21 December 2011


Chiseled in Rock is re-running an interview with me today.  It's mostly about editing.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays!

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!

13 December 2011

lessons from slush

We are starting to get through the stories you all have been kind enough to submit for our consideration for the next issue. (Thanks, by the way!) My recent readings have prompted me to pass along some advice...
  • Make sure your story makes sense. All of us writers have trouble sometimes putting our visions on the page. It's crucial that you have a critique group or a beta reader or someone you can ask: "Okay, what happened in this story?" If they can't answer you, you have a problem.
  • Consider writing more than 1000 words. It is extremely difficult to write a compelling story in less than 1000 words. Remember a protagonist has to have a problem, attempt to fix it, and the reader should care what happens.
  • Avoid greetings and goodbyes. Generally, "Hi." and "Goodbye." and similar bog a story down. In reality, of course, we do say these things, but this is an example of how fiction is better than reality: there shouldn't be any mundane stuff. Everything needs to serve the story.
  • Write a good opening. Generally, excellent stories have some intriguing narrative to start off. Out of curiousity, I took a look at some of our stories in the current Electric Spec issue:
    • I knew I could never bring up Kylie properly.
    • A foot-high pile of bills on a table wasn't the largest amount of money I'd seen in one place.
    • Tommy is a little on the boring side.
    • If I've learned one thing in the two years I've been trapped in here, it's this.

    As a reader, I'm intrigued and want to learn more. Don't you? (Of course, you all have already read all these stories, right? :) )

Please keep sending us your stories, and, good luck!

06 December 2011

genre accessibility?

Over at Locus Online, there's been an interesting Roundtable on Genre Accessibility, which asks if contemporary science fiction has the capacity to cross over to a mass audience. I disagree with the implicit premise here which seems to be contemporary speculative fiction is not appealing to a mass audience. Have these people been to a bookstore, the movies, or turned on the TV lately? Have they ever heard of Harry Potter or the Twilight series or the Hunger Games trilogy? Or George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire or Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood series? I could go on and on. Of course, some of you might argue my examples are more fantasy than SF, and this is mostly true, but I could also name SF recent hits, like Cormack McCarthy's The Road. As I said, it's an interesting article; check it out.

Some speculative fiction that is very accessible can be found in our recent issue of Electric Spec. For example,

Check them out, too! :)