07 December 2010

Notes from the Slushie Pile

I hope everyone is still enjoying the fabulous November 30 issue of Electric Spec. Behind the scenes we've already started working on the February 2011 issue. We've been going through the slushie, er, slush pile. I would really like to give feedback on stories but we've learned the hard way it doesn't work.

So, here are some hopefully-helpful comments from recent reading:
  • First of all, ElectricSpec publishes genre fiction. This means--besides some aspect of F/SF/H--we want to see some kind of character who has some kind of issue/problem and does some kind of action, leading to some kind of resolution. Please see my earlier post on How to write a short story. Please note this means something has to happen in the story. Please note this means there must be a conclusion to the story. I freely admit this is not the only possible kind of story, but this is what we look for. Hence the tip: Authors, be familiar with your target market.
  • Does your first page pass the "WTF?" test? If I read the first page and cannot tell WTF is going on...it's gonna get a pass. How do you avoid this problem? Give you first page to your spouse/child/friend/complete stranger and ask them if they can tell what's happening. When your spouse smiles and nods and says "Of course, honey." follow up and ask "What?" and listen to their response. Does it agree with what you meant?
  • The converse of WTF can also be a problem. Does your story have too much exposition/explanation? Is every character identified by first and last name, complete job history, and extensive family relationships? Is the beginning of the story a history of your world? Ideally, authors should give the reader only what they need to know. Note a lack of dialogue can be an indication of this.
  • Speaking of characters... How do you describe your characters? It is the mark of a beginning author to describe characters with a laundry list of physical characteristics. "Juanita had flowing black hair." Instead, try to show the reader about the character of the character. :)
    What do the authors do in your favorite published fiction? With the exception of romance novels, physical characteristics of characters are rarely given in fiction these days.
  • Speaking of descriptions... Authors are told to write specific--which is good advice. But choose your specific details carefully; focus what's important. Are the buttons on the jacket really what you want to focus on? Authors should also be aware that taking time to describe something draws attention to it. If I describe the ray-gun on page one...
  • Incorrect grammar and spelling is not good. I suspect a lot of what we see is due to certain features of certain software. People mix up the/then/they/there, etc. Autocorrect is not always your friend.

We do appreciate you sending us your stories. Thank you!

Keep 'em coming!

1 comment:

Betsy Dornbusch said...

WTF Test! I love it!