31 October 2013

scary stories

To tide you over until we publish our next Electric Spec scary story, check out: 12 novelists tell their scariest bite-size stories.

Happy Halloween!

30 October 2013


We, The ElectricSpec Editors, are working hard behind the scenes. I'll post an update about the new issue next week.
In the meantime, Happy Halloween!

22 October 2013

and yet more notes

One we thing we love here at Electric Spec is originality. We want to read your original unique stories. Since there are no new stories this can be a bit tricky. For now, I'm going to focus on 2 different aspects that can impart originality:
  1. What you write.
  2. How you write it.
By "what you write" I mean the external plot. For example, vampires are not original. Men killing women is not original. What would we like to see? Epic fantasy that does not involve a quest. Macabre that does not involve killing people. Another avenue to originality is a mash up of two (or more) genres.
Note: ideally this external plot is echoed in the main character(s) internal plot arc. Think about what character can best tell this story; which character would have the most to gain or lose. I hate to use TV examples, but here I go: On the new show "Masters of Sex" the protagonist is an impotent shame-filled man who cannot seem to enjoy sex. This is the man who is studying sex. Would another character be as compelling? I think not.

How you write your story can make a rather tired plot fresh again.
In general, authors should be as specific as possible, especially for nouns. Don't refer to 'a guitar', refer to 'a Gibson SG' (or whatever is appropriate). Create a unique world. Always paint your story picture through the protagonist(s) lens. Descriptions should be from the character(s) perspective. Adjectives like 'beautiful' are relatively meaningless; how is it beautiful to the character?
If you've noticed I'm using the words 'character' and 'protagonist' a lot here, this is no accident. A unique character can make a tired plot fresh. A little girl assassin was fresh (the first time we saw it).

Another way to impart originality in the 'how you write' vein is voice. This concept is more difficult to pin down but it is the combination of vocabulary, sentence length, paragraph length, tone, and all the other writerly tools used to create a story. I've blogged about voice before here:V is for Voice and here:Spec Fic Tools II: Voice.
Good luck creating your unique story.

In the coming weeks I'll start blogging about the new November 2013 issue. Stay tuned for that. :)

21 October 2013

read for our future

Just a heads up about a great lecture by Neil Gaiman in The Guardian last week: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming.

16 October 2013

more notes from the slush pile

By now, the deadline for the neat November issue of Electric Spec has passed. But, never fear, you can still submit--for the fabulous February 2014 issue.
We have started working behind the scenes on the November issue. We've been reading a lot of slush. I have some tips. I freely admit these are for our market. I apologize because many of these I've given in years past but apparently they're still needed. Thus, without further ado...
One Editor's tips:
  • Do proofread your piece for spelling and grammar issues. We do not expect your piece to be perfect, but we do expect it to be readable. Note: MSWord's spelling and grammar tools are not sufficient.
  • Do use forms of said or asked for dialogue tags. I'm not kidding. I went to a writers conference last month and I asked every professional literary agent and editor I met about this, and they all agreed: said or asked only. They also said it's even better if you can give dialogue without needing a tag, i.e. use distinctive vocabulary or cadence or other unique ways of speaking for each character.
  • Do include a speculative element integrated into your story. If we can't find a speculative element, we won't be publishing it even if it's a very good story. If it seems like you stuck on the speculative element after the fact, we won't be publishing it. How can you tell if it's "stuck on"? If you take the speculative element out, the story should fall apart.
  • Do include originality. Please try to put a unique twist on your story. I can't tell you how many stories we've read where a man kills his wife or girlfriend (or wife and girlfriend). I can't tell you how many vampire stories we've read. I can tell you it is extremely difficult to write a fresh vampire story.
  • Do write the story only you can write. (Yes, this is related to originality, above.) What are you passionate about? What intrigues you? Put it in a story!
  • Do have a protagonist.
  • Do have conflict.
  • Do have a story resolution. This can be a success or a failure. This can even be the emergence of a new conflict. The point is: something must change.
I guess that's it for now. Back to the slush pile for me...

08 October 2013

notes from the slush pile

We are starting to work hard behind the scenes on the neat November issue of Electric Spec. Personally, I've been reading a lot of slush... Here are some thoughts in no particular order.
  • Re. the cover letter:
    • Don't tell us to go to your web page to learn more about you. In general, don't order us to do anything. It makes us grumpy.
    • Don't write a looong cover letter. We don't care what happened to you in the 1980s, or the 1990s, for that matter. If you have dozens of publications, just pick the top five or so and emphasize those. When we pick your story we will ask you for a bio for our Authors page.
    • Do give us your name, the title of your story, and its word count. The genre would also be nice. Although if you get the genre wrong...this is not a plus.
    • Do not give us a summary of the story. If we can't tell what it's about, a summary in the cover letter isn't going to help you.
  • Re. story length:
    • IMHO, it is really, really difficult to tell a story in less than 1000 words. Despite the current popularity of flash fiction, I've almost never seen it done well.
    • At the opposite extreme, while we do accept stories up to 7000 words... Does your story really need 7000 words? As an editor, I get pretty tired around about 5000 words. In the vast majority of cases, stories that contain 7000 words only need ~5000 words. Please carefully consider this.
  • Re. format:
    Do follow our formatting rules: here. The main points are:
    • rtf format
    • in an attachment
    • double-spaced
    • 12 pt font
    • not a weird font. We like Times New Roman or Courier.
That's it for now. Good luck with your writing. We look forward to reading your story! :)

01 October 2013

Ocean at the end of the Lane

I read an interesting book recently, The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. In Ocean the nameless adult protagonist returns home to Sussex for a funeral, wanders onto his old neighbors' property and recalls a childhood adventure. It's a beautifully-written engrossing, terrifying adventure to be sure.
For a fantasy, there are some delightful references to modern science such as wormholes, alternate dimensions, the Big Bang and the like. Neat! But ultimately for this reader it was a sad story, seeming almost autobiographical, even while describing mythical powerful creatures.

All in all, I'm not sure I got this book. The protagonist seems to be remembering his childhood to gain some secret power/weapon/knowledge but he immediately forgets. Moreover, the reader's told he has remembered and forgotten it before. Apparently the protagonist--and by extension all adults (?)--are doomed to ignorance and powerlessness. Or...?

What do you think this book is about?