20 December 2011

more slush notes

At the risk of being discouraging, I've got some more notes from the slush pile to pass along...
  • Be careful with physical descriptions. The current modern style in short speculative fiction is NOT to give readers the physical hair, eye, skin color, height, weight, etc. of your characters. When I read "Joe was six feet, two inches tall, with red hair and blue eyes." this sets off an alarm bell. Among other things, I'm worried that the writer doesn't read short speculative fiction. It's difficult to be a good writer if you're not a reader. The point with description is: the author needs to convey only the important things about the character.
  • Be as specific as possible. A lot of descriptive words can be very vague; try to avoid them. For example, "He was handsome." tells this editor virtually nothing. What I think is handsome will be different from what you think is handsome. Let the reader and editor know specifically what the character thinks is handsome. :)
  • Be careful with subject matter. I'm going to go out on a (teeny-tiny) limb and say: vampires and werewolves are a tough sell. You have a much better chance at being bought by coming up with something fresh.
  • Be careful with your cover letter. I've been reading some cover letters that set off alarms:
    • Don't tell the editor how great, awesome, fabulous your story is.
    • Don't explain what happens in your story. If I can't tell from the words on the page in the story you are in trouble anyway.

    Cover letters should include your name, pen name if applicable, contact information, past publications, other professional information.
  • Know your genre and watch out for flying snowmen. Current SFWA President John Scalzi has a fun post over at AMC filmcritic.com: The Flying Snowman in Science Fiction Films like "Star Trek". Scalzi discusses implausible elements or events in science fiction or fantasy works that throw you out of the story. Authors: don't do this.
Despite my comments, thank you for sending in your stories. We appreciate it! Good luck!

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