24 April 2012


We, the Editors, are studying the hold-for-voting stories for the new May 31, 2012 ElectricSpec Issue. There are a lot of good stories there. (Thanks for submitting if you did so!) One major key to a good short story is the ending. And, apparently, it can be difficult to write an excellent ending.

A story ending has to do a lot of things. A good story ending is both a surprise and totally obvious. It's a surprise in that the reader cannot predict it, but it's obvious in that it fits in perfectly with what has gone before. Often, a good ending makes readers rethink the entire story; it causes a kind of paradigm shift. A good ending needs to address both the external plot arc and the internal character arc. (I've got a tip related to this: can you summarize your external plot arc in one sentence? How about your internal arc? If not, your story may be a bit muddled.)
Most importantly, an ending needs to give the reader emotional satisfaction and/or closure.

If all that sounds like a tall order, it is.
I've said it before and I'll say it again: writing is difficult.

Anyone have any tips for writing good endings? In my own work, I've gotten to a place where I don't start writing the story until I know what the ending will be. What do you do?

Good luck with your endings!

19 April 2012

second person

I tried to read a book recently which was written with a second-person narrative. Wikipedia says,
The second-person narrative is a narrative mode in which the protagonist or another main character is referred to by employment of second-person personal pronouns and other kinds of addressing forms, for example the English second-person pronoun "you".

I say, it was super-annoying. Every time I read "you" it took me out of the story. I kept thinking, "Who you? Me? But I'm not a futuristic detective investigating a kinky murder and missing my hair-do appointment. Why did this author use second person?" Suffice to say, I couldn't stick it out and didn't finish the book.
Caveat Scriptor! As a writer, you should think carefully before you try using second person. Is it really what your story needs? If so, go for it! :)

Of course, there have been successful fictions written in second person. Oh, the Places You'll Go! by Dr. Seuss (1990) comes to mind.

I must admit, I do like second person for blog entries. :)

How about you? Have you read or written any good second person?

12 April 2012

Common problems with first chapters--and first pages

Horror author Alexandra Sokoloff has a great blog about the craft of writing. One of her recent entries really caught my eye because what she says about first chapters is also true about the first page or so of short stories. Here's her top 6 list. Go to her blog for elaboration:

1. Inexperienced writers almost inevitably START THEIR STORIES IN THE WRONG PLACE.

10 April 2012

a matter of taste

First, we have an official Electric Spec news announcement: We will be closing to submissions on April 15 for our May 31, 2012 issue. Thus, if you want to be considered for the next issue: tick tock. :)
Of course, if you miss the deadline you will be considered for the following issue August 31, 2012. Good luck!

As far as unofficial announcements go, this means we will have our next production meeting in the beginning of May, so authors will hear by the end of April if they made it into hold-for-voting. Then, authors will hear in the beginning of May if they made it into the issue. Again, good luck.

This, of course, means we are hip-, no, neck-deep in submissions and wading through them. (Thanks for submitting if you did so.) I just wanted to remind authors that when we choose a story for hold-for-voting or the final issue it is a matter of taste. If we don't pick a story, that doesn't mean some other editor won't. Writing is a tough business. Hang in there!

Something that recently brought this subjectivity home to me was I recommended a new novel to one of my fellow editors. I loved it. He couldn't finish it. Apparently, our tastes differ; go figure.

Stay tuned for more exciting information about the upcoming issue in the next few weeks.

03 April 2012

Critique 101

We've said multiple times here on the blog that we can't critique submitted work. We'd like to, but time constraints just don't allow it. Thus, we highly recommend critique groups.

Let's say you've found a critique group. How, exactly, do you critique the work of other writers? I have some suggestions...

  • Generally, it's better to address comments to "the author" rather than "you". In other words separate the author from the work's characters, narrators, etc.
  • Always be specific rather than vague. "I liked this." is less helpful than "The main character here was sympathetic and funny." To help with specificity, focus on writerly concepts such as dialogue, characterization, descriptions, similes, metaphors, plotting, word choice, etc.
  • Begin with positive comments before getting into constructive criticism. This is psychology 101: if you're negative right off the bat, fellow writers will raise barriers and become defensive.
  • Note any confusion or problems you have with the piece, and, if possible, give specific suggestions for improvement.
  • Tell the writer what made you curious, what questions were raised, what you want to know in the future. (But don't expect to get answers right away--authors need to stay quiet during critique.)
  • Comment on the words on the page in front of you. Do not comment on what you think it means, or what you think the author meant, or what your personal opinions are on the subject.
  • Feel free to suggest a craft book or novel that you think would help the writer.
  • Write your comments on spelling, grammar, etc. on the document. You don't need to go over them verbally during critique group unless the writer has a particular pattern.
  • Try not to verbally repeat points that others have made. Feel free to mark on the manuscript if you agree or disagree with comments of other critiquers.
  • Generally, you don't want to comment on what is written; rather, focus on how it's written. All fiction involves some kind of suspension of disbelief.
  • If you are unfamiliar with the genre in question, feel free to say so and refrain from comment.
  • End on a positive note. It is a brave act to submit your work for critique.
  • Your suggestion here.

Good luck!