24 January 2017

Notes from the slush pile

We are deep, deep in the slush pile. (Thanks for sending in your stories!) Sadly, we don't have the resources to critique the hundreds of stories we get for each issue. So here are one editor's subjective notes:
  • Carefully choose pov (point-of-view). Generally, you want your main character to be the most interesting character in the story, with the most relevant skills/abilities and the most to lose.
  • Watch out for a lot of set-up in the beginning of the story. Probably the most common edits we make in stories is to suggest they start later. Do you really need that page of description in the opening?
  • Watch out for lectures. I admit there is a long SF tradition of explaining the science to the supporting cast but I say: do this very sparingly. I think the era of long scientific monologues is over.
  • Watch out for telling. If your story consists of one character telling the reader what happened--with no showing, it's not appropriate for our market. IMHO, save your telling for sitting around a campfire under the stars.
  • Please don't send us stories with super-common plots. One we see a lot: the protagonist--who seems like a human--is really something else, like an alien, a zombie, etc, etc. Surprise! (Not.) We also see a lot of men murdering women, girl friends, wives, neighbors, etc. (Should I be concerned about the welfare of writers' significant others?) Murder in and of itself isn't really enough of a story. I had one grumpy creative writing teacher who always said you had to earn your murders.
  • Consider an unusual story element such as a nonlinear chronology, unreliable narrator, or a multiple-first-person (we) pov. Sophistication catches our notice.
Good luck with your writing!

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