25 July 2010

Some Basics.

A lot of our stories are nearly perfect, style-wise. Others, not so much. Here's some issues I found with this month's slush.


  • Everyone gets their own paragraph. Whenever a character speaks or acts, it's safest to give them their very own paragraph. Especially when you're not tagging dialogue often.
  • And while we're on the topic, Structure your paragraphs so they make sense. A paragraph should have an entrance and an exit, almost like a mini story. Sometimes that only takes one sentence. Sometimes it takes ten. But everything in the graph should relate to the same topic. New topic or a new character = new paragraph.
  • Punctuating dialogue. With a regular tag like he said, use a comma. If you're tagging with choreography, it gets its very own sentence. Example: "Breaking comma rules drives me crazy," the editor said. or The editor slammed her hand down on the table. "Breaking comma rules drives me crazy."
  • Use ellipses sparingly...
  • Use a dash when someone gets interrup--
  • Use 2nd person judiciously. The story isn't about me (you), it's about your character. That said, I just saw it done quite effectively. It lent a casual voice to the piece. But it didn't happen much.
  • Subjects and their verbs never get separated by commas. Never. Never. Never.
  • Use mostly good old regular plain Jane subject/verb construction so readers understand what you're trying to tell them. It's a structure they understand.
  • Fragments. I'm biased against verb-only fragments, and I LOATHE them when used in a series of three, using the same verb for repetitive effect. I'll warn you now: it very well could mean an instant reject. (Though, that usage is generally a symptom of poor writing which makes itself known before I ever get to such a series.) I much prefer descriptive fragments containing adjectives and their object.
  • We no longer italicize thoughts at Electric Spec. (of course there are exceptions, depending on the story. We'll do it if it's needed for clarity.) We do italicize stuff like telepathy or other designated dialogue.
  • Please don't indicate italics with a *. Editors have to go in and remove all of them. You're submitting a story for pay. This is a professional endeavor, not an update on Facebook.

All right, I think that's it for now. As of today we've read and accepted/rejected all the stories except for our hold file for our next issue. Keep 'em coming!

10 comments:

Never say never. said...

Subjects and their verbs never get separated by commas. Never. Never. Never.

Some readers, like sassy children, can be real smart asses.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Aw c'mon. You know what I meant. But that's a good one, Never. If that IS your real name...

lesleylsmith said...

Some good points, Editor Betsy! Listen to her, authors; she knows what she's talking about. :)

Never say never. (again). said...

Nope, not my real name. You may lay down as many guesses as you like, but you will never figure it out even though my name lies in your facebook friends list.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

I'm guessing it starts with a T.

nevermore said...

What is this, Wheel of Fortune?

Guess again.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

Okay, it's starts with D. (That should eliminate a lot of you!)

Dnever said...

There are in fact two Ds. Spin the wheel again. Would you like to buy a vowel?

Alice V said...

Thanks for the pointers! Really have used this when I wrote my first manuscript!

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