01 April 2014

tips from the slush pile

Happy Spring! Around here it finally feels spring-y. I hope it's the same where you are, or will be very soon.
We've been working hard to catch up on slush here at Electric Spec. Something that struck me recently is: authors need to be aware of market. Over the last nine (!) years we have created a specific 'zine. Consequently, as a potential author you should read at least a couple stories to know what we like. Every market is unique and if you submit a story incompatible with it your story won't get accepted no matter how good it is.

So, here are some tips about what we like with the caveat that this is not an exhaustive list:

  • Science fiction, fantasy, and/or the macabre! This is a requirement. We don't take non-speculative fiction.
  • You must have one or more specific characters. Requirement. He/she/it can be anything from a giant space butterfly to an ogre to insert-imaginative-idea-here. The character is who the reader identifies with. The character must have something to lose. We should probably know who/what the character is by the end of the first paragraph, definitely by the end of the first page.
  • Something should happen. I going to say this is also a requirement. There must be an external plot. Again, this should be evident by the end of the first page. Ideally, your character(s) should also have an internal plot/arc but this is not required.
  • You should show us what happens, not summarize or tell it. This generally means there should be dialogue. Put the reader in the scene. If you have no dialogue your story probably isn't for us.
  • Your story should have an original unique idea, concept, character, world, technology or something else. This means you need to read speculative fiction. You need to know that a man killing his wife/girlfriend has been done. The witch with a heart of gold has been done. The robot prostitute has been done. Vampires have been done.
  • Related to the above, your story needs to have a non-cliche opening. Do not open your story with the main character waking up. Do not open your story with a dream. Do not open your story with the protagonist riding in a car. Do not open with your character looking in the mirror (for that matter: never have your character look in a mirror or other reflective surface).
  • We enjoy genre mash-ups. We enjoy humor. We enjoy irreverent stuff (but nothing political).
  • We'd like to see more:
    • fresh epic/high fantasy--this would be epic/high fantasy with some kind of twist
    • macabre fiction--spooky rather than bloody
    • fresh urban fantasy--note this is probably not vampires, werewolves. Give us some other kind of creature.
    • hard science fiction--SF based on extrapolation of actual science
    • a unique voice--this is a huge hook when we get it
I guess that's it for tips for now.
Good luck with your writing!

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