Thanks again for all the congrats and support everyone! I can't tell you how much it means to me. I really wouldn't be here without this forum and the people in it. Y'all are the best. If I had super secrets of my own, existing in this forum would be super secret #0.
Wulf Moon wrote:When you have time after the congrats die down, Leah (SwiftPotato), please tell us a little about your winning story. It will help the Wulf Pack.
Sure, I can do that!
The story is set in a world where you can get a device that, when you die, sends you back to the beginning of your life with all the same knowledge you have at the time of your death. I don't want to spoil the hook for everyone, but it follows a man who has reset like this multiple times in order to save his wife.
Wulf Moon wrote:3. You protected your Voice. This is the next Super Secret, I haven't even posted it yet, but you did exactly what I'm about to point out. You didn't get twelve different critiques and rewrite it by committee approval. You didn't allow your words to get HOMOGENIZED. Raw power ended up on the page because of this, and raw power will beat perfect prose every time, because it's REAL, it's truth in VOICE. Please tell us about this, as it's a prelude to my Secret to help the group. I think it's a big reason you won.
Truthfully, at first, I was worried that I hadn't sent the story to enough people. I realized afterwards that I sent it to exactly the correct people: one wise reader to look for high level story issues (my husband) and one to look for grammar issues (a friend who I know is excellent at this). My husband told me my ending was crap (in so many words) and that I needed to fix it. I changed it completely into something that resonated much more strongly. My friend told me that the flashbacks absolutely were not required to be in past perfect tense, and in fact it would be much better if they weren't, and she was 100% correct. It was a comparatively small change, but it made a major difference in readability. Overall, though, I didn't ask for or want changes to the voice of the story. My husband told me if there were sentences that were unclear, but he didn't tell me how to rewrite them. I just rewrote them and said, "Does that sound better?" I think this is at least part of what Moon means about protecting your voice. If you are, as he says, essentially writing by committee, then your story isn't uniquely told by you anymore. Make sure you're telling the story the way it was meant to be told. Tell it the way it is in your head. Tell it clearly, but don't sacrifice your voice for it.
Wulf Moon wrote:4. Did you think about any other Secrets or other knowledge you obtained when you wrote this? We are looking for how you fashioned your baby kraken into a mighty killer beast and aimed it at the biggest galleon a new writer can take down. You did it. You turned your baby kraken into a BEAST and now that she sprawls across the shattered timbers and squeals FEAR ME! we want to know what YOUR SECRETS were in constructing her!
Hoo, that's a loaded question - there's too many! "SET THE HOOK" was a big one. As cliche as it's going to sound, I came up with the first line for this story while I was taking a shower. It had nothing to do with the rest of the concept - it just popped into my head, and I thought, "Huh. This could be interesting. What's it all about?" I never changed that line, not once, from the time I wrote it down to the time I submitted the story to the contest. Not that I think that's necessarily advisable for all first lines, but I knew it was a cool hook, so I left it the heck alone and didn't overthink it.
Another one was "Pick a major emotion and make your reader FEEL it to their core". I love movies, books, TV shows, just about any kind of story that has one of those bittersweet endings, the ones that make you feel like you wish it could have been better but really it couldn't have been any other way. I wanted everyone who read this story to feel like that. I wanted everyone to cry at the end, but in a "Man, that sucks, but you did right" way. I outlined all the major events I wanted and then made sure every one of them nailed that feeling home when they all smashed down on you at the end. Or at least that's what I tried to do. I guess that also ties into the "Take your reader on a DEEP emotional journey" secret.
Then there was "Start your #%$@#%!& hero’s quest! We’re on the clock!" Well, my hero's quest began before the story did, so I think I did okay on that one! The story started in the middle of the action. Extremely literally.
There are lots more super secrets that my story followed, but the last really big piece of knowledge I needed for this story was to use third level emotions as well as or instead of first level emotions. I believe that advice came from Donald Maass's THE EMOTIONAL CRAFT OF FICTION. If you haven't read it yet, read it. The advice and exercises in there really took my ability to make people feel things to a different level.
Wulf Moon wrote:And, um, don't think you're going anywhere, Swift. YOU SIGNED YOUR BLOOD OATH FOR A YEAR OF INDENTURED SERVITUDE AND THIS IS YOUR ASSIGNMENT! : )
I shall be here until my contract is up. My blood is on the wall. :)