17 September 2014

what's your destination?

I recently attended a workshop taught by the fabulous fantasy author Carol Berg. See the excerpt from her new novel Dust and Light in our last issue of Electric Spec here. The workshop was about plotting a novel without outlining. It turns out Carol is not an outliner! If you've read her excellent and complicated novels this will come as a surprise to you. It was a surprise to me.

The take-away from the workshop was: when writing, you must know your destination. In a novel you should know the ending of your large story arc and you should know the destination for each of your chapters. But it's totally fine to figure out your chapter destinations as you go along.

IMHO, as a short story writer you should know your final story destination when you start writing. Personally, I've written myself into a lot of corners and tangents when I didn't know my destination. Don't do that! :)
So, I ask you: What is your destination?

09 September 2014

short story cheat sheet

We hope everyone's still enjoying the awesome August 31, 2014 issue of Electric Spec. Tell your friends! :)

Editor Betsy and I recently taught a workshop on how to write short stories. I'm not sure I said everything I meant to say, so I thought I'd compile the list of bullet points here, in, well, bullet points.

Short Story Cheat Sheet:

  • Inspiration:How should you start? Write what you're passionate about. Notice this initial concept could be a person/character or an idea/plot topic.
  • Protagonist:Every short story must have a protagonist. Your protagonist needs to be a sentient being with something to lose. Your protagonist needs to have a problem in the beginning (ideally, the first 250 words) of the story.
  • Conflict:Every short story must have conflict. When your protagonist acts to solve his/her/its problem something or someone needs to oppose him/her/it.
  • Plot: Thus, the simplest possible story plot is: A protagonist has a problem and acts to solve said problem. Something/one opposes the protagonist--causing conflict. The protagonist thinks he/she/it will fail--dark moment. The protagonist tries again and either succeeds (hurray!) or fails (aw!).
    This is also called the external story arc.
  • Emotion:A good story needs to impact the reader's emotions. How do you do this? The reader needs to empathize with, essentially become, the protagonist. This is achieved through your characterization of the protagonist. Do not describe the physical characteristics of your protagonist (you want the readers to imagine themselves). Instead, show the protagonist through his/her/its thoughts, feelings, words and deeds and through the words and deeds of other characters in the story as they react to the protagonist.
    It's hard to evoke emotion in the reader unless you really torture your protagonist, i.e. give them a significant problem and make it seem like they truly won't succeed. The dark moment is when the protagonist and the reader thinks the protagonist will fail.
    Make sure to resolve your story. The reader needs to know if the protagonist has succeeded or failed in his/her/its actions.
  • Change: Something about the protagonist him/her/itself needs to have changed as a result of the events of the story. This is the internal story arc.
  • So what?When you finish your story, you need to ask: So what was the point of this story? What happened? If there was no point, if nothing happened, you need to work on it some more.
    Honestly, it can be difficult to get the distance from your work to ask this question effectively. Consider asking your friends, family, critique partners, "What happened?" If they can't answer you...back to work.
Good luck with your short stories!

31 August 2014

Thank you, Zoe!

We'd also like to sincerely thank our cover artist Zoe Frasure! A fun fact about Zoe's work: we used her art in the marvelous May 31, 2014 issue as well. :) Nice work!

We're live!

We're live! Check out the new issue of Electric Spec! Thanks go out to all our authors, to our assistant editors Chris Devlin and Nikki Baird and to the whole technical team at Hardlight Multimedia! None of it could have happened without all of you. Special thanks to author Carol Berg for sharing her new novel with us.

And, of course, thank you readers! We wouldn't exist without you.

28 August 2014

very soon attractions!

Wow! It's almost here: the awesome August 31, 2014 issue of Electric Spec.

We really pride ourselves on presenting readers with unique fiction. In the upcoming issue we have stories about: Elvis and the apocalypse (did you know these were related?), an ancient severed head causing a lot of trouble, a back-to-school sci-fi/fantasy spoof, what happens when girls get it on with fairies, and a Hawaiian steampunk murder mystery. Are you intrigued? I am and I've read them all already. :)

One of our favorites authors, Carol Berg, is sharing an excerpt from her brand-new novel Dust and Light. It begins with: Coroner Bastien's not-quite-a-smirk was immensely irritating.
"Constance sent word we've another mystery."


Check it all out on August 31, 2014!

26 August 2014

Coming Attractions!

We are getting down to the wire for the awesome August 31, 2014 issue of Electric Spec! We'll be showcasing 5 wonderful stories:
  • "The Bog Man" by David K. Yeh
  • "The King Must Die" by Bo Balder
  • "Kites and Orchids" by George S. Walker
  • "Sci Fi High" by Clint Spivey
  • "When the Moon is Waning" by Larisa Walk
All these stories are exceptional. The editors are grateful that authors keep sending us such good stories. Thank you, authors! (Keep it up!)

It looks like we have some exciting other features as well. Here's a hint: Carol Berg.
I'll give you some more coming attractions on Thursday August 28.

Be sure to check out the new issue on August 31!

21 August 2014

even more from our authors

I have really been enjoying hearing directly from our authors. It's been a blast. Another fun story we're publishing in our August 2014 issue of Electric Spec is "Sci Fi High" by Clint Spivey. He wanted to tell us some...

Thoughts on Young Adult Fiction
by Clint Spivey

YA gives writers an interesting opportunity. While ten thousand authors are all chasing the same nickel in a world where readers dwindle due to distractions, YA flourishes. It seems parents, who may not even read themselves, see the value in encouraging it in their children, and with good cause. But what does this mean to writers? Do we strive to please parents, the ones likely buying the fiction? Or do we seek to try and give an accurate picture of the world to our ultimate goal, the dear reader.

I ask this because, through work-shopping a recent story, set in a high school world of monsters, robots, angels, and inter-dimensional beings, I found myself being criticized for language and themes that were too mature for the story’s teenage characters. While I appreciated all of the advice I received, and ultimately followed it since it helped get the story published, I found myself conflicted.

My own high school experience, completed some seventeen years ago, was full of drugs, drinks, sex, curse words, and crime. This isn't to say I engaged in these acts, sex almost never, but these things were all around my fellow students and myself. Drugs from pot to meth and even LSD were available on campus if one knew the right person. Knives were visible, probably guns, though I never saw any. I know many people who were having sex regularly. Our on site day care for teen mothers attests to that. This wasn't some school in a terrible place, either. But the very school where the guy who first wrote, ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far far away…’ attended.

I don’t believe YA fiction for high school students ought be filled with sex, drugs, and gangs. But do we do our readers of this group a disservice by treating them with kid gloves? While reading, surrounded by reality replete with the dangers mentioned above, do they smell a phony only trying to get their parents to make a purchase? I admit I’m not well read in YA, but after writing the aforementioned story, I figured this was an interesting discussion to begin.

19 August 2014

more from our authors

One of the stories we're proud to present in our upcoming awesome August 2014 issue of Electric Spec is "The King Must Die" by Bo Balder--and it's not a fantasy, which you may be thinking. This is one of the most unique stories I've ever read.
Bo would like to tell us about:

My Experience in Writing "The King Must Die"
by Bo Balder

It was one of these rare moments of inspiration – I woke up at 5 in the morning with most of this story in my brain. I couldn't get back to sleep as long as the story was forming. I tossed and turned, feverishly imagining more, fleshing it out, until I gave up, got out of bedand wrote a brief outline. The actual writing, later that day, was as feverish and unusually smooth. I'd been to Vegas once, so imagining and looking up what it looked like in the seventies was easy. I've always loved Elvis and his music, so that wasn't hard either. The title is from Mary Renault's novel about Theseus in ancient Greece. In the novel, kings die to ensure their people's health and prosperity. I don't know where the frogs came from, I really don't. They were just there in the story from the beginning. Maybe somebody else will have an explanation what metaphor they are, but as a writer I think you should leave these symbols alone and just be grateful they appeared to you at all… Of course the story needed revision, but the essence was there from the beginning. It's special to me because of its strange birth, and I'm glad it's found a home!