27 August 2013

new issue soon

Our awesome August 31, 2013 issue of Electric Spec is almost here! Huzzah! Thanks to some very good authors, we have some very good stories to share with you:

In "Little Miss Saigon" by Malon Edwards we get a whole new perspective on a mother's love; I'll give you one hint: zombie.
In C.R. Hodge's "Queen Meabh," an archeologist's field project does not go as planned; I'll you a hint here: possession.
For a post-apocalyptic adventure, "For Want of Stars" by Beth Ceto fits the bill.
Ever wonder what happens when death machines kill everyone but ignore you? Find out in "Amelia Amongst Machines" by David Brookes.
Hhm. I'm sensing a bit of a negative theme.
Fear not! We close out the issue with a romance in David W. Landrum's "Someone." Of course, as you might expect this romance has a speculative twist...

Check them all out, August 31 in the usual place: Electric Spec

20 August 2013

your brain on fiction

You may or may not have noticed we had a little bit of technical difficulty at the end of last week with our marvelous May 31, 2013 issue. We think we've resolved this. If you see something weird please email the submissions email.
We are all working hard behind the scenes on the awesome August 31, 2013 issue. In particular, I wanted to give a shout out to our excellent copy-editor Chris Devlin. You rock, girl! Thanks for all your help on the issues.
Stay tuned next week for some more specific bragging about the new issue. :)

Now, on to the topic at hand. Annie Murphy Paul wrote a fascinating article "Your Brain on Fiction" published in 2011 in The New York Times. The gist of it is: The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. Wow! Isn't that cool?

What does this mean for authors? It means we really need to show, not tell. Words with odor associations activate the smelling portion of our brain. Words with motion associations activate the parts of our brain associated with moving. Words associated with textures or other tactile sensations activate the parts of our brain associated with touch. Let's use all the amazing words and mental associations at our disposal. :)

What's your favorite sensory word? Use it!

13 August 2013


The Electric Spec Editors are working hard editing stories for the awesome August 2013 issue. I thought I'd give you all a glimpse behind the curtain...

As authors make sure you remove as many spelling and grammar errors as possible before you submit your work of art. Do use the spelling and grammar tools of your word-processing software BUT don't rely on them exclusively. A lot of spelling and grammar issues can slip by. In particular, a misspelled word can be auto-corrected to become another word. Try reading your work out loud to separate yourself from your work and catch these gotchas. As an editor, I don't have preconceptions of what a piece says so it's easier for me to spot problems.
Be careful with word choice. I know authors who love their thesaurus, but not all words are created equal. Consider what a word really means. And is it consistent with your world and character? This is also something editors look at.

Probably the most common thing we edit for is length. IMHO, rarely does a short story need to be 5,000 words or more. I know Electric Spec accepts longer stories but those extra words are almost always padding--and padding that obscures the true beauty of a story. One of our editors (his name rhymes with Dave) is a master at revealing a story jewel hidden underneath the fluff. We call him The Slasher and all try to emulate him.
Related to this is where the story opens. Often a story opens with a lot of setup or backstory. Often this isn't needed.

An editing trick I've discovered over the years is line spacing. White space on the page or screen is your friend because it imparts drama. It lets the reader focus on a particular sentence. Go ahead, try it. When something important happens, put that sentence in its own paragraph. I often recommend the climax--especially the emotional climax--of a story get its own paragraph.


Didn't you focus on the above line? Of course, the opposite holds as well. Readers focus less on stuff in a long paragraph.
A similar idea for dialogue is to break up dialogue with beats, small physical actions or expressions. Here's an example:
"I love you." She swallowed. "And I've never said that to anyone before." versus
"I love you. And I've never said that to anyone before."
Isn't the first version more dramatic? Breaking up the dialogue makes the reader focus more on the individual lines.

Authors selected for the awesome August issue should be in the process of sending back their contracts. Once we receive the contract, the Editor begins editing. If our proposed changes are minor, we'll post the story in a preview and ask the author to okay it on the webpage. If more significant changes may be necessary we generally go back and forth with the author giving suggestions, etc.

Be sure to checkout the new issue August 31!

06 August 2013

uniqueness and action

We, the Editors, had our production meeting this past weekend. This means our awesome August 2013 issue is well on its way to creation. All the authors who were in hold-for-voting and not selected have been emailed. Remember, if your story made it to hold-for-voting, your story is publishable. Kudos, for almost making it into the issue! I think some selectees have yet to be emailed--but it's coming soon.

IMHO, we had an extra tough time selecting which stories to include in the issue because we had a lot of strong finalists. I thought I'd pass along some discussion points for your consideration. At Electric Spec we really like unique stories. This means your story will have a better chance with us if it has a different take or unusual twist in it. Try to subvert our expectations. For instance, if a man falls in love with a ghost woman, you might expect the problem would be that the love-interest is a ghost; but what if that's not the problem? One clever way to create something unique is to combine multiple genres, for example, zombies and artificial intelligence. I think you get the idea. The bottom line is if two somewhat similar stories are in final contention and one has a unique twist and one doesn't ==> we pick the unique one.

The second issue that was a deciding factor at the recent meeting was: does the protagonist act to solve his/her/its problem? (Notice this means the protagonist has a problem.) In other words, the main character has to do something to change his/her/its circumstances. For example, if evil robots are running rampant across the countryside killing everyone and the protagonist is saved when they're cut down by a virus --> not great. On the other hand, if evil robots are running rampant across the countryside killing everyone and the protagonist tries to lure them away from a settlement to save the people there ==> very nice. Especially if you add in a unique twist like the protagonist is a little girl and some other stuff...
I think you get the idea here, too.

As you may have gleaned, we have some great stories for the awesome August issue. Stay tuned this month for more info!