28 April 2015

the whole package

We, the Electric Spec Editors, are finishing reading slush this week and moving on to choosing stories for the May 31, 2015 Electric Spec issue. I find this step (choosing) difficult because all the stories in hold-for-voting are good. This step is probably the most subjective. What do I look for? Well, I'll tell you: the whole package. In terms of stories this means:
  1. The story has a unique voice. This can be rendered via the protagonist's point-of-view or the prose or a beautifully-rendered world or something else. Basically, I want to get lost in the story.
  2. The story has a unique plot. I choose stories with plots I haven't read before. However, if the voice is lovely enough, this can be superseded.
  3. The story has a unique protagonist. IMHO every protagonist should be flawed in some way and be gifted in some way. The protagonist's unique qualities then should drive the plot problem and solution. I want to believe the protagonist is, or could be, a real person.
  4. The story is in a genre I prefer. Subjective-me really likes urban fantasy and hard SF and especially stories with time-travel and/or quantum physics. I like other types of fantasy and soft SF and macabre horror. In general, I prefer man-against-nature stories over man-against-man stories. I enjoy humorous stories (but humor itself is very subjective). I don't like stories with a cruel tone. I have been known to black-ball stories with rape, especially kid rape. Caveat Scriptor.
  5. Finally, there are editorial concerns: The story is mostly free of grammar and spelling errors. (Error-filled stories are more difficult to edit.) The story isn't super long (These are more work to edit). The story can't be similar to one we published before.
And then, of course, at the production meeting we have to worry about things like issue balance, meaning, for example, we can't publish 5 zombie stories.
But the production meeting is a post for another time...(like next week!)

21 April 2015

advice from reading slush

We are working hard behind the scenes on the May 31, 2015 issue of Electric Spec. Right now, we are still getting through the slush pile. Thus, you should expect to hear back from us by the end of April/beginning of May if we got your story.
Here's some advice for potential Electric Spec authors based on reading slush:
  • Focus on the first page. If the first page has a lot of spelling or grammar issues editors are less inclined to keep reading. If the first page is confusing editors are less inclined to keep reading. I should know who the protagonist is, where he/she/it is, when he/she/it is. Refer to each character consistently via one name. Don't put a lot of specialized terms or jargon that I can't figure out from the context on page one. I shouldn't be asking 'What's going on here?'
  • Do have a unique protagonist. Every real person is different, so every fictional person should certainly be different. The more unique they are, the better. How do you create a unique protagonist? Virtually everything in the story should be colored or interpreted through the protagonist's perceptions. Specific details also help here. For example, a new Lamborghini Veneno Roadster is different from a dented 2007 Nissan Versa and tells us something different about the character(s) that own them. And FYI: telling the reader the characters' hair color will not create unique characters.
  • Do have a unique twist on plot. Notice I didn't say a unique plot; I'm not sure those exist. For example, a story about zombies taking over is not unique. A story about zombies getting better was unique--the first time. A tip: if your plot has been made into a TV/cable show or a movie is it not unique/twisty enough. In particular, human men killing other humans or aliens is hard to make unique. A surprise reveal at the end that the protagonist is really an alien is hard to make unique.
  • Do have nice smooth prose. I recommend reading aloud to catch awkward sections. Generally, you don't want to repeat the same word within a sentence. If your prose is not smooth it takes me out of the story. Don't make me stop and ask 'What is the author trying to say here?' Any time I'm taken out of the story it gives me an opportunity to think 'I should reject this.'
  • For Electric Spec we like stories with a plot. This means something needs to be different at the end of the story than it is at the beginning of the story.
  • Do show. You can tell, you just need to do some showing as well. Telling is summarizing and puts a layer of author between the reader and the characters. Dialogue is a good way to show. :)
I guess that's it for now.

We sincerely thank you for sending your stories in!

14 April 2015

Morrell's Advice

Recently I had an opportunity to hear author David Morrell speak. He summarized many points contained in his writing craft book Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing: a novelist looks at his craft. I strongly agreed with much of his advice. In no particular order, here are some highlights:
  • Writing is a kind of self psychoanalysis. Use your one-of-a-kind psyche to guide you to original unique stories, subjects, themes and approaches. Don't try to imitate other authors. Don't chase the market.
  • Don't be ignorant about other authors. Read!
  • When you get stuck in your writing, consider having a conversation with yourself. What happens next? Why? So what? and the like.
  • Plot should equal conflict plus motivation.
  • Plot and character should be intimately related.
  • Write what you're passionate about! If you don't know about something, research it. Have adventures; live your life. A well-lived life has a lot material for fiction.
  • A writing career will have many peaks and valleys; keep your perspective.

How about you? What good writing advice have you gotten?

The submission deadline for the May 2015 issue is midnight U.S. MDT, April 15, 2015!
Get those stories in!

07 April 2015

bare your soul?

Have you ever participated in a writing workshop? Do you have any critique partners? There can be a phenomena associated with reading multiple (in progress) pieces from an author, namely, you may come to feel like you know personal things about said author. You may feel you know the author's values, mores, paradigm, family history, and/or sexual/romantic experiences or other aspects of his/her soul.

I've personally noticed this phenomena with first novels. First novels often seem to be wish-fulfillment adventures. Have you ever seen this?

Is this phenomena a drawback to writing? No. We want to know your soul. Come on, show us. :)

The deadline for the May 2015 issue of Electric Spec is coming up: April 15, 2015!
Get those stories in!