From the writer's point of view, why purchase a magazine or ongoing anthology that you're planning to submit to? After all, for most writers, our resources are limited. Sometimes we just don't got the money.
Or so I believe we all think sometimes. Yes, sure all writers want to support publications, especially the ones we enjoy submitting to, but when it comes down to choosing what to buy and when...but in reading the anthology Cone Zero Nemonymous for a review, I discovered a number of advantages to critically reading a publication.
What did I notice first when reading Cone Zero Nemonymous? First, I ended up reading more than one story twice. I kept getting caught up in the stories and forgetting that I was supposed to be critically reading. So I asked myself "Why?" In re-reading, I realized that the stories, while over a wide variety of unique styles all contained one defining element. (This anthology perhaps might be described as horror or fantasy or even magical realism. The editor DF Lewis has wide open doors for his anthologies. Witness the guidelines for Cern Zoo.)
The element? All the stories, whether humorous and fun, such as in the story "The Point of Oswald Masters" or the eerie haunting horror of "An Oddly Quiet Street" center on the characters and their emotional conflict. Although this is in some ways a "genre" anthology, none of the stories are truly plot driven. This supports a trend or shift in the way readers read and what they want to read overall. I've noticed fewer and fewer short stories and novels, no matter what the genre, to be plot driven. It's all about characters now. This is important for any writer to know.
Part of the phenomenon I've noticed and noticed in Cone Zero: short stories now seem to fall into two categories, either short-short (1000 words or less) or longer than we used to read, sometimes novellas. Used to be difficult to sell a story over 2000 words, now many markets request 3000 to 6000 words or more. I believe this is because readers want developed characters and it just takes more words.
All editor/publishers have different styles, approach and premises for their various publications. One important thing I learned from reading Cone Zero is that not only do I enjoy DF Lewis' tastes in writing, but that I was impressed with the quality of the stories. It moved any anothology edited by Lewis high up on my list of markets to submit to. Writing for such a market is a challenge and a learning experience.
Have you bought a magazine or anthology for critical reading? For reading as a market? If so, what did you learn from the experience?