Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

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Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby usbergo » Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:31 pm

Hey alls,

Translation of the title: Notes from a Writes of the Future panel at Life, the Universe, and Everything (a fantasy/sci-fi convention in Provo, UT) with David Farland! The panel consisted of David Farland, Brad R. Torgersen, and Eric James Stone. The majority of this info (if not all of this info) probably isn't new to a lot of you veterans o' the forum, but I figured I'd post it for the nubs (myself included) and anyone else who may be interested. If you have any questions about it, let me know, otherwise enjoy!

-

First and foremost: Doing your research is essential--read past WotF collections

DF looks for stories that:
- he wants stories that are SF/F/Horror (apparently he gets a lot of stories that aren’t in those categories--romance, contemporary, even recipes?)
- he wants stories that are beautifully written and engaging
- he wants stories that have great ideas that haven’t been seen before, or that are presented in new and innovative ways
- he usually strives for genre diversity in the finalist stories--one hard sci-fi, one space opera, one contemporary fantasy, one traditional fantasy, one horror, one paranormal, one comedy, etc. (those aren’t necessarily the genre categories he looks for, the point is that he strives for diversity in the finalists)
- DESCRIPTION is important (and apparently something a lot of people get wrong)--don’t just describe a character’s EYES; be clear about what is in the immediate setting, what is in the distance, etc. DF wants to be transported.
strives to have an even mix of male/female POV stories (in other words, he doesn’t consciously prefer one over the other)
- he wants more humorous stories! he rarely sees them, and when humor is done well, it is a real treat and something that catches his eye.
- he doesn’t get enough “good medieval fantasy”--good being the operative word there. he wants medieval fantasy stories that are new and innovative and that don’t just rehash the same old stuff. (i.e. new and interesting magic systems)
- he does accept resubmissions, particularly from HM and rejected stories. (he seemed less enthusiastic about resubmitted semi-finalist stories)
- he has no specific requirements or expectations on length of stories. (“the story should be as long as it needs to be, and not one syllable more!”)
- he isn’t allowed to say how many stories he gets per quarter, but it is over 1,000 every quarter.
20% of the stories that he finishes end up as HM or above (which means he finishes at least 500ish stories per quarter...yikes!)
- some personal pet peeves of DF: waking up with amnesia at the beginning of a story; waking up at all in the beginning of a story; stories that gross him out (he gave the example of a story--that was actually very well written, he said--that was from the perspective of a tapeworm that had just been “expelled” from a body into a large white porcelain bowl and detailed the tapeworm’s heroic exploits as it tried to re-enter its host...ZOMG)
- stories with the F-bomb early in the story are out immediately
- he said that the contest is significantly more competitive now than it has been in the past, and becomes more so every year
- Q4 of the contest gets the most entries, and is therefore statistically more difficult to do well in, than all the other quarters (Q1 usually gets the least entries)

-

Hope all that's helpful!

Now back to writing :-).

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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby s_c_baker » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:00 pm

Thanks, Chris[topher]! Great stuff. :)
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby preston » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:39 pm

Yeah, thanks. Very interesting, and some of it definitely news to me. Q4 the most entered, and Q1 the least. Wow! Who knew? Gives me more hope for my Q1 entry. Thanks again for posting.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby usbergo » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:50 pm

preston wrote:Yeah, thanks. Very interesting, and some of it definitely news to me. Q4 the most entered, and Q1 the least. Wow! Who knew? Gives me more hope for my Q1 entry. Thanks again for posting.
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Yeah, if I remember right, he said it probably had something to do with the holidays at the end of the year distracting people from submitting for Q1...haha and yeah, I can't deny that my hopes jumped just a little when he said that for my Q1 entry as well, no matter how infinitesimally those chances did (or did not) actually increase. But, if it makes me more confident, I'll take it (I'll just have to forget about it when Q4 rolls around O_o).
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby MJNL » Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:54 pm

The end of the year is always the least productive for me writing-wise. Makes since they'd see a drop.

Thanks for typing all this up!
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby LDWriter2 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:10 pm

Niiice.

Thank you

There is some new stuff in there--including the medieval fantasy and humorous.

I have thought about doing Medieval fantasy and even though I do have a couple humorous tales not sure if they would fit WotF.

Of course the stickler for any type are words like "Good, beautifully written and engaging".


Hard to do.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby Tamlyn » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:54 pm

Lovely notes. This nub certainly appreciates it ;)
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby liz » Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:42 am

Thanks for posting! This is some useful stuff wotf007
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby austinDm » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:10 am

Thanks for the info!

I know what genre I'm not going to be writing in. If everyone else is going to rush to write medieval fantasy, I'll be the one to stand out with my paranormal space opera horror short featuring sparkly unicorns and my little pony.

And space marines. Can't forget the space marines.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby Dustin Adams » Fri Feb 22, 2013 5:19 am

I've read more fantasy than any other genre.
I write less fantasy than any other genre.

In fact, I don't believe I've ever typed the word horse in one of my stories.

Then again, there was that basketball game...

Anyway, thanks for posting this. Now, off to write a beautiful and engaging story with an idea he's never seen before... wotf018
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby Strycher » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:17 am

austinDm wrote:I'll be the one to stand out with my paranormal space opera horror short featuring sparkly unicorns and my little pony.

And space marines. Can't forget the space marines.


Looking forward to reading this. wotf007

Also, Christopher, thanks for posting your notes! Very kind of you to share.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby usbergo » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:22 am

No prob everyone! In retrospect it looks like a beautifully written, engaging humorous medieval fantasy submitted Q1 has a pretty good shot O_o...especially if it has space marines. (I can haz space marines???)

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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby morshana » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:59 am

Thanks, Christopher!
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby LDWriter2 » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:16 pm

usbergo wrote:No prob everyone! In retrospect it looks like a beautifully written, engaging humorous medieval fantasy submitted Q1 has a pretty good shot O_o...especially if it has space marines. (I can haz space marines???)

wotf017



Why not they are the in thing right now?






At least around here. wotf011
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby s_c_baker » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:37 pm

usbergo wrote:No prob everyone! In retrospect it looks like a beautifully written, engaging humorous medieval fantasy submitted Q1 has a pretty good shot O_o...especially if it has space marines. (I can haz space marines???)

wotf017

Of course, now that everyone knows that has a good shot... it no longer does. wotf001
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel with DF

Postby Ishmael » Sat Feb 23, 2013 5:58 am

I see no obvious reason for rejecting amnesia in principle as a theme. Presumably it is attempted often and badly and it is discouraging to the judge to come across another one. However it has also been done successfully several times in literature and films, as have a number of other basic plots which continue to be recycled in SF and F. It is not impossible to be original with any of them.

As someone who has twice experienced amnesia briefly after sporting accidents, I feel that I could write about it well. I know what it feels like. More or less inevitably one 'wakes up' into the state, though not necessarily from sleep. Both of mine derived from concussion. It offers an immediate potential for psychological conflict, which is an approved theme apparently, because the amnesiac may have 'lost' a memory critical to his behaviour patterns prior to the accident. He can be engaged in self-discovery (or re-discovery).

Why is this wrong? I shall found a new movement to stop discrimination against amnesiacs. We are as entitled to tell our story as anyone else, so there! (Always assuming that we remember it.)
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel with DF

Postby s_c_baker » Sat Feb 23, 2013 9:18 am

Ishmael wrote:Why is this wrong? I shall found a new movement to stop discrimination against amnesiacs. We are as entitled to tell our story as anyone else, so there! (Always assuming that we remember it.)

There's nothing wrong with it--it's just a cliché, and so should be approached with caution.

I always view comments like these from DF (and his daily kicks) as for the absolute beginner who may think "OH HEY GREAT IDEA HE CAN WAKE UP FROM A DREAM AT THE END!1!11!!!!oneoneonee!11!!!!!ELEVENTY-ONE." For those who are aware that it's a common trope, and have been writing a while, there's no problem with starting however you want to start.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby Imagination Vortex » Sat Feb 23, 2013 11:58 am

To add to this further, I can't remember where or who - but someone on this forum got semi finalist and their story started with the main character waking up and not remembering who they were. And in their critique not once does David say "oh this story didn't make finalist because of the cliche opening." It only said to work on the prose.

Also my honorable mention story started with the main character dreaming, and then waking up from that dream.

So even though it may be one of Dave's pet peeves, I don't think it necessarily means he is going to stop reading or you are going to get a flat out rejection.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby MJNL » Sat Feb 23, 2013 1:47 pm

I think, with a lot of newer writers, waking up with amnesia is literary shorthand for "I, the author, don't know where this is going" or "I don't know where my story starts." The author is confronted with a blank, empty page, and thus the character is also confronted with white space. The character only learns things as the author learns them, and so that white space isn't filled in the imediate fashion of reality, but in the "ah ha" fashion of amateur fiction. In other words, the character has amnesia--which he or she or it wakes up to discover-- because the author doesn't know enough about the story or character to actually start writing, not because the writer is sincerely trying to explore the condition.

And if the author does end up focusing on the amnesia as the main conflict, it's often used as a smoke screen for withholding information from the character--information that, if the character had, would mean there was no story. What the novice doesn't understand in this case is that the withholding of information does not then create the story, it just temporarily masks the fact that there isn't one.

One of the best amnesia stories out there is We Can Remember it for You Wholesale/ Total Recall (though some people might not think it counts), in my opinion. What makes it an example of skillful story telling is that the amnesia itself is a surprise, and that the reason for the amnesia is something meaningful--the second part is what a lot of novices miss, I think.

So I absolutely agree that amnesia can be a great story focus--the problem is, lots of people tend to use it early in writing as a crutch, rather than a tool.

ETA: I should probably point out the I am guilty of using "waking up" as a crutch, myself.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby soulmirror » Sat Feb 23, 2013 4:12 pm

C'mon, how many times do they have to tell us why we shouldn't use "amnesia" in our stories?

Oh. Wait ... um ... I forget.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby MJNL » Sat Feb 23, 2013 6:54 pm

I edited my post again because I, ironically, couldn't remember Philip Dick's original title when I first posted. wotf004
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel with DF

Postby LDWriter2 » Sat Feb 23, 2013 10:30 pm

s_c_baker wrote:
Ishmael wrote:Why is this wrong? I shall found a new movement to stop discrimination against amnesiacs. We are as entitled to tell our story as anyone else, so there! (Always assuming that we remember it.)

There's nothing wrong with it--it's just a cliché, and so should be approached with caution.

I always view comments like these from DF (and his daily kicks) as for the absolute beginner who may think "OH HEY GREAT IDEA HE CAN WAKE UP FROM A DREAM AT THE END!1!11!!!!oneoneonee!11!!!!!ELEVENTY-ONE." For those who are aware that it's a common trope, and have been writing a while, there's no problem with starting however you want to start.



I think everything has been said already except for one detail.

When does it happen? Does the MC Wake Up in the opening not recalling where he-she-it has been? Is it a plot twist so that he-she-it gets it during the story? Does it appear suddenly at the end solving some plot point?

And as been stated how well that is described and any new twists to it.

Is he a zombie that forgets he is one?

Actually, that did happen in a novel by Laura Resnick. A just raised zombie didn't know he was one...but just long enough for him to be partially questioned by the MC.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby Ishmael » Sun Feb 24, 2013 6:18 am

MJNL wrote:
And if the author does end up focusing on the amnesia as the main conflict, it's often used as a smoke screen for withholding information from the character--information that, if the character had, would mean there was no story. What the novice doesn't understand in this case is that the withholding of information does not then create the story, it just temporarily masks the fact that there isn't one.



This is crucial, isn't it? The point about amnesia is that the character has lost access to some information. If he had access to it then there would be no story because he would not have amnesia.

The point I hinted at above is that memories, along with genetic inheritance and cultural upbringing, shape behaviour. Delete an important set of memories and you change the character's behaviour. There are potential conflicts with those who know him and with his own past. Even when you restore the information, you may not restore its former significance and you may therefore not restore the former behaviour pattern.

A story from the amnesiac's point of view will necessarily withhold this information from the reader in order to create enquiry and suspense. This makes this type of problem different from crude concealed evidence approaches of the 'How could he not have known that?!' type.

However, since you don't want to go overboard on amnesia description in the first two pages, how do you survive a two page rejection and convince the judge that this is not just another weak amnesia excuse tale?
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby s_c_baker » Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:17 am

Ishmael wrote:However, since you don't want to go overboard on amnesia description in the first two pages, how do you survive a two page rejection and convince the judge that this is not just another weak amnesia excuse tale?

1) Solid prose
2) Solid characterization / voice
3) Clear speculative (or other) concept outside "I have amnesia."
4) Evidence of cohesive world/setting/etc

In other words: show the judge you know how to write, and he or she will be much less likely to toss it out.

(Pretty sure that's true regardless of opening, actually... wotf007 )
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby Ishmael » Sun Feb 24, 2013 7:54 am

s_c_baker wrote: 3) Clear speculative (or other) concept outside "I have amnesia."


I am not a doctor, but if my experience is anything to go by, awareness of amnesia does not attend upon 'waking up'. You know you have a problem, not what it is. So perhaps a character's immediate awareness of amnesia is evidence of writer's block? Unless of course anyone remembers differently!
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby bobsandiego » Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:12 am

My SF from DF was nearly amnesia story. It did literally start with the character waking up, but instead of a white room, or no idea of who he was, the character found a pad of scrawled notes in his own handwriting that suggested a mental illness and he did not know who wrote it.
I totally agree with the idea put forward that if you remove part of a person's memory or data-set you will change who they are, and the longer that goes on the less likely it is they will return to 'baseline.'
A good story that explores this is the film 'Memento.'
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby MJNL » Sun Feb 24, 2013 9:57 am

Memento, great example.

And Ishmale, yes, exploring how the loss of memory changes us is a great topic. There are so many badly told amnesia stories that I can think of two good ways to distinguish an "exploring loss of memories and identity" story from the common "waking up/amnesia/ah-ha" story. First would be to make it clearly character-oriented. With lots of internal dialogue and internal examination by the character based on the interactions they have during their amnesiatic (sp?) state-- lots of waking up/ amnesia stories revolve around finding out why an individual has amnesia, rather than exploring the effects the problem has on the character (idealy there could be a good story that does both, but amature writers typically focus on 'ah-ha' moments over any real character development) Second would be to start the story after they've discovered that they have a problem--this should get rid of any possible white room syndrome, or the perceived presence there of.

So, it's a worthy topic, but any author trying to explore it has to come up with solid ways to distinguish it from other frail attempts. Of course, this is like writing most stories, really. As we develope as writers our ideas don't necissarily get any better, we just learn to present them in more-well rounded and mature fashions.
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby gower21 » Sun Feb 24, 2013 12:46 pm

I've written an ah-ha amnesia story and it was well written, but poorly plotted. It had all the problems you'd expect. Does that mean it can't be done? No.

I think some people can write any story beautifully even if it's a subject that's been done over and over, but good writing doesn't mean a good story. So you know when you've done it well when you catch an editors eye (well, it's still pretty subjective, but I hope people get what I mean).
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby s_c_baker » Sun Feb 24, 2013 2:00 pm

MJNL wrote:Second would be to start the story after they've discovered that they have a problem--this should get rid of any possible white room syndrome, or the perceived presence there of.

Yes, start the story as close to the end as possible. The story doesn't start with waking up--the story starts with realizing something's wrong. wotf007

One of my HM pieces does things almost the opposite way. It starts BEFORE the amnesia. wotf001
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Re: Notes from a WOTF panel at LTUE with DF!

Postby LDWriter2 » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:21 pm

s_c_baker wrote:
MJNL wrote:Second would be to start the story after they've discovered that they have a problem--this should get rid of any possible white room syndrome, or the perceived presence there of.

Yes, start the story as close to the end as possible. The story doesn't start with waking up--the story starts with realizing something's wrong. wotf007

One of my HM pieces does things almost the opposite way. It starts BEFORE the amnesia. wotf001



My thought would be make it so that only certain memories were forgotten. Actually, I suggested that on another thread and it has been done but add a twist like only every third day is forgotten. Or as in one story I critted, a guy had to delete his mind and use a back up to reboot it. Only thing was he hadn't backed up his mind for a few months, so all that time was forgotten--including a divorce and a job or some such.
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