On Sunday, April 1st, TI will be opening up our submissions for novellas, stories between 15,000 and 45,000 words. We aren’t limiting our submissions to a specific genre, because we want TI to be a home for readers and writers of all tastes and backgrounds.
That being said, the editors will be looking for certain things, namely the kind of stories that we like to read. And since every person is different, we’re going to embrace the differences between us. Each editor at TI is going to pick their novellas, produce them, and present them. The readers out there will get to learn the tastes of each editor and come to identify a certain editor with a certain type of book.
So this week, we’d like to tell you what we want to read, individually. I’m up first, so here it goes, a short list of I want to see in a story:
- Characters I hate to see in peril. I want a character or characters that after ten pages I cannot help but sympathize with. There are many great books out there with unsympathetic characters, but I’m not looking for one of those.
- A World I Can’t Believe doesn’t really exist. I don’t care what genre you’re writing in, you’ve got to make me believe that the place is real.
- A Story That Sucks me in. This may be the biggest thing for me. I want to put the book down, close my eyes, and wish that I could go there and be a part of it.
- A Plot That Doesn’t Make Sense without a great final act. There’s nothing more frustrating than a promise unfulfilled. Random elements coalescing into a perfect ending, that’s the kind of story that makes me come back for more. I want a story to payoff in a big way.
If you don’t think a novella can measure up to an epic, you’re not thinking big (or small) enough.
And about genre. I’ll admit it, I am a sucker for “genre” stories. I grew up on sci-fi. It was my way into books, going through my dad’s stack of Asimov and Herbert, reading Ender’s Game for the umpteenth time, giggling hysterically at the works of Douglas Adams. I secretly love the catch-all term “speculative fiction,” despite it’s vagueness. Because within that net you have a whole ocean of creativity. And as a writer, I am defined by creativity, both that of others and my own.
So you can’t go wrong sending me something speculative. I will welcome it with open arms, on one condition: it must be new. It must be different. No warp ships with lasers, no wizards and knights battling dragons, no werewolves in love, no “what if the South won the War?”, and so on. If you have read it and seen it dozens of times, so have I. I have a craving for visions of the future that are unique but plausible, or for fantasies that so far removed from Tolkien you would be hard pressed to put them side-by-side on a shelf.
But if you’ve written something that falls beyond the umbrella of speculative fiction, fear not. I have broadened my tastes since my youth and embrace all manner of stories. My favorites include The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway and The Pearl by Steinbeck, along with more the more literary vein of spec fic you find in The Mysterious Stranger or The Metamorphosis. I read mysteries, thrillers, literary fiction, and if there is something I haven’t read, I’m willing to give it a chance.
Experimentation is welcome, but must serve a purpose. Playing with form means nothing if it adds nothing to the story. And I’m open to series, but I’m a firm believer that the first book in a series should be able to stand on its own, meaning it is a complete story. No Part 1 cliffhangers. Even the great example of a fantasy epic for our time, Harry Potter, ended each book by completing the story within.
If after all of that you still aren’t sure if your novella is right for us, take a look at my Goodreads and see more of what I like. Or just send us a query letter. We might surprise you, if you surprise us.