17 September 2008

Story Problems that Make Me Want to Smear Gooey Stuff All Over My Face

We gremlins tend to smear green, gooey stuff all over ourselves when we are pissed off. We also bite, so it's wise to steer clear of us when we're having a bad day. I've had a few goo-worthy moments lately reading stories in the Electric Spec slush. It makes me mad when a story with a strong plot or interesting characters ends up in the reject pile. If only those authors knew how close they were. If only they'd fix a few problems. On the off chance someone's willing to take the Grem's advice, here a handy list.

Editorial Gremlin's Seven Green Goo Rules 

  1. Figure out who your protagonist is and make me care about him/her/it.
  2. Make sure there is conflict. Bonus points if you make things really horrible for the person in #1 above.
  3. Cut the crap. Write three drafts of your story, making it shorter each time. Send me the short one.
  4. If there's no dialogue on the first page of the story, you better have a good reason.
  5. Lengthy descriptions of a fantasy world make me yawn. I fall dead asleep when they are in the first two or more paragraphs of the story. (The same rule applies to backstory).
  6. If you are going to choose only 1 physical trait to describe a character, don't choose hair or eye color. 
  7. Get paid for a payoff. Give me an ending that brings the story together or rams the point home, and I'll try to get those idiot Electric Spec editors to buy it. 


sex scenes at starbucks said...

Yea for #3.

Not that your editorial staff is lazy or anything...

Anonymous said...

Did you help these authors? Did you tell them why you rejected the story or simply say - Sorry this story did not work for me?

As we used to say, "If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem."

David E. Hughes said...

In response to anonymous' question-- the Gremlin never helps authors. He's just too dang grumpy. I and the other editors will occasionally include some specific feedback when rejecting a very promising story. Most of the time I don't. I really wish I could provide feedback more often, but I simply don't have time. That's one of the reason we have a blog--we can give lots of authors feedback at once instead of one at a time.

Betsy Dornbusch said...

I'm going to post more specifically on this tomorrow.

And yeah. Gremlin is really crabby. Unfortunately, the more we ignore him, the more he doesn't go away!

Gremlin Editor said...

I'm going to bite your nose when you least expect it.


lesleylsmith said...

Regarding anonymous' comment...I also would love to be able to critique the stories we reject, but we just can't. The sheer numbers of submissions we get are huge; I think I read on the order of a hundred stories this issue. The other editors are actually nicer about comments than I--and they suffer for it. People write back and disagree/argue when we make comments. Finally, writing is quite subjective; one person's opinion in not The Truth. We can't even agree on writing stuff in my critique group and we've been together for years!