are looking for good stories, but they've got a job to do and can't spend much time figuring out which ones are worth the full read.
Yeah, that will shock some here. There is only one reason a judge will read your story from beginning to end. Every word must count. As soon as one doesn't, you might get a pass. But keep throwing in extra, fail to write a tight story, and the judge stops, and it gets a reject, or maybe an HM if it showed promise up to that point. No judge wants to invest in a 17K story that fails. It takes a long time to read. They could have gotten to many other stories in that same amount of time. If you're great, and I mean Michael Crichton great, you won't fail. You'll max the contest word count, and every word will be brilliant, and you'll have a "Mara's Shadow" on your hands and be the next Golden Pen winner. But stories at that level are extremely rare. In all the WotF volumes I've read over the years, that story was the best of the best. Even the words you might have thought were extra turned out to be needed by the end. A story that complex needs 17K to tell it.
Robert Sawyer has also talked about why stories at the max word count trouble him. I'm going from memory, but the gist of it was that often why long stories get submitted is that a writer doesn't know their craft. They don't know how to tell a tight short story. They've thrown in everything, and it shows. So as soon as he sees a 17K story, a red flag is going to go off for him. Again, do you want judges seeing red flags before they even begin to read your story? Go for it if you believe everything in your story is necessary. Just realize you are taking a big chance.
I've seen comments by other judges as well stating similar things. Even at Future Science Fiction Digest, where I'm an editor, I can tell you it's highly annoying to be moved to read a story at that length that shows promise, and then, after investing a significant amount of precious time, discover it fails by the end. There's a good reason for this bias. Many stories fail at that length. *Especially* those by new writers.
I highly recommend reading THE 10% SOLUTION by Ken Rand. It's short and sweet. If you've got a 17K story on your hands, that book will help you cut it down, by at least ten percent. : ) Your story will be stronger for it. It's available at fairwoodpress.com.