Now that the issue is out, I've turned my attention back to our neglected slush. Some magazines close in the months prior to publication. We choose not to, mostly because we're writers, too, and we know how annoying it is to keep up on various requirements, much less which slush is open when. The flipside is that a writer has to wait longer to get a response from Electric Spec at certain times of the year. I aim for a 3-4 week turn around, and I have stories from January--eek! So, I'm reading now, and it occurred to me, reading last night, that knowing some of the problems I found could be helpful to writers out there. I know reading these sorts of things helps me--a great blog for this (on the topic of novels) is agent Nathan Bransford. But don't go there yet; I've got more to say here.
In general, your competition here at Electric Spec is tough. Our submission rates are up and the writing is solid. Grammar is correct; spellcheckers were turned on. It makes our slush a joy to read and decisions tough to make. So we get down to hooks and cleverness and that singularly most obnoxious requirement: grabbing your editor. I read ten stories last night and held only one. Many problems were beyond the "grab factor". This collection had legitimate, fixable problems and I thought it might be helpful to review the problems in a general sense.
In the realm of endings: I figured out two early on, and one felt coy even upon second reading. The story carried me to a climax I didn't understand--most frustrating.
One story was a story of someone telling a story. (Say that three times fast.) Despite the intreresting voice, I didn't understand why I needed to see the action filtered through an inactive protag. If we'd seen the action as it had happened to the character telling the story, I would have found this creative plot more intriguing.
Another piece leaned heavily on the character leg of the stool, but the characters weren't developed enough to make it quite work. Telling is tough to avoid when not much actually happens.
A few were traditional, stereotypical fantasy fare--solid writing and even included vaguely original takes on trope. (Hey, I love me some dwarves and elves and warriors. I like trope.) However, in one, I saw missed opportunities for deeper originality. And the other didn't quite stick by the rules of troped characters. If you're going to stretch a trope, push it to the outer limits. It can always be reeled in later. What doesn't work for me is ala carte trope. Makes it feel a bit...convenient.
The story I did hold? An anti-hero just trying to survive who gets everything he deserves.
Hopefully this indicates some of the problems I see on a regular basis. Most of all, I hope it helps you drive your stories into our pages. Keep 'em coming!