Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRETS Workshop & Challenge!

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AliciaCay
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby AliciaCay » Mon Feb 17, 2020 3:03 pm

SUPERSTARS SUMMARY
Hi All,
Long time lurker, first time poster. My name is Alicia for those of you not in the know, and Wulf asked me (as with a few others) to write up a small synopsis on something we learned at Superstars Writing Seminar - Feb 2020 (It was SO much fun ♥)

THE ART OF THE PITCH
As presented by Jonathan Maberry

This year I received the incredible honor of being a scholarship recipient (one of two scholarships sponsored by Writers of the Future) and was able to attend Superstars Writing Seminar 2020 for the first time - so much yay!

One of my favorite panels was Jonathan Maberry’s: The Art of the Pitch.
You should know that beyond being a bestselling author, and an engaging and entertaining speaker, he was also a martial arts instructor for over two decades, and apparently his class on writing fight scenes will go down in the books at Superstars (we could hear them laughing throughout the hotel :)

First, I would encourage you all to go to his author website: jonathanmaberry.com
Amongst the links at the top of the page, there is one titled: Free Stuff For Writers. You will find LOTS of cool things to read and learn there. There is even a sample query letter – ‘Query Letter to Agent.’ I recommend having a look.

THE QUERY:
On Query Letters, Maberry said that in your letter you want to tell the prospective agent/publisher/editor (hereafter referred to as ‘the pitchee’) about YOUR STORY, not about you. This is a business letter, and the editor/publishers are buying the potential of the book – not you. They are in business to make money, so pitch them your product (the book). He also recommended opening your query letter with a hook – catch their attention!

THE PITCH:
Maberry emphasized that you should be able to talk about the book. As in, be able to tell them what your book is ABOUT. This does not mean the plot. He stressed that the plot is different than what the book is about.

He strongly encouraged everyone (threatened to throw a chair at us – haha!) to NOT memorize a pitch speech, and definitely DO NOT write down notes to read from when you go to give your pitch (apparently pitchee’s hate this). You must know what your book is about and be able to talk to those points.

He also mentioned that sometimes the pitchee will ask you questions, just to throw you off your memorized patter. But if you’re talking about your story, you will be much less likely to be thrown off your game (in theory ;)

He also impressed upon us to make the pitch personal. Look the pitchee in the eye, introduce yourself. He says that pitchees are just regular people and want to be treated as such... (I remain skeptical).

As to the art of the pitch…While making your personal pitch to this regular ol’ person, Maberry mentions it’s important to show the emotion of the story. Show your passion for it and invite rather than exclude the readers. (An example would be: This story will appeal to those of all ages, especially people who adore fluffy puppies, etc. Rather than saying something like: Dudes aren’t going to like this story because it’s about little fluffy puppies and we all know that Dudes don’t like adorable, fluffy puppies – or whatever. Don’t exclude anyone. You’re selling a book here people!)

SIDE NOTE: This sentiment ties in with author/Illustrator James A. Owen’s Eggs Benedict breakfast, which you must attend to fully appreciate – but be forewarned - it will make you cry.

I digress...

The point is – SELL your book, don’t point out all the stuff you think is wrong with it.

And lastly of all (not a thing), the most important point (that I can remember) is: PRACTICE YOUR PITCH! Go over it, and over it, and over it again. No one at this point is going to know the story you’ve written better than you – so talk about what you wrote. Bring it to life for the pitchee and engage them the way you would a reader. They may just buy it!

-xo
Alicia Cay

P.S. Mr. Maberry then went on to do a pitch on the fly with suggestions we threw at him. This was one of the coolest, most awesome-est things I've ever had the enjoyment of witnessing. I cannot recommend more that you sign up for Superstars 2021 and see it next year for yourself.
There are several of us here on the forum with codes that can give you a $100 discount. ♥
V32: HM (Q4)
V33: HM, HM, SHM, HM
V34: R, R, HM, HM
V35: HM, HM, R, HM
V36: R, R, SHM, R
V37: SHM, Finalist, HM, SHM
V38: Q1-TBD
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby RSchibler » Mon Feb 17, 2020 4:32 pm

Reporting in just to—as Wulf said— show we’re all in this together. I have sent 8 queries on my YA fantasy novel so far - and I already have a full request! Very exciting. I’ve completed one story that will be my WotF entry for this quarter and am 1k into a second story. My krakens come back and go back out regularly. I’m still waiting to hear back from Deep Magic. Hopefully soon!

Keep at it folks!

I’m available for crits for Q2s if you would like them. I do inline comments as well as a “big picture” review, and have a fairly fast turnaround.
V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: P

ALWAYS available for critique.

Stories in:
A Dying Planet, 2020
Upon A Once Time, 2020
UnMasked, 2021
Hold Your Fire, 2021
2020 Writers of the Future Superstars Scholarship

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby crlisle » Mon Feb 17, 2020 6:31 pm

AliciaCay wrote:SUPERSTARS SUMMARY

First, I would encourage you all to go to his author website: jonathanmaberry.com
Amongst the links at the top of the page, there is one titled: Free Stuff For Writers. You will find LOTS of cool things.


Thank you Alicia!
Volume 37: R, HM, HM, Silver HM
Volume 38: Q1 pending
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby CCrawford » Mon Feb 17, 2020 6:34 pm

Thank you for the info, Alicia! I've never pitched before (not yet, at least) but I can totally imagine myself being someone who accidentally undermines myself by trying to over-plan or by volunteering info on what I see as my book's weak points. I have the hardest time talking about my books when anyone asks; I always feel put on the spot! So I'll keep this info in mind!
v35: Q4 - HM
V36: R, R, R, R
V37: SHM, HM, HM, SHM

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby Wulf Moon » Mon Feb 17, 2020 7:15 pm

oishisushi911 wrote:
Peter Glen wrote:Thanks Wulf and all for the updates on SuperStars ... sounds like one helluva workshop!
For my update, I have first draft of my first story and 6K in on my story number two (based on the growing impulse prompt ;)
Still waiting on results from both my Q1 baby Krakens out in the wild.
Finished a flametree flash and will post for critique soon.

Ooooo you expanded on the growing impulse one? I’m curious to see where that one went.


That's a good sign when someone like RJK Lee wants to see more. :)

As you guys workshop flash stories (right now even shorts up to 3k), if you see something that's really special, please do let me know. Well, run it by someone like Becky or Leah or Liz or RJK first and make sure they think it's at pro level. I am an editor at Future Science Fiction Digest. If there's a *consensus* among you that somebody created something special, and you feel it's not long enough or quite right for WotF, I would take a look for our zine. Just don't abuse the privilege. Again, I will only look at shorts from Super Secret members, and only if you followed my instructions.

Membership has its privileges!

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon. JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://driftweave.com
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Critter Awards: BEST AUTHOR 2019 & 2020 BEST SF&F STORY 2018, 2019, 2020
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby Wulf Moon » Mon Feb 17, 2020 7:38 pm

Thank you, Alicia, for that wonderful review of Maberry's The Art of the Pitch. Very detailed and informative! I was there as well, and that guy is amazing. To add to what you alluded to, he called out at the end for somebody to toss him an idea. They said, "Mermaid frozen in an iceberg," and he developed the coolest story out of it on the fly, and then pitched it to us without batting an eye. It was amazing to see his mind work that up so fast, and then relate it to us in a pitch, demonstrating how it's done. He's an excellent instructor, and I believe he's there each year, so you can see him at work again if you guys attend.

Thank you again for sharing this, Alicia! You also attended the special eggs Bennedict event with James Artemis Owen. I went to that last year, and told you that you had to find a way to get in on that, AND YOU DID! This is a special add-on, and it's always wait listed. Would you care sharing the experience with us, Alicia? I'd like to hear your impressions, and I think everyone here would benefit from the message. And hopefully, will find a way to one day experience it for themselves. AT SUPERSTARS! : )

Congratulations again on your earning, along with Becky, the very first WRITERS OF THE FUTURE SUPERSTARS SCHOLARSHIPS! I couldn't be more pleased, and hope to recommend two more from here for next year! It was so wonderful to see you and Becky there! Congratulations again to both of you!

And Alicia? I'll be seeing you (along with Leah) in just a little over a month in HOLLYWOOD!

Cheers!

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon. JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://driftweave.com
Author page: http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon
Critter Awards: BEST AUTHOR 2019 & 2020 BEST SF&F STORY 2018, 2019, 2020
“Muzik Man" wins Best SF&F Story of 2020 https://bit.ly/34M9BTp

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby RSchibler » Mon Feb 17, 2020 8:38 pm

Wulf Moon wrote:They said, "Mermaid frozen in an iceberg," and he developed the coolest story out of it on the fly, and then pitched it to us without batting an eye. It was amazing to see his mind work that up so fast, and then relate it to us in a pitch, demonstrating how it's done. He's an excellent instructor, and I believe he's there each year, so you can see him at work again if you guys attend.

Cheers!

Beastmaster Moon


I was flabbergasted, and I don't use that word lightly. I wanted to read that book right now and it didn't even exist ten minutes before. To me, it really emphasized the importance of practicing our craft--all the elements of craft--and thinking about story in a macro way as well as character driven. He has story down pat, so well he could take an obscure idea and turn it into a full pitch for a novel in minutes. That million words everyone talks about is more than just words- it's the contemplation and growth that goes into those words.
V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: P

ALWAYS available for critique.

Stories in:
A Dying Planet, 2020
Upon A Once Time, 2020
UnMasked, 2021
Hold Your Fire, 2021
2020 Writers of the Future Superstars Scholarship

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby Peter Glen » Tue Feb 18, 2020 3:08 am

oishisushi911 wrote:Ooooo you expanded on the growing impulse one? I’m curious to see where that one went.


Funny thing ... it was one of those ideas that had been bouncing around for a while, the flash brought it out into the light, and it was one of the suggestions in your crit that has given it wings. I would love for you to check it out when done :) I've been a bit slow getting to your short ... will get there tomorrow.

Thanks Alicia for the summary wotf009

Wulf Moon wrote:That's a good sign when someone like RJK Lee wants to see more. :)


Indeed!

Wulf Moon wrote: Membership has its privileges!


Wowzers! Something to aspire towards!!
HM, R, R, R, R, HM, R, R, SHM, ?

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby SwiftPotato » Tue Feb 18, 2020 4:52 am

Alicia, thank you so much for the write-up! Nicely done! That class was fantastic, and of course it was a privilege to meet your lovely self in person ;)

Moon: that is so sweet of you to offer! Wow! Fellow beasties: I believe the translation of that post is "work harder, produce something really special." :)

Glad to see these prompts are helping people out! Keep killing your darlings, all!
R, 3rd place Q4 v36!!!

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby disgruntledpeony » Tue Feb 18, 2020 5:52 am

I was the one who said "mermaids frozen in an iceberg"! I was so thrilled by what Jonathan Maberry did with it. wotf007

(For the record, my write-up on Dave's short story class will be coming by the end of the week at the very latest. I've been very busy since I got home, and while I've managed to type up my notes, I still have to figure out how to condense 1300 words of notes into something coherent and legible.)
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, ?

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby StarReacher » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:27 pm

Reporting in as well. I have a very nearly completed story that I'm pretty sure will be my WoTF submission. I edit while I write so hoping to have it ready for a swap in about a week if someone is up to somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 words. My 2nd story for submission to a reputable market is . . . bouncing around between 3 different stories at the moment. All of them are fresh but waiting for the one to jump out at me to finish first. Or maybe (like last time) something else will jump in at the last minute!

Frustratingly, I know I have a 4th story I also started fresh last quarter but have misplaced . . . grrrr!

Oh, and I need to release another kracken soon. I've had 4 submissions and rejections thus far this quarter.
2017 - R (Q4)
2018 - R (Q1), HM (Q2), R (Q4)
2019 - SHM (Q1), R (Q2), SHM (Q3), HM (Q4)
2020 - HM (Q1), HM (Q2), SHM (Q3), HM (Q4)

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby StarReacher » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:32 pm

Wow! That's awesome that you have a full request. Very exciting!

I am close to finishing a story for a swap. I'll pm you to see if around that time (and length) works for you.

Best, Angela

RSchibler wrote:Reporting in just to—as Wulf said— show we’re all in this together. I have sent 8 queries on my YA fantasy novel so far - and I already have a full request! Very exciting. I’ve completed one story that will be my WotF entry for this quarter and am 1k into a second story. My krakens come back and go back out regularly. I’m still waiting to hear back from Deep Magic. Hopefully soon!

Keep at it folks!

I’m available for crits for Q2s if you would like them. I do inline comments as well as a “big picture” review, and have a fairly fast turnaround.
2017 - R (Q4)
2018 - R (Q1), HM (Q2), R (Q4)
2019 - SHM (Q1), R (Q2), SHM (Q3), HM (Q4)
2020 - HM (Q1), HM (Q2), SHM (Q3), HM (Q4)

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby oishisushi911 » Tue Feb 18, 2020 7:53 pm

StarReacher wrote:Reporting in as well. I have a very nearly completed story that I'm pretty sure will be my WoTF submission. I edit while I write so hoping to have it ready for a swap in about a week if someone is up to somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 words. My 2nd story for submission to a reputable market is . . . bouncing around between 3 different stories at the moment. All of them are fresh but waiting for the one to jump out at me to finish first. Or maybe (like last time) something else will jump in at the last minute!

Frustratingly, I know I have a 4th story I also started fresh last quarter but have misplaced . . . grrrr!

Oh, and I need to release another kracken soon. I've had 4 submissions and rejections thus far this quarter.


I can look over your story when it's ready.
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WotF 2015-2017: 4 HMs, 5 Rs
WotF 2019-2020: 6 Rs, 2 HMs
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby StarReacher » Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:02 pm

oishisushi911 wrote:
StarReacher wrote:Reporting in as well. I have a very nearly completed story that I'm pretty sure will be my WoTF submission. I edit while I write so hoping to have it ready for a swap in about a week if someone is up to somewhere between 6,000 and 7,000 words. My 2nd story for submission to a reputable market is . . . bouncing around between 3 different stories at the moment. All of them are fresh but waiting for the one to jump out at me to finish first. Or maybe (like last time) something else will jump in at the last minute!

Frustratingly, I know I have a 4th story I also started fresh last quarter but have misplaced . . . grrrr!

Oh, and I need to release another kracken soon. I've had 4 submissions and rejections thus far this quarter.


I can look over your story when it's ready.


Excellent!! Thank you! And this gives me extra incentive to get those last little pieces in . . .
2017 - R (Q4)
2018 - R (Q1), HM (Q2), R (Q4)
2019 - SHM (Q1), R (Q2), SHM (Q3), HM (Q4)
2020 - HM (Q1), HM (Q2), SHM (Q3), HM (Q4)

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby StarReacher » Tue Feb 18, 2020 8:33 pm

AliciaCay wrote:SUPERSTARS SUMMARY
Hi All,
Long time lurker, first time poster. My name is Alicia for those of you not in the know, and Wulf asked me (as with a few others) to write up a small synopsis on something we learned at Superstars Writing Seminar - Feb 2020 (It was SO much fun ♥)

THE ART OF THE PITCH
As presented by Jonathan Maberry


Hi Alicia,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful summary. Very much appreciated by those of us who could not be there. I have been inspired by your story and others to try for a scholarship next year!

I've been so caught up in actually getting stories on paper that I haven't given a 2nd thought to pitches. But now I can see how important that can be.

Best,
Angela
2017 - R (Q4)
2018 - R (Q1), HM (Q2), R (Q4)
2019 - SHM (Q1), R (Q2), SHM (Q3), HM (Q4)
2020 - HM (Q1), HM (Q2), SHM (Q3), HM (Q4)

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby Wulf Moon » Tue Feb 18, 2020 10:04 pm

I've been trying and trying to post a comment that took me an hour to write, but our Sucuri system here keeps blocking. After Martin tried to help me with the problem and that failed, I surrender. Suffice it to say, it commended Liz (disgruntled peony) for her good prompt to Maberry, and said to use what words she needs to relate Dave's workshop on writing the perfect story. It will be a good one for this group to review carefully. Don't forget to tell us the nice things Dave said to you, Liz. It's why I tell people that even in a blind contest like this, you should still try to meet the judge. There are reasons...

Also, I have reasons I set up that weekly prompt for you challenge beasties. It exercises your skills. And I believe one of you is going to create a winning story from it. I also mentioned you should be my Facebook friend if you aren't already. I just posted an interesting interview with Joni Labaqi where she said WotF is looking for stories "3K to 17K." Fits with my Super Secret about not too long, not too short, jussst right.

And if you have one just under 3K, and you got it vetted like I said in a prior post, you know I am on the hunt. Do study the market, and be confident you have written a story at that level. I am only offering this to Super Secret members, and only if you got it vetted first.

All the beast,

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon. JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://driftweave.com
Author page: http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon
Critter Awards: BEST AUTHOR 2019 & 2020 BEST SF&F STORY 2018, 2019, 2020
“Muzik Man" wins Best SF&F Story of 2020 https://bit.ly/34M9BTp

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby BeeW » Wed Feb 19, 2020 8:28 pm

Reading all of the reports from Superstars has me wanting to go next year! It's two weeks before I'd be back for my final year of uni so it is possible, just a matter of seeing if I can get an affordable flight from Australia to the US around that time. Maybe if I'm lucky I can apply for a small grant/loan from my university to help with the travel costs.

When do Scholarship applications open and how long until you find out if you were successful or not?
V37Q1: HM
V37Q2: HM
V37Q3: R
V37Q4: ?

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby Wulf Moon » Wed Feb 19, 2020 9:49 pm

BeeW wrote:Reading all of the reports from Superstars has me wanting to go next year! It's two weeks before I'd be back for my final year of uni so it is possible, just a matter of seeing if I can get an affordable flight from Australia to the US around that time. Maybe if I'm lucky I can apply for a small grant/loan from my university to help with the travel costs.

When do Scholarship applications open and how long until you find out if you were successful or not?


I forget the exact dates but I'm sure there are four or five people in here that know and will be happy to tell you! :)
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“Muzik Man" wins Best SF&F Story of 2020 https://bit.ly/34M9BTp

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby RSchibler » Thu Feb 20, 2020 5:49 am

I applied September 25 last year and found out the first Monday in December I think - but most people were notified the day after Thanksgiving.
V34: R,HM,R
V35: HM,R,R,HM
V36: R,HM,HM,SHM
V37: HM,SF,SHM,SHM
V38: P

ALWAYS available for critique.

Stories in:
A Dying Planet, 2020
Upon A Once Time, 2020
UnMasked, 2021
Hold Your Fire, 2021
2020 Writers of the Future Superstars Scholarship

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby Wulf Moon » Thu Feb 20, 2020 10:20 am

There is another writing seminar that should be on your radar. Fyrecon. Superstars focuses on helping published writers up their game toward becoming bestselling writers. Fyrecon focuses on helping aspiring writers to become published authors. In truth, while I love, love, LOVE Superstars, this con is probably more applicable to many of you. I've been watching them for awhile--David Farland and Eric Flint teach there, and I know the founders. They are a newer con/seminar that is growing rapidly, and they are very affordable--$50 for all four days, and reasonably priced master class add-ons ($75 for 4 hour and $150 for 8 hour master classes). They also offer scholarships to those with financial need! Due to growth (still cozy with around 300 attendees and staff) they have relocated the seminar to Salt Lake City, and it will be held July 16th through the 19th, 2020.

Check it out. https://www.fyrecon.com/

Another reason you might wish to attend? I will be there this year. And I have news...

Stay tuned!

And keep writing!

All the beast,

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon. JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://driftweave.com
Author page: http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon
Critter Awards: BEST AUTHOR 2019 & 2020 BEST SF&F STORY 2018, 2019, 2020
“Muzik Man" wins Best SF&F Story of 2020 https://bit.ly/34M9BTp

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby officer » Thu Feb 20, 2020 11:07 am

Wulf Moon wrote:Finally, I have a secret program open only to Super Secret members, past or present. Please contact Ari Officer for details, and do not share with others. Thank you.

If you're a SUPER SECRET challenge member (this year or last) and haven't heard from me yet, please send a PM. Thanks!
HM, R, HM, R, ?

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby crlisle » Thu Feb 20, 2020 11:37 am

Wulf Moon wrote: Check it out. https://www.fyrecon.com/

Another reason you might wish to attend? I will be there this year. And I have news...

Stay tuned!

And keep writing!

All the beast,

Beastmaster Moon


OMG!!! I am going to attend all 4 days! Thank you Moon! I can't wait to meet you! Do you like scones? I make cranberry orange buttermilk scones to die for. I will bring you some.
Volume 37: R, HM, HM, Silver HM
Volume 38: Q1 pending
Published in Sci Fi Lampoon: "My Ten Cents"
To be published in LTUE 2022 anthology: "The Last Dance"

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby crlisle » Thu Feb 20, 2020 11:41 am

Dragon Dreams KYD done and submitted to a prof paying publication.

Two short stories written. One for WoTF and the other has been submitted to Analog.
Last edited by crlisle on Thu Feb 20, 2020 7:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Volume 37: R, HM, HM, Silver HM
Volume 38: Q1 pending
Published in Sci Fi Lampoon: "My Ten Cents"
To be published in LTUE 2022 anthology: "The Last Dance"

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby BeeW » Thu Feb 20, 2020 5:19 pm

RSchibler wrote:I applied September 25 last year and found out the first Monday in December I think - but most people were notified the day after Thanksgiving.


Ah. Thank you! I'll keep my eyes open for it. =)
V37Q1: HM
V37Q2: HM
V37Q3: R
V37Q4: ?

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AlexH
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby AlexH » Fri Feb 21, 2020 8:06 am

I'm behind on the flash prompts, but have finished my story for another market aside from critiques and revisions. I have around 1,000 words written for my WotF story.
35: - R R R | 36: R HM R R | 37: HM HM HM SHM

Probably free for critique swaps, but double-check in case I'm away.

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disgruntledpeony
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby disgruntledpeony » Sat Feb 22, 2020 2:37 pm

Okay, this post is going to be a monstrosity, but here goes.

#

When I was at Superstars, I attended David Farland’s Craft Day class, “How to Write the Perfect Short Story”. Dave announced, right out of the gate, that the title of the course was deceptive. There is no perfect short story, because perfection is subjective. In the end, it’s all a matter of taste--so you want to make your story as tasty as possible.

Simply describing an event isn’t enough to hold a story on its own. It’s important for the story to build and change as it goes along--you need try/fail cycles (three at minimum). The plot of a story is essentially a plot of hormones being released into the body. Humans are performing emotional exercise as they read, so you need that up and down cycle in order to shake things up. If you only exercise by doing arm curls, you’re going to have really strong arms--and not much else.

If you’re aiming for a profound effect on the reader, you’ll need a character, in a setting, with a conflict. The character can be anything (man, woman, sentient humanoid, animal, etcetera)--it’s essentially a surrogate for the reader.

Setting is very important if you want to create a story with a lasting impression. There’s no story that can be told any time, anywhere. Stories change over time, and so do the audiences for them. You don’t have to have just one setting--a typical novel will have between seventy and one hundred of them. The world expands with every scene. (It’s important to think visually about your setting. Think about sound, too.)

Characters grow out of setting, so watch out for anachronisms. Political systems and economies also grow out of settings. (Dave noted that in a lot of stories people with magical powers get looked down on, but in real life they might be considered valuable. It’s all about context.) Your world creates your characters and different characters will hold different values; it’s important to ensure their reactions make sense. It’s also important to consider that characters from different worlds will face very different problems than we do in this day and age.

Lots of things go into the conflict of the story, including character and setting. Feel free to explore new/interesting conflicts that don’t show up in a modern society. Dave specifically looks for a combination of engaging characters, interesting worlds, and unique conflicts. Also, an important point of note: Dave does NOT appreciate unlikeable protagonists such as racists or sexists.

A strong hook is important. You can often tell an award-winning story from the first line. When looking to hook your reader, you want something that will intrigue them and encourage them to read along. You can use hooks of place, hooks of character, or hooks of conflict; an emotional moment can also catch the reader’s interest.

After the hook, you need to transport the reader. You want to make sure your character, setting, and conflict are all clear within the first two pages. Dave rejects a story if these aren’t clear by the end of page four. The reader should know the main problem of the story by the time they get 10% of the way in. (Also, keep in mind that for a short story, prologues and chapter numbers are iffy. While they aren’t an automatic R, Dave definitely considers them a strike against the story.)

The first try/fail cycle is often negotiation. In fiction, that never seems to work. In reality, people are talkers; in fiction, they’re actors.

The second try/fail cycle involves a bigger effort, which doesn’t work as well as expected--and in fact often makes things worse. This is where you can broaden the problem (for example, when introducing the second body in a murder mystery) or deepen the problem (every character has problems that affect them more deeply--inner conflict is important).

The third try/fail cycle is where the character realizes they need to change in order to resolve the problem. This is where the B-line conflict (emotional growth) becomes the solution to the A-line conflict. If the character doesn’t change, they die or descend lower in the arc.

Then you have your resolution. This is where the character succeeds or fails and experiences the repercussions of their actions.

Hooks can be hard to define until after you finish the story, so it’s good to go back through and strengthen those after you finish your initial draft. K/A/V cycles can help with this (emotional grounding, followed by description). A dialogue opening is okay, but visual hooks will usually have a more powerful and varied impact.The hook is usually intellectual--it grabs the attention of the reader and holds their attention for about two pages. At this point, you want your description to engage the reader at a deeper level, instituting an alpha state of consciousness as opposed to the more common beta state. If you’ve done it right, you’ll engage the reader within the first paragraph and get them to psychically invest in the characters, thereby hypnotizing the reader.

Conflict needs to hold consequences. You need to either care about the character or the problem. 85% of stories have life and death conflicts; but Dave likes good stories that DON’T have life or death conflicts, but they’re rare. Dave also likes good comedies, but comedy is particularly hard to write well (again, it comes down to a matter of taste, and taste is subjective).

When you’re looking to raise the stakes with conflict, consider: What is the worst thing that could happen if the character doesn’t resolve this conflict? (Death should NEVER be the worst option.) You don’t have to get to the worst point, but that should be the specter that haunts the character and the reader.

During the first try/fail cycle, the protagonist usually tries to solve the problem on their own. During the second and third cycles, the protagonist’s resources are strapped--they need help to accomplish their goal, which can lead to bigger conflicts. They should try creative solutions--and creative solutions can ALWAYS go wrong. Think of the worst possible complications to their attempted solutions. Make things get worse. Try to outdo yourself--make it surprising. (A lot of stories have a reversal during the third try/fail cycle; it looks like the protagonist will fail, and then you flip it.)

The story will feel shallow if a character has only one problem. Potential extra problems include, but are certainly not limited to: money problems, health problems, and relationship problems. You typically need five to seven conflicts for every viewpoint character you have in order to keep the pace riveting. But be careful--if you pile on TOO MANY problems, it feels artificial.

In most stories, you can’t solve every problem (although you can do it in a comedy). You want to really think about your ending and make sure you show the reader how it ends and why it ends that way. Having a voice of authority state something can drive the point home, although it’s important for this to seem sincere. It’s the authority figure that changes their mind about your character. Not all stories have to have a validation; horror stories, for example, often INVALIDATE.

Your story needs to be whatever length it needs to be; a story structured in this format is often at least sixteen to thirty pages. You can’t write a story that’s just like another story and get published--you need to do something different and surprising. Dave wants us to impress and surprise him (in his words, “I only take geniuses”).

The person who comes up with the most emotionally charged ending wins. K.D. Wentworth liked the tragic and beautiful ending. The problem is, if you tried that with every story, it wouldn’t work. Dave prefers complex endings. You may have multiple endings to deal with; if you try to make each of them complex, it creates a cascading waterfall effect that brings out more and more tears. Look at the story as an emotional symphony--it’s bigger than the words you put into it. The right emotional impact will haunt the reader.

It’s important to write the best short story you can. You don’t make a lot of money off short stories, so you can’t do it for a living. The real value of writing a short story is that it gives you exposure and the chance for awards, which expands your readership. (It should also be noted that each novel you write will probably be either a short story in form or a series of interlocking short stories. This means it’s important as a career tool to learn how to write a great short story.)

#

Now, I’m not gonna lie--a big part of the reason I decided to take this course is because I got 4th place in Q4 of Volume 36 and I was trying to figure out if there was something I was missing as a writer that might propel me just that little bit further. (This was my second time making finalist, and it can be kind of hard to deal with emotionally when you come that close only to miss the mark on multiple occasions.)

After the end of Dave’s lecture (of which I took six pages of handwritten notes, because good god, there was a lot of information--I’ve skipped a lot of the more specific examples and workshopping exercises in the interest of brevity), I went up with some friends to ask Dave to sign some books. I worked up my courage and said, “I was the person who sent in Old Man Coyote Meets Mother Torment. Is there anything you can think of that might have pushed it just that bit higher?”

Dave’s response floored me. He not only remembered my story--he remembered that I’d written other stories with those same characters in the past. He said he thought I was already there, and that I just needed to keep focusing original characters in interesting settings with surprising spec elements, because at that point it’s all a matter of the judges’ taste. He said that with different judges, I might have gotten higher.

Now, I’d heard a lot of this in bits and pieces from other people already, but to hear it all at the same time from Dave made it hit home in a different way--he is, after all, the coordinating judge, so if anyone would know, it’s him.

Dave struck me as very sweet, considerate, and thoughtful, by the way. I had a couple other interactions with him later on during the seminars, and each of them left me feeling better for having had it.
If you are in difficulties with a book, try the element of surprise: attack it at an hour when it isn't expecting it. ~ H.G. Wells

R, SF, SHM, SHM, SHM, F, R, HM, SHM, R, HM, R, F, SHM, SHM, SHM, SF, ?

https://ticknortales.com/

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CCrawford
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby CCrawford » Sat Feb 22, 2020 2:53 pm

disgruntledpeony wrote:Okay, this post is going to be a monstrosity, but here goes.


Wow. Thank you SO MUCH for taking the time to write all of that and to share what you learned! That was extremely helpful.

And Dave's comments to you are amazing! You are so, so close and that's awesome... I'm excited to see you on the winner's list in the near future, because I'm sure you will be!
v35: Q4 - HM
V36: R, R, R, R
V37: SHM, HM, HM, SHM

Wulf Moon
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby Wulf Moon » Sat Feb 22, 2020 3:08 pm

Liz, Thank you for that detailed review of Dave's Craft Day class on short story. Excellent work! So many great points. I especially enjoyed the point that you can often tell a great story by the opening line. And that you need to master the short story, even if you're going to write novels. The skills in mastering a short story are vital in writing masterful novels, and you build your fanbase in short fiction, and they'll be the ones to buy your novels first. But the best thing that happened was you got to ask Dave about your finalist, and he not only remembered it, he remembered your others as well. I was hoping that would happen. Congratulations on hearing him say those things about your writing--they should fuel your spirit for a long time to come!

There's a Secret in here I told the scholarship winners to do, and Liz and others employed it. When you go to a panel and you want to talk to the instructor after, maybe get some nice words of advice or even a few extra minutes, here's what you do: bring one or two of their books to sign! EVERY author loves meeting a fan (especially fans that buy hardcovers) and they love signing their books for them. Think about it. Instead of them viewing you as taking up their time, you are showing them that you've invested in their career. They will love you for that, and will naturally want to help you with a few words of wisdom in thanks for supporting them. It is the best way to get a few moments with a famous author at the end of a workshop or panel, and it puts you on wonderful ground with them. If you hope to get a few words in, always bring one of their books for them to sign.

Thanks again, Liz! Wonderful points here!

Be sure to study this, challenge beasties. Liz recorded the words of your contest coordinator, the guy that decides if you are a finalist or not. In fact, he's often on that final four that judges the finalists, so no one has more power to get you in than Dave! Write to please that man. Be the genius writer he selects! And he just told you how to do it.

All the beast!

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon. JOIN THE WULF PACK! http://driftweave.com
Author page: http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon
Critter Awards: BEST AUTHOR 2019 & 2020 BEST SF&F STORY 2018, 2019, 2020
“Muzik Man" wins Best SF&F Story of 2020 https://bit.ly/34M9BTp

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zeeteebeez
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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby zeeteebeez » Sat Feb 22, 2020 3:43 pm

disgruntledpeony wrote: it can be kind of hard to deal with emotionally when you come that close only to miss the mark on multiple occasions.


Thanks for the excellent report Liz. Very helpful. Many of Moon’s secrets in Dave’s own words. Thanks again.

And I’d just like to say I read “A Matter of Interpretation” (in fact the book is sitting right here next to me). To echo what Dave told you, you’re there. As someone in the trenches of authorial despair with you, I hope you’re able to hold on to that confidence.
Z.T.

7x HM

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Re: Wulf Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge!

Postby Peter Glen » Sat Feb 22, 2020 6:32 pm

Thanks for sharing Liz! My fingers are crossed for your 37s!!
HM, R, R, R, R, HM, R, R, SHM, ?


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