Today is the official deadline for unsolicited submissions for the Tales from the Miskatonic Library.
However Darrell & I have decided to push the deadline back to 8/23, the end of Necronomicon, the Providence convention for all things Lovecraftian. Darrell & I will both be there, and this will give us a chance to meet some of you in person.
And the mss are still flooding in! So we want to make sure we have a chance to see everything that’s out there before making the final cut.
One question I’ve gotten a lot: is there a maximum length?
Well we are only paying 3 cents a word, capped at $100, so that’s about 3333 words. But all that means is if you go over, the payment is capped, we will still look at the story.
Really the best length is determined by the story itself. As Lincoln said once, a man’s legs should reach just far enough to get to the ground, more than that is a waste of leg. Same for stories: if they are good, they have a natural length of their own.
If you start when things are just getting interesting and keep going till it is clear what the final shape of the narrative is, wasting no time between, the length will tend to be about right. After you’ve cut the story first by a half. And then — and this will hurt — squeezed out another 25% of what is left.
But stick to point of view, in a short story there isn’t much time for anything but what happens & then what our hero or heroine did about that!
You’ve no time for backstory: if our narrator has had a troubled past (& that is pretty likely in this case) it will show in how he or she responds to events, maybe a bit too fast to leap to conclusion X, a bit over sensitive to casual remark Y. And if it doesn’t show in his or her responses, why does it matter? Leave history to the historians!
And you have no time for fore-shadowing, for what is to come, it will be here soon enough, why trouble the already anxious reader? There is only time to show what is happening now!
And in fact things are happening so quickly in your narrative — there is so much now now! — that you can barely relay a fraction of them to your reader! You’re like a tour guide where the boat, car, motorized book cart, flying carpet, night gaunt, is going so fast you can only report one or two of the most salient details — the eyes reflected off what had seemed a bit of waste paper, the curious omission in the alphabetized records for Z, the orchid giving a cheerful wave as you pass by — before the next incident commands attention. Not so quickly that the reader loses the thread of course — and therein lies the art.
So by the grace of ye eds, another two weeks. Spend the golden seconds wisely! Write, read, revise, reread, rewrite, & submit!
Be reading you!
PS. And as what we are looking for, as earlier, three requirements:
- Good story — pulls you in from first sentence.
- Gives you something to think about — leaves you going hmm after the last sentence.
- Fits into an anthology called Tales from the Miskatonic Library — without taking two pages of explanation by ye eds.