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Friday, May 10, 2013


And now to ask those same questions of our fearless leader, Managing Editor, Diane Walton. Diane is one of the original editors who gave birth to On Spec, way back in 1989. She has been the driving force behind the magazine for many years and manages to keep us all moving in the same  direction -- about as easy as herding gerbils. (Or raccoons, considering how some of us are a bit more feral. That's insider information. Buy me a drink at a con, and I'll tell you who's who.)

1). Diane, you’ve seen so many stories in the On Spec slush pile over the years. What kinds of stories appeal to you most? Do you lean towards a particular type of story or style?
I like stories with a powerful emotional ‘grab’. In other words, the protagonist has to go through a human experience (or ‘human-like experience’) that leaves me on the edge of my seat, wondering how they can possibly get past whatever life-changing event they’re encountering. The genre (SF, Fantasy, etc.,) takes a back seat to this.

2). What types of stories don't appeal to you? What are your pet peeves writing-wise?

I don't like self-indulgent First Person ‘Tell’ rather than ‘Show’ stories. It often lets an inexperienced author off the hook for having to show some kind of change in attitude or belief on the part of their protagonist. When it’s done poorly, all they do is observe. I also dislike ‘talking head’ stories. Something has to actually happen.

3). What advice would you give to a writer submitting to us?

We always suggest people should read a copy of On Spec to find out what we like. As much as I like to sell more copies, I’m not convinced this will give a writer any particular insight. So many authors write to us and insist their work will suit our style perfectly. That's for us to judge. My only advice is to learn to be more critical of your own work and ask yourself some serious questions: what is it about my protagonist that will compel a reader to keep turning pages? What would make them care?

4). Please list any credits you'd like mentioned (ie. book pubs, editing/publishing involvement) in a small bio:

Diane's Bio: Previously an author, my stories have been published on CBC Radio, in On Spec, Northern Frights and Divine Realms. I may even get back to writing some day, although I still enjoy reaping the rewards of being an editor. 

(And what an amazing editor, she is. She's the glue that holds us together. Thanks, Diane). 

Next Post: It should be about me answering the same questions, except I haven't written the post yet. Instead, next post will feature a letter sent to me about whether self-published work can be re-submitted to magazines and anthologies under First North American Serial Rights.

Stay tuned.

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