28 July 2020

train your muse

During the pandemic, I've been amazed at the quantity and quality of submissions we get at Electric Spec. Creativity in the time of COVID is not easy, so, kudos! I have heard writers can become better via the practice of writing regularly. It's as if writing is a muscle that becomes stronger with more practice. Along these same lines...

Scientists think people can train themselves to be more creative.

  • Brainstorm, but don't stop at your first ideas.
  • Don't listen to your 'inner-editor.' Accept all ideas without judgement.
  • Allow yourself plenty of time. Don't worry about running out of ideas.
  • Make use of downtime. Let your subconscious work behind the scenes.
  • Give yourself a comfortable place to create. This might include things like scented candles or a soft chair.
  • Go outside. Scientists have proved nature de-stresses us. Consider even turning off all your devices.
  • Practice makes perfect. Make it a habit to create.

Good luck training your muse!

Next week I'll talk about the production meeting. Take care!

21 July 2020

Thanks for submitting!

We're well past the submission deadline for the awesome August 2020 issue of Electric Spec. Thank you so much for all your submissions! Wow! We got a lot! It's great! :)
If you want to know what goes on behind the scenes, I'll tell you...

Slush We have about another week to finish up the first reads of slush. All the editors work on this. If you want to know a little bit more about us, you can read about us here.
Each story submitted is rejected (sorry!) or held for voting (yay!). Each of the senior editors ranks the stories in hold-for-voting, #1 for the best, and #whatever for the worst (ouch!). We compute numerical totals for each story.

Production Meeting We have our production meeting at the beginning of August. In 2020 we've been meeting virtually. :( We debate the various stories and decide on the ones in the issue. Usually, the stories with the lowest numerical totals get in the issue. We do try to pick a mix of speculative fiction genres. We also choose the cover art and assign various other tasks such as the Letter From the Editor. Soon after the meeting, we email out the good or bad news to each of the authors.

Issue Creation We do the tasks to put the issue together. After we get contracts back for the lucky authors we start editing the stories. The amount of editing necessary varies greatly by story. Once the content is in good shape, the stories are proofread. Then, we make the preview versions of the story webpages and ask authors for final okays. We create other elements of the issue, as needed.

Publication We publish the issue! Ta-da! And pay the authors and artist. :)

I better get back to work...

14 July 2020

story openings

Tomorrow, July 15, is the submission deadline for the awesome August 2020 Electric Spec issue! Send us your story! (Of course, on July 16 you can submit for the notable November 2020 issue.)
We are neck-deep in slush. For every issue we get hundreds of submissions. Thus, I have some tips for authors...

Your story opening is crucial. I can't emphasize this enough. With hundreds of stories to read, if your opening isn't very good, editors may stop reading.

As an author myself, I know this is hard to internalize. I have written stories that I thought were really good and seen editors say, "The first paragraph was boring." And I thought, "But the next paragraph is awesome!" Too late. The editor has already rejected it.

A common issue I see is starting the story on the page before the story really begins. As an example, about a third of the stories I read the other day began with the protagonist waking up. Seriously. This is not a strong opening. I didn't hold any of these stories for voting. Another common issue is significant spelling, word choice, and/or grammar problems. These kinds of stories are more work for our editors, so more likely to get rejected.

Thus, please review your first page one more time before you send in your story. We want your story to shine. Good luck!

07 July 2020

try-fail cycles

Yes! We are still hard at work on the awesome August 2020 issue of Electric Spec. Yes! The submission deadline is still July 15, 2020! Get those stories in!

As I read slush, I'm reminded of a tip from a famous editor: utilize try-fail cycles. A try-fail cycle is exactly what it sounds like. Your protagonist tries something (usually to solve a problem), and is not successful, and then tries something else... Most authors write these organically, without ever thinking Now, I need a try-fail cycle. It can be helpful, however, to consciously think about them.

Consider a definition of a story: a protagonist has a problem and acts to solve it. If the protag acts and is successful, a try-succeed instance, this is not an interesting story. Is it even a story? If the protag merely acts and fails, a try-fail instance, again, this isn't an interesting story. Thus, the cycle aspect of the try-fail cycle is also important. The protag needs to try more than once.

Most interesting stories have a series of try-fail cycles with increasing stakes. This makes the story more dramatic and gives the reader a more satisfying emotional payoff in the end. Try-fail cycles show and enable character growth. They also allow the overall story plotline to twist, change, grow. They make a short story much deeper and more interesting.

So, if your story is dragging, consider adding another try-fail cycle. Good luck!