26 April 2016


In my neck of the woods, spring has finally sprung. The sun is shining, the scents of flowers ride gentle breezes. Yes, I would rather be outside in the sun, rather than inside on my computer! A very experienced full-time writer I know says the productivity of part-time writers plummets in spring and summer. He says: don't succumb to temptation! Keep your butt in the chair, your fingers on the keyboard.

What's a poor writer to do? Every writer needs to answer that question for him/herself. Personally, I'm going to give myself permission to yield to temptation, to shorten (not eliminate!) some of my writing sessions--with the caveat that I try to make them up another time.
Good luck with your own battles with temptation. :)

Behind the scenes we are hard at work on the marvelous May 2016 issue of Electric Spec. We are almost through the slush pile. We've got the production meeting scheduled for the beginning of May. We do seem to have an unusually high number of good stories already in hold-for-voting. Next week I'll start blogging about coming attractions in the new issue. I can already say we'll have some beautiful cover art and five excellent short stories!

19 April 2016

explain or not?

Preparations for the marvelous May 2016 issue of Electric Spec are in high gear! The submission deadline is passed. (But don't fear: we're accepting stories for the August issue.) Once again, we got a huge number of stories submitted. Thank you very much if you submitted! It will take some time, however, for us to get back to you... (See approx schedule in last week's blog post.)

In the meantime, I had an interesting discussion with some writer friends about explanations in novels. One writer recently finished a unique horror novel. Should she explain the whole monster mythology and origins and rules within said novel? Hhm... We thought: maybe not. It was scarier not knowing what was really going on. It was scarier thinking the monsters might come to our town!

I do think this is related to genre. At some point explaining your horror turns it into a science fiction. For example, if scientist John Smith's virus escapes ABC lab and sickens folks with the result that they get super hairy, their teeth grow, and they crave live food, the story seems like SF--especially if Dr. Smith is seeking a cure. If suddenly people howl at the moon, on the other hand, it seems like horror.
Fantasy can also be turned into SF with too much explanation. For example, if folks in your story can float by waving a magic wand it seems like fantasy. If folks levitate by manipulating dark energy it seems like SF.

Please note when I say explain I'm not talking about info-dumping. The age of the info-dump is over. Don't do that in any genre. Info-dumping involves the author directly explaining things to the reader. Often this is done via narrative without characters. A rule of thumb I use is: no more than 250 words of exposition at a time. Info-dumping can also be attempted via characters using the dreaded "As you know, Bob..." Don't do this. Characters should not discuss things they already know.

Bottom line: each author has to decide for him/herself. To explain or not to explain?
Good luck!

12 April 2016

reaction to slush

We are in the thick of it now! We're furiously trying to get through the slush pile in preparation for our next production meeting at the end of the month.

I read a story recently that started off great. It had a great voice, a great protagonist, a great opening. The protagonist had a good problem and started acting to solve it. I was totally reading along, thinking 'this is going to make it into the issue' when it ended. And not in a good way! It just petered out. There was no story resolution. I was super disappointed. In fact, I almost emailed the author that we'd buy it if he/she added a more satisfying ending. But I resisted. (Why? Because it's against our editorial policy. Why? Because it's caused troubles in the past.)

I'm sure everyone read Nikki's excellent article "Story Endings, How They Torture Me" in the last issue. You read it, right? If not, go check it out.
The gist is: "Change is probably the biggest and most important part of an ending." Make sure something is changed in your story. Also, make sure to show the reader the change. It doesn't count if it doesn't make it onto the page.

Thanks for submitting! We appreciate it!

Some schedule notes:

  • The submission deadline for this issue is midnight April 15, 2016, U.S. Mountain time.
  • Our production meeting is at the end of April.
  • This means all authors should hear back from editors by May 7, 2016 at the latest.
    If your story is accepted, this email should include a contract. Please write us back as soon as possible.
    If you don't hear back by then, something went awry and you should probably resubmit your story for the next issue. (Sorry!)
  • Regarding art: we do tend to hang on to art submissions for possible use in future issues. Thus, it's possible artists will not hear back by May 7. If you need us to release your art for another project, please let us know.
  • We're still encouraging accepted authors to blog about their stories here. It's helpful if you get back to us with your blog entry ASAP. (Thanks!)
  • The issue goes live May 31, 2016. Yay!

05 April 2016

write to market?

I recently had the opportunity to interact with several different editors from around the country. I was frankly shocked at how diverse our opinions of stories were. A single publishable story could have opinions ranging from 'loved it' all the way to 'hated it.' I did notice editors had certain preferences. One editor wouldn't consider a story unless the first page had a lot of setting description. One editor only considered G-rated stories. One editor only seemed to like stories with male protagonists. And on and on...

These editors edit for different markets. If you study the publications they've edited you can get some reasonable ideas for what they like. There are a lot of different elements in a story including point-of-view, tone, vocabulary, telling vs. showing, and internal and/or external plot. My point is: different markets are different. Does it make sense to submit a story to an inconsistent market? Maybe not. Does that mean you should write to market, i.e. try to write a story that's consistent with a particular market to sell it to them? Every author should probably answer that question for his/herself.

Electric Spec does have some conventions. Here's a short list. To appear in our market your story must:

  • have a speculative element
  • have some kind of protagonist
  • have some kind of external plot
  • be good.
In addition, our stories almost always have some kind of showing. Often, the ratio of showing to telling is over fifty percent. We do look for unique stories, something we haven't read before. Our stories very rarely involved graphic violence such as brutal murder and/or rape of a child.

We're starting to gear up for our marvelous May 2016 issue. Stay tuned here for more info!
The submission deadline for this issue is April 15, 2016.