12 June 2012

notes from the slush pile

We've started going through the slush pile for our next fabulous issue of Electric Spec. (Thanks for your submissions!) I do have some advice for aspiring Electric Spec authors. Savvy blog readers will realize I've said some of this before.
  • Do avoid exclamation marks! When I got my MFA my professors told me authors are allowed one exclamation mark per 80,000-word novel. How many does that leave you as a short story writer? You do the math.
  • Do have your protagonist do something. In particular, it's great when the protagonist acts to solve his/her/its problem.
  • Do give your protagonist a problem. If his/her/its life is perfect...it's not a story.
  • Do have some dialogue. Obviously, you can write a story with no dialogue, but we rarely publish such stories. Be cognizant of your market.
  • Do avoid non-said dialogue tags. 'asked' is okay, too.
  • Do have at least one speculative fiction element. I just rejected a lovely story solely because there was nothing speculative about it. Be cognizant of your market. :)
  • Do avoid obvious and blatant political or religious issues. We don't campaign for candidates or causes. We don't proselytize.
  • Do avoid grammar and spelling issues--especially in the first paragraph. We may be a little lenient when it comes to accepting stories with grammar and/or spelling issues but when they're in the first paragraph, I get grumpy.
  • Your advice here.
That's all I can think of for the moment. What do you think?


Martin Willoughby said...

NO exclamation marks! AAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Oh, and try and avoid overusing 'that'.

Anonymous said...

One more suggestion, perhaps a corollary to your 3rd Do: Do intensify the conflict. The deeper and more layered a problem is for the protag, the more riveting the story will be for an editor and reader. True for all spec fiction, from flash to a gargantuan novel. (See? No exclamation marks.)