I am super excited to get an honorable mention! It's so awesome to know that 1. David Farland actually liked my story enough to read it all the way through and 2. he deemed it worthy of an honorable mention! I remember struggling to write that story starting over a year ago. The ideas were good, but my writing was so clunky. It was like going on a road trip with interesting companions to amazing destinations but you were in a rusty Yugo instead of a nice BMW sedan.
But after struggling with it, reading about how to write, reading other people's fiction with a critical eye to learn from them, getting some great advice from other writers, and refusing to give up, it finally all came together!
It goes to show that wherever you start from, if you refuse to give up and keep an open mind, you can get there eventually. I felt/still feel like one of those artists who draws variations on the same form over and over and over trying to get it to come out right. I thought I must be slow because a lot of standard writing advice is to just stop obsessing and futzing about and crank out x words per day until you finish. Other people seemed able to do it, so why couldn't I?
But I made my goal instead learning how to write better and measured progress not in pages produced or documents published but in whether my writing seemed to be actually getting better. I was pretty sure I was getting better, but it is so great to get this, my first external validation, that I actually am.
Some cool things I learned along the way that might be helpful to others:
1.Two years ago, I was dead sure I had zero talent for elegant writing and descriptions. Then I found a lit professor's article that said very few people are born with the ability to write eloquently but that most writers could get surprisingly far by faking it. Faking it I could do. When I wrote something horribly awkward, I asked myself if I were reading this in a novel published by a professional author, what would they have written? Eventually, after much practice, I have learned how to do it myself instead of having to imagine someone else writing it.
2. I saw a talk by Joe Ide, the author of IQ, in which he said that (paraphrasing from memory, I probably have the details wrong)
If person A is pushing person B off a rooftop: What does person A feel when they see person B? Does person A hesitate or do they just run up and shove B off? And how does person A feel afterwards about the act and about person B? Those remarks gave me the key to revamping my writing which felt like an uninspired laundry list of Person A did this, Person A did that. By considering what my characters were thinking and how they went about doing things, and then writing about what they felt and did, my prose got much better.
3. If you can find a talented* person to read your work and you give them something you think is perfect only to have them give you a list of things that don't work or are missing, you should think about it awhile before you reject it out of hand. I saved a copy of my original and then set about trying their suggestions to see if they would work (i.e. I decided to just assume they were right and then set about the difficult task of actually making their suggestion work). I figured that it might take several hours, but if they were wrong I could always just cut and paste the original text back in, so I had nothing to lose. It turned out after a sincere effort that the person helping me was too talented and most of the time they were right and I was wrong :).
* (Not just anyone's suggestions though. You have to have a filter and only trust people whom you think are actually good. Think about the advice like dinner conversations: sometimes people give thoughtful responses, sometimes they just want to rip things up to feel superior, and sometimes they are not thinking and say something flippant).
Thank you so much David Farland and everyone else at WOTF! It must be a huge effort to put on the contest and I appreciate it so much. Joni Labaqui, thank you so much for the certificate! I love it, it’s so pretty!