How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Open topics on the Contest itself, to include results-watch threads and other items of note.
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Postby Alastair » Sat Nov 21, 2009 4:01 am

Okay, I'll admit I didn't go searching for analyses of the relative advantages of different numbers of sexes. I know that kind of work has been done, and my feel for the math is that two gives you a huge advantage over one, but three is a much smaller advantage over two, and so on. Diminishing returns (eg proportional to square or Nth root of number of sexes). Three does confer a slight advantage over two but it's overwhelmed by the disadvantage of having to find twice as many mates (two vs one) for an individual to reproduce. I could write a computer model to simulate it, that might be an interesting exercise sometime. (My sister-in-law's ex boyfriend, a biologist, was doing his thesis based on this sort of modeling -- way back when, and with just two sexes.)

Now, that latter can be mitigated with different strategies -- e.g. storage of intermediate steps so that you don't need all three to get together at the same time. I can even see complex socio-sexual behaviors arising (even in unintelligent species) that require three individuals to enable fertilization, with one being an enabler rather than a genetic contributer. We might call those separate sexes, but that would be functional rather than genetic. (The advantage to such a setup might be that for optimum offspring survival, you need a lot of adults around, or conditions that will support a lot of adults.)

You're sort of right about traits needing to be a disadvantage to disappear, but it doesn't have to be much of a disadvantage. At the margin, the energy cost of maintaining some otherwise useless feature gives a slight advantage to individuals that don't have it (or have less of it). On the other hand, reproductive advantage isn't always dictated by food and energy requirements -- as witness some of the bizarre sexual dimorphism in some animals (and especially birds). Peacocks, for one common example, growing all those ridiculous tail feathers just to attract a mate, because somewhere along the line peahen brains developed a preference for fancy tailfeathers.

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Postby soulmirror » Sat Nov 21, 2009 5:38 am

Oh well, the math would've been over my head anyway! Just hearing you comment there helped me frame it in my head: you can have to feed TWO parents to create the next generation ... or waste food feeding THREE. Slap me upside the head and I'll get it 'ventually! :?

I saw some TV show where they were suggesting that one of the huge advantages modern man had over Neanderthals was: We made throwing spears and all the Neanderthals had were stabbing spears.

Try running down a deer to stab it, versus throwing at it from a distance; we eat tonight and the Neanderthals go home and starve (all three Neanderthal sexes. HA!)

On the other hand, they were suggesting that maybe one of the major genes associated with human speech ... might very well have been given to us via Neanderthals?

Obviously, they missed stabbing the deer, then went home hungry and invented languages so they could gripe about it to each other ... :(
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby soulmirror » Tue Jun 21, 2011 2:06 pm

Y'know, it's sad to think that some of these old threads like this which were full of such good and valuable advice ... get delegated to the bottom of the list with time .... and then newcomers will never get a chance to read them. But at least this one has a timeless, general title that will attract the curious reader. Sadder are the threads that all their title is is "3rd quarter 2008" ... because that seems so over-and-done with ... what newbie would read those?

Speaking of Neanderthals DISCOVER magazine suggests we may be speaking TO Neanderthals .... in the sense that modern Man (of European descent) may still carry aproximately 3% Neanderthal genes.

Others of us from heritage to the East may be 5% Denisovan, a third form of Man who could easily have survived to share the earth with us ... but didn't.

It represents a hitherto unknown type of hominin mtDNA that shares a common ancestor with anatomically modern human and Neanderthal mtDNAs about 1.0 million years ago.


Just cool to think of what a world would have been like with multiple human types co-existing.
http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/301692

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Which is sad ... because going by this photo of Irina Denisova, Denisovan Man was sort of a cute species, and obviously intelligent (check out their nerdish eyeglasses; these guys could play with fire)!

I'm still hoping surviving Homo floresiensis will be discovered alive, up in the caves.

Image

Hey, these old threads were thought extinct too, but then suddenly are re-discovered, right?
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby gower21 » Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:12 pm

Ah. I am so glad someone other than the spam bot resurrected a good post. I think I remember this one back from when I was lurking on the boards, thinking "hey I really want to write fiction...but no I not good enough" Glad I finally decided to start entering.

What a great discussion. I would love to see more posts more nuggets from other HM, Semi, and Finalists on what there take is on scoring higher in the contest. I think as writers we all tend to be insecure about our writing (myself included) but those of you who have consistently scored well in this contest are doing something right. I love reading everyones stories when they publish in other markets.

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Re: A little advice to the riff raff?

Postby WriteToLive » Wed Jun 22, 2011 11:44 pm

Prisoner wrote:
Ms. Wentworth has indicated a fondness for stories with tragically beautiful endings.


Yes...and no. My Q-2 ending was tragically beautiful to a degree. Then again, I made the ending mysteriously tragically beautiful.
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Re: A little advice to the riff raff?

Postby vanaaron » Thu Jun 23, 2011 10:28 am

WriteToLive (quoting Prisoner) wrote:
Ms. Wentworth has indicated a fondness for stories with tragically beautiful endings.


I can verify that she does enjoy a good ending. When I met her at the WOTF workshop in May, she recited the ending of my own story back to me, leaving me quite :shock: and 8) .

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby dr-phil » Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:28 pm

My Published Finalist story is ALL about the protag dying -- he's going to be the first man "planted" on the moon. On the other hand, it ends with a Knock-Knock joke.

No, really!

Bottom line -- there's a story in that story. (grin)

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby dantzel » Tue Mar 13, 2012 10:50 pm

This comment will be about 2 1/2 years late, but....

In regards to Orson Scott Card rejecting someone's story because of a homosexual relationship, you should read some of his short stories and his novel Songmaster. Yes, he's Mormon, but he himself doesn't shy away from a homosexual relationship in stories, and I think he deals with them very thoughtfully.

So it may sound ironic that someone who takes an anti-gay marriage stance would write sympathetic homosexual characters, but they worked for me.
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Strycher » Wed Mar 14, 2012 5:17 am

Brad R. Torgersen wrote:I've been reading a lot of variations on the same question:

"How come my stories aren't scoring routine HM/semi/Finalist the way others' stories are?"

To quote one of my favorite old movies from the 80's:

Charles De Mar wrote:I've been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I'm no dummy.


Put more plainly, I think I've been doing this enough -- writing fiction at an aspirant level, that is -- and getting enough regular action at WOTF in particular -- in the form of HM and Finalist notices -- to have my finger (somewhat, perhaps) on the pulse of things.

1) Your SF or F element is probably not apparent enough, early enough in the story. Granted, the WOTF books run the gammut. But contemporary stories where the SF or F element is very subtle, or very abstract, or very under-the-radar, might still be good stories, they're just not wearing their SF and F credentials on their sleeves enough to make the cut. I've never gotten a rejection, but then the six stories I've sent to the contest have all had very, very apparent SF or F elements -- settings, characters, language, story title, etc. Not much subtlety, in that regard.

2) Your SF or F story might be too much of a "downer" story. We all know it's become chic in the literary field to write "down" fiction, because "downer" stories are basically code for realism, because as every good emo knows, life is pain and suffering and you can't write real fiction and be a real writer if you don't write about pain and suffering. Especially on a quasi-existential level. I say, pain and suffering are fine, but they must serve a purpose in the story. A positive purpose. They must either drive your character towards a more positive outcome, or they must be crucibles that transform your character into a better person(s) than they were before. Pain and suffering -- for their own sake -- aren't what WOTF is interested in. So have your story and your protag(s) follow a more or less positive arc, or at least end up somewhere that, when you read between the lines, appears to be taking them in a positive direction.

3) Your story might be bashing religion, or possibly lacks a religious element altogether. It's my inexpert opinion that you hurt yourself not at all by making your story religious. Now, I don't mean bible-thumpin'. I mean, explore a religious theme, make a character or characters sympathetically religious, etc. Religion, as an artifact of human behavior and society, can be endlessly fascinating. It can also be a tremendous informant of a protag's ideals, thoughts, motivations, etc. Doesn't even have to be a religion we'd recognize from modern day. Make it up! But make it relevant. Delve into what it means to Believe. Or, have your character torn between the secular and the theological. Make this part of the character's inner journey, either away from an incorrect spiritual perception of the universe, or towards something that seems more consonant with a fundamental truth or otherwise defining aspect of the character's perception.

4) On that note, your protag might not be taking enough of a voyage. Again, literaristicaliciousness dictates that Good Fiction is a talking-heads, painfully self-absorbed thing. Grand journey's are soooooooo passé. Everything has to be angsty and happen inside the protag's head, or it's no good. I say, PHHHBTBTBTBT! :P Take the reader -- and your protag -- on a grand ride. Go places! At the risk of sounding corny, dig that box of SENS-O-WUNDA™ that you put in the closet long ago, and shovel a few scoops into your next WOTF entry. Grand vistas. Big places, with big people and big ideas. Get ***LARGE*** with your perspective and your characters. Then, dovetail this Big Adventure Thing® with an inner voyage (see #3 and #5.)

5) Your character isn't going on an internal quest at the same time he or she is going on an external quest. And no, angsty navel-gazing is NOT a substitute for personal evolution. Have the events and the travels and the exploits of the story CHANGE the protag(s) on some level, so that they're not the same at the end of the story than when they set off. This might actually be the most important part of all, beyond everything else I've already mentioned earlier. Because this is where you're liable to Hook The Reader© with the emotional and psychological and spiritual development of the protag(s) as they surmount or face down the external challenges you set before them. In the end, your story won't matter to the readers if your story doesn't eventually matter to the character(s) in the damn story.

Again, I am not an expert, and these are just my theories. If you have been struggling with rejections and rare HM, but no semis or Finalist stories, then give my advice a shot. Try it out. See if it makes a difference. It might.

Of course, if you're so brand new -- meaning you're truly a Fresh Aspirant with very limited experience writing anything at all -- there is no replacement for homework. You'll have to write a LOT of words to improve, and probably none of them will score you a win -- or a sale. Do them anyway, enjoy the teaching and the exploration of the words. Don't fret, just work.

Otherwise, if you think you're at a Certain Level and you're scratching your head over why this isn't registering with the contest, re-read above, and ponder it a little. Use what seems workable. Throw away the rest.

In the end, don't stop submitting. You can't hit the moon if you don't launch your rockets.

And if I can steal a bit from the Army's Soldier's Creed:

Never Quit. Never accept defeat.

That is all. Carry on.


Now I'm curious if Brad's opinions have changed at all since he's become the super awesome WotF winner/Nebula Nominee/Analog's sole contributor.

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Shari » Wed Dec 18, 2013 5:55 pm

I know this thread is a bit old, but I have a question about number 1: "Your sci fi element is not apparent enough, early enough in the story"

How early does it need to be? I have two stories I thought I might submit, but one of them has a more or less obvious science fiction element on page three, while the other has something that is obviously quite strange occurring at the end of page two and onto page three. (In both cases, the first page of the story's text starts halfway down the page according to manuscript formatting that I have found on the internet.)

As far as the setting goes, neither story has a science fiction or fantasy feel to it. They occur in contemporary settings, but once you get to page two or three, it's hard to miss that they are science fiction stories.

However, I am wondering if they will have problems in the wotf contest because the science fiction element doesn't start early enough?

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby MJNL » Wed Dec 18, 2013 6:15 pm

Hi Shari!

Our rule of thumb is sooner is better, but while KD Wentworth stated she wanted the spec element on the first page, I'm not sure Dave has made the same assertion. If you look at Vol. 29, you'll notice a variation--from the spec element in first line, to not popping up until several pages in. Two things that can help are voice and tone--these tools can allude to the spec element before it appears in full force. But in general, the sooner, the better.
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Kary English » Wed Dec 18, 2013 6:26 pm

^ What Marina said.

The best thing you can do is get a copy of Volume 29 and read as many stories as you can. This is the first volume put together by the new judge, so it's a gold mine of answers to things like "How soon do I need to get the spec in? How dark can I go and not get bounced for being horror? How much sex / violence is OK?" etc.

The ebook is less than $4 on Amazon, and the Kindle app (so you can read on a computer or phone if you don't have an actual Kindle) is free.

Linky: http://www.amazon.com/Writers-Future-Hu ... m_kstore_1

I haven't looked, but I'm sure the book is available on Apple, BN.com and Kobo if Amazon isn't your thing.
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Shari » Wed Dec 18, 2013 8:48 pm

Thanks. I already have the kindle copy and I've been reading it for awhile now. I'm in the middle of "Cop for a Day" which means I'm almost halfway through it.

That is very helpful. I don't know why I didn't think of that.

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby s_c_baker » Thu Dec 19, 2013 9:34 am

I'm fairly sure Dave has also stated that sooner is better.

In general, it's usually best to follow the Ghost Pigs principle.

Note that this isn't to say you should make all your stories into brainless action fests with no character development or intellectual/emotional backdrop, but you want your story to be obviously in the genre an editor wants to buy, or ... well, they won't.

I think the Ghost Pigs principle is more or less similar to Kurt Vonnegut's famous advice of "start as close to the end as possible." If you're showing your character walking down the street, etc., etc., etc., with nothing happening, then your problem is not so much a lack of speculative element as it is the fact that the story hasn't actually started yet.

That is to say: Don't force the speculative element up front just for the hell of it. BUT if you're writing a SFF story, then in most cases it's going to hinge around some kind of speculative element, so why aren't you introducing that as soon as possible, so the story's plot can start?

And so forth. (I've never thought about it this way before!)
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Shari » Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:20 am

Wonderful link. wotf001 It made me chuckle.

I love the number one rule at the end about not making the Bert face. wotf019

I actually cannot start stories that way- where a dude is meandering around and walking and etc. I have an attention span of a five year old when I write, so if I write like that on the first page I chuck the story or re-start it closer to the action.

It's just that in my two recent stories, the action doesn't seem SF related until maybe halfway through the scene. There are specific reasons for that. I'm not sure if the judges/editor will wait that long but I guess there's no way to know except to submit them. Even then I will probably never know for sure. wotf017

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby s_c_baker » Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:27 am

Shari wrote:Wonderful link. wotf001 It made me chuckle.

I love the number one rule at the end about not making the Bert face. wotf019

I actually cannot start stories that way- where a dude is meandering around and walking and etc. I have an attention span of a five year old when I write, so if I write like that on the first page I chuck the story or re-start it closer to the action.

It's just that in my two recent stories, the action doesn't seem SF related until maybe halfway through the scene. There are specific reasons for that. I'm not sure if the judges/editor will wait that long but I guess there's no way to know except to submit them. Even then I will probably never know for sure. wotf017

Halfway through the opening scene? Or through the story?

The story requires what the story requires. Just make sure the story does actually require it. wotf007
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby ggeezz » Thu Dec 19, 2013 11:17 am

s_c_baker wrote:That is to say: Don't force the speculative element up front just for the hell of it. BUT if you're writing a SFF story, then in most cases it's going to hinge around some kind of speculative element, so why aren't you introducing that as soon as possible, so the story's plot can start?


I've mentioned Neil Gaiman's "Murder Mysteries" elsewhere on the forum. The spec element comes in around page 7, and it's essential to the story that it come that late.

OT1H, it's one of the best SFF short stories I've ever read.

OTOH, I'm pretty sure Dave would have stopped at page 2 and hit the reject button (in the middle of the sex scene).

There's another story in the same collection called "The Price." It also delays the spec element and the sole is that when the spec element comes it comes with a bang. It's very effective.

I'm not sure whether Dave would have kept reading. I suspect he would have because the writing is good, but there's a decent chance he would have stopped after a few pages and then wrote a Kick complaining that "no matter how good your writing is, I don't want stories about your cats."

But if David kept reading, I'm sure he would have viewed the story favorably. The delayed spec element would have been a boon to the story. In other words, it's a gamble to delay the spec element.

Remember that you're writing to a judge that has to filter through at least a thousand stories every quarter.

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Shari » Thu Dec 19, 2013 2:17 pm

In both stories that I wrote recently, if you start the text of the first page at the top (instead of halfway down the page like typical manuscript formats) then the spec part would be on page two. The stories are each about 18 pages/ 5000 words, and 9 pages / 2500 words.

So no, it's not halfway through the story. The spec part starts on page two. (or three in one of the stories, if you start the text halfway down the first page).

Actually for one story it's technically the second scene but it still starts pretty close to the beginning.

I probably wouldn't have any problems in the spec area if I submitted one of the other stories I'm working on, but they're not done yet and with the exception of one, (that probably has too much violence in it) I really don't have the time to finish them before this quarter ends.

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby s_c_baker » Thu Dec 19, 2013 3:49 pm

If it's on the second page, you should be more than fine. (So long, of course, as the quality of writing and emotional attachment to the character(s) keeps readers going that far!)
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby storysinger » Sun Dec 22, 2013 10:29 am

I recently had my first critique on a story.
It seems I meandered too much before providing any real action.
After chopping hundreds of words from the beginning it was a much better reading experience.
Now I'm spending a lot of time on beginnings and less on the rest of the story.
The trick I guess is to establish a well paced beginning that holds the readers attention to the finish.
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby s_c_baker » Sun Dec 22, 2013 12:37 pm

storysinger wrote:I recently had my first critique on a story.
It seems I meandered too much before providing any real action.
After chopping hundreds of words from the beginning it was a much better reading experience.
Now I'm spending a lot of time on beginnings and less on the rest of the story.
The trick I guess is to establish a well paced beginning that holds the readers attention to the finish.

I went through a length period of having this same problem. It's a hard one to beat...
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Sun Dec 22, 2013 1:40 pm

A good beginning is hard. That is all.
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Humboldt Steve » Sat Jan 25, 2014 12:52 pm

MJNL wrote:Hi Shari!

Our rule of thumb is sooner is better, but while KD Wentworth stated she wanted the spec element on the first page, I'm not sure Dave has made the same assertion. If you look at Vol. 29, you'll notice a variation--from the spec element in first line, to not popping up until several pages in. Two things that can help are voice and tone--these tools can allude to the spec element before it appears in full force. But in general, the sooner, the better.


I'll second the "voice and tone". The voice of my story was established in the first couple of lines and drew the reader in and you can see that in a lot of the stories in 29. Dave likes a strong and even quirky voice. Dave also doesn't require happy endings. Mine sure wasn't. Neither was Tina's. So that gives you a whole lot more leeway.
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby storysinger » Thu Aug 27, 2015 8:52 am

Came across this and couldn't resist updating it.

s_c_baker wrote:I went through a length period of having this same problem. It's a hard one to beat...


And now you've hit the walk off homerun.

You have been called up to the Majors. wotf010
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby s_c_baker » Thu Aug 27, 2015 9:11 am

Ha!

I still spend way too much time on beginnings... wotf001

At least it seems like I can sometimes stick the landings now, too!
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby kentagions » Sun Aug 30, 2015 8:16 am

I think I stand corrected. wotf021 I didn't know that advice was a competition.

In any case, I know what I've written and the common denominators of all five HMs I've received. Importantly, these common denominators were not present in the three Rs I've received.

Read Dave's advice. Read Orson Scott Card's book How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy. Internalize these lessons.

Do lots of critique (Critters is a good site to join).

Read the contest volumes.

Read high quality, short speculative fiction.

Good luck,
Kent
Last edited by kentagions on Sun Aug 30, 2015 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby orbivillein » Sun Aug 30, 2015 7:57 pm

Misunderstandings about passive voice arise for every writer in due course. Passive voice is a sentence constructed with an object as the subject, the subject as object or left out. The doer of a verb's action is demoted from sentence first position to third position or left out because the doer is unimportant or unknown.

A to be auxiliary verb like "was" is usually a clue for passive voice though active voice could also use "was" and similar verbs for auxiliaries. Active, "was," "had," "got," and similar auxiliary verbs or main verbs are another voice type, (state-of-being voice) -- simple past, present, or future tense, progressive tense past, present, future, or a perfect tense and all of an ongoing state-of-being time span. Cleopatra was a hegemon for a while.

Another clue for passive voice is a preposition of the object that is a subject placed at a sentence end. Below, "by" is the preposition of the first sentence's passive voice subject as object. "at" is also a preposition, though for transitive verb to beat that requires an object.

Passive voice: He was being beaten at chess by the school's principal.
Passive voice, subject as object and preposition of the object left out: He was being beaten at chess.
Active voice: The school's principal was beating him at chess.

A consideration for article words "a," "an," and "the" is they are adjectives and often misused; one, they are generic; specific adjectives are clearer; and two, the definite article "the" is often misused for indefinite modification and an indefinite article for definite modification. General "rules of thumb" for articles is to use an indefinite article for a first time a subject is named, use a definite article subsequently, or, if a distinctive modifier is used, use that instead and leave off the article completely.

Other article "rules" differentiate single count nouns and plurals -- use an article for single count nouns, none for plurals generally. Plus, the noun modified is distinctly identified in close proximity -- The first person in line wins a million balloons. The noun names a one-of-a-kind circumstance -- The Sun also sets. The noun is a subject institution or facility known and important to readers' groups -- The contest draws writers from across global society. Or indefinite -- A contest pits contestants in opposition. No article, generally, for noncount nouns -- People are men and people are women. Though specific noncount nouns take a definite article -- The children grow up, too.

Superficial fiction pursues only a straightforward concrete desire, for instance, desire for fame and fortune. Meaningful fiction also emotionally struggles with an abstract personal moral purpose and toward a proportionate personal growth or decline, or both, outcome. Young adult fiction, say, transforms emotional maturity all the while pursuing a personal, concrete desire. Without both concrete and abstract personal purposes, the latter usually unwittingly, and possibly or necessarily concrete and abstract societal purposes, a story is just another of an infinite line of more or less vanity stories.

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby LDWriter2 » Mon Aug 31, 2015 8:59 pm

storysinger wrote:Came across this and couldn't resist updating it.

s_c_baker wrote:I went through a length period of having this same problem. It's a hard one to beat...


And now you've hit the walk off homerun.

You have been called up to the Majors. wotf010



Hmm, the same problem could be a dozen. Including too many impossible things--I think Dave's limit is three. And just not knowing what.
Working on turning Lead into Gold.

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published in Strange New Worlds Ten.
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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby orbivillein » Tue Sep 01, 2015 6:27 am

LDWriter2 wrote:
storysinger wrote:Came across this and couldn't resist updating it.

s_c_baker wrote:I went through a length period of having this same problem. It's a hard one to beat...


And now you've hit the walk off homerun.

You have been called up to the Majors. wotf010



Hmm, the same problem could be a dozen. Including too many impossible things--I think Dave's limit is three. And just not knowing what.
Wolverton's three strikes you're out "rule" is any bump that disturbs the reading spell: grammar, craft, voice, too abrupt and confusing a surprise, and ten million other intuitive hunches something's off like a spoiled fruit smoothie.

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Re: How to get called up to the WOTF Majors

Postby Randy Hulshizer » Mon Sep 28, 2015 4:59 am

Some good stuff in this thread. Thanks to all for the posts.
Track Record: R X 3; HM X 3


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