Here’s a fantastic interview that John Joseph Adams did with three of the top editors in Science Fiction & Fantasy (Gordon Van Gelder, Sheila Williams, and Susan Marie Groppi) about what it takes to get out of the slush pile:
A new writer only has a few paragraphs to grab the editor�s interest. What�s the secret to writing strong beginnings?
Van Gelder: (1) Introduce us to a character who�s in an interesting situation and make us empathize with him/her/it. Kate Wilhelm is a master at this�I often tell students they should get one of Kate�s collections or a handful of her novels and just read the opening pages of each one. (2) Cut the warm-ups. A lot of stories come in that feel like the author needed a few pages to warm up before the story starts rolling. That�s fine from a writing point of view, but the warm-ups should be cut in revisions.