31 March 2015

personal proclivities

I read several novels in March 2015 and I realized some (most? all?) authors have certain proclivities. Since we're all writers and readers, here, we all know proclivity means natural or habitual inclination or tendency; propensity; predisposition.

Currently, I'm reading the third novel, a huge blockbuster, of an author. I also read her first book this month. These unrelated books have some similarities. First of all, the prose is really lovely; this author is quite talented. That's a good proclivity! Both novels take place in small towns in Missouri. Both novels feature failed/failing journalists. Both novels have a violent undertone. Both novels are super dramatic.

I recently reread 2 novels of my favorite author and she also has certain proclivities. Her characters tend to be relatively powerless, operating in the background. She seems to enjoy using the framework of another work of fiction (possibly fictional fiction, i.e. not real), quoting from it or actually stealing its story or structure. She uses a lot of gerunds. She loves to have characters get interrupted. I could go on. :)

To be fair, I should analyze my work and see if I have any personal proclivities... Upon reflection, I have many. My main characters are often female scientists. My novels often take place in Colorado on the campus of a certain university. My novels often include quantum mechanics in some form. My novels often include a romantic subplot. Okay, here's a weird one: my novels often include copies of the protagonist! These copies occur via cloning, time-travel, quantum mechanics, and/or other mechanisms!
Hhm. I may be in a writing rut. I'll have to work on this.

How about you? Do you have any personal writing proclivities?

24 March 2015

Pinker's Style

I recently read The Sense of Style: the Thinking Person's Guide to Writing in the 21st Century! by Steven Pinker. Pinker covers everything that confuses and confounds writers. :) For example, we all know a pronoun is a word that take the place of a noun. In fact, there are different kinds of pronouns:
  • A nominative generally is the subject, or actor, of the verb. Nominative pronouns are I, he, she, we, they, and who.
  • An accusative generally is the object, or receiver, of the verb. Accusative pronouns are me, him, her, us, them, and whom.
  • Genitive is primarily a way to indicate possession; it's a noun that modifies another noun. Genitive case is marked on pronouns: my, your, his, her, our, their, whose, its and on noun phrases with 's.
I sometimes have trouble with I verusus me. Using this information, a writer should write: I was down by the schoolyard. Or, even: Julio and I were down by the schoolyard. But a writer can write: Me and Julio were down by the schoolyard. One of Pinker's messages is language evolves and writers should use their knowledge and experience to write what works for a particular piece.

Another tricky one for me is who versus whom. But the nominative/accusative difference should pin it down. Who kissed the bride? Whom did Henry kiss?

What grammar issues do you find tricky?

17 March 2015

reddit takeaways

As I mentioned last week, we did a reddit AMA. Here's the link. I thought I'd give a recap here of the AMA and our accompanying offline discussion for folks who want to know more about Electric Spec.

We started the ezine about a decade ago because we love writing and wanted to support writers. All the editors are speculative fiction writers and avid readers (and members of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers). We also enjoy speculative TV and movies. Although we don't have any formal training as editors, there are some English degrees among the editors.

It should be pretty clear from the AMA that we all enjoy humor. If Editor Betsy and Editor Dave had to pick a favorite genre I believe they would pick epic fantasy. Editor Betsy in particular enjoys dark stories. My favorite genre is SF, although I really enjoy urban fantasy as well. Horror/macabre is tricky; we tend to get a lot of men murdering women stories. This gets tiresome. Give us something original.

In terms of length, flash is hard to do well, particularly stories of less than 1000 words. This is because it's difficult to make the reader care about the character in such a short amount of time. If your story is over 5,000 words, conversely, it's likely it needs slashing. You don't believe me? Well, if you have multiple point-of-view characters, more than one subplot, or multiple timelines you probably need at least 5,000 words. But if not, cut it.

We had differing opinions on cover letters. Editor Dave liked it if an author mention Electric Spec in his cover letter. I admitted I don't read them. (!) Editor Betsy said her opinions on cover letters have evolved over the years. We agreed it's annoying when authors don't submit an *rtf as requested. Or if they don't put "SUBMISSION" in the subject line of their email.

Probably the number one takeaway of the experience was: it was a blast! We had a lot of fun. I highly recommend reddit for readers and writers.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

10 March 2015

truth in fiction

Definitions of fiction abound. One could say fiction is "literature created from the imagination, not presented as fact, though it may be based on a true story or situation." Or, "In broader, everyday usage, fiction refers to any appearance, impression, or understanding that is imaginary or otherwise not strictly true." Thus, it may be odd to consider truth in fiction. But I've been pondering what makes fiction great and I'm deciding it's truth. Perhaps this shouldn't be a big revelation considering our true literature blog entry from last year.

I'm taking a class right now and, among other things, we're supposed to read some novels and basically judge them. All the novels are well-written. All of them are entertaining. But some of them are not great and I think it's because they didn't appear to contain any truth or authenticity. After reading I thought: this plot could never happen, or these characters are too over-the-top to be real.

This idea is relevant for short fiction. A short story should embody some truth. I admit this can be challenging with speculative fiction when you aren't necessarily writing about this Earth or about human beings. But it's worth trying. Good luck!

In other news the Electric Spec Editors are doing an 'Ask-Me-Anything' over at reddit.com this Thursday evening March 12. Come on over and ask us anything! For example, you could ask Editor Betsy how hanging out at a bar, drinking beer, led to her first publication in hardcover. You could ask Editor Dave how he's making the world safer for love and marriage. Considering my recent attempt to write a horror romance, you could ask me: "How do ghosts have sex?" But please don't. :)
See you over there!

03 March 2015

so many favorites

We are extraordinarily lucky to get so many lovely stories submitted to Electric Spec. Thank you; we appreciate it! Our fabulous February 28, 2015 issue is chock full of fun spec fic stories. There are so many good ones, I can't even decide which is my favorite. How about you?

I didn't blog much earlier about our discussion with author Rebecca S. W. Bates. Check out her interview to find out how to differentiate characters and other writing tips as well as why Rebecca makes use of diverse cultures in her work.

Betsy Dornbusch's story "The Last of a Caste" also hasn't been blogged about yet. Ezine readers may not know, but in addition to being an editor, Betsy is a very accomplished author with several novels out. Her fantasy story is very dark. What would do if you were an assassin and ordered to kill a pregnant woman? Wow! Dramatic!

If you haven't yet, check out the new issue!