Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Open topics on the Contest itself, to include results-watch threads and other items of note.
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JVAshley
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby JVAshley » Wed May 15, 2019 4:44 pm

Wow! Thank you both for the refresher and summary.
I need to read back over the lessons. Some I remember the substance better than others, and I need to hunt for the two SUPER SUPER SECRET ones I stored for a refresher.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby chuckt » Wed May 15, 2019 6:15 pm

Nice. Thanks.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby preston » Wed May 15, 2019 6:41 pm

This is all great stuff, Wulf, and very helpful knowledge. I sure learned some stuff. In the same spirit of giving, I can perhaps add a little bit to all of this. I've read every WOTF volume multiple times, and have studied all the stories looking for commonalities. As a result I've come up with about seven items which are present in almost all the winning stories. Here, in no particular order, are the seven things that appear in WOTF winning stories.

1. An inventive, unique, creative trope. A new twist on an old idea. Something different. IMHO, this is the single most important element. Judges have said multiple times that originality is a must!

2. A strong hook. This hearkens to Wulf's tip #15. Don't start with someone waking up. Don't start with stale exposition. Start "en media res" and deliver your very best stuff asap. Make your story accessible and readable.

3. Polished prose. One or two errors are fine. Three or four will be forgiven if the story is fantastic. But the readers for this contest can tell very quickly if they are in the hands of someone who knows the tool of their craft. Your prose can be lyrical, or transparent, or clever, but it should be as free of errors as you can possibly make it.

4. A Satisfying Ending. Every time I finish a WOTF story, I marvel at how the author has managed to satisfy the reader. KD and Dave have both discussed endings and how important they are. A satisfying ending is one which involves a catharsis, a change in character, the solving of the main dilemma facing the MC, and done in a way that's inventive, unexpected and packs an emotional punch. Stories with upbeat endings are far more common in the WOTF books than dark endings.

5. A well-structured plot. Slice of life stories, meandering musings, and unfocused narratives do not appear much in the WOTF books. Instead we find well-plotted stories with try/fail cycles, an easy-to-identify conflict that escalates from the MC to the world around them, unexpected twists, characters that move and change both physically, geographically, and emotionally. There must be a story with a beginning, middle, climax and an end.

6. Vivid and Interesting setting. Look at the settings in the WOTF books and you will be amazed at their creativity, imagery and detail. Your setting should be as creative, original and inventive as possible. Specific and accurate. Should appeal to all the senses, touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing.

7. Strong believable characters. This is all about "voice" and "POV." The characters are real and vividly imagined. They are interesting people who we are able to identify with because the author has written the internal dialogue that is needed in a well-balanced story.

Now all of this is pretty much exactly what Wulf has written above, but it was something I put together before winning the contest. Funny, I shared it with another finalist who had also put together a list of "elements" in wotf-winning stories. His list and mine were almost exactly the same, with a few tiny minor variations in the way we worded it.

I think for me the problem was, while I had the recipe, I could never put it all together. I'd write a story and it would have elements 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7, but were missing 5 # 3. And of course, every variation of that. The trick is getting all these elements into one story! Which is really hard!

So, hope that helps. And thanks for the tips, Wulf! My favorite is #28. It's both so easy and so difficult!

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Helge Mahrt » Thu May 16, 2019 12:22 am

Thanks for sharing, everyone! This thread's a goldmine :)

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby chuckt » Thu May 16, 2019 1:08 am

Great Preston! Thank you very much.
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby JVAshley » Thu May 16, 2019 4:41 am

preston wrote:The trick is getting all these elements into one story! Which is really hard!

Amen to that! wotf005
Thank you all for sharing!
Now, to practice being a good student. wotf024
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby thegirlintheglasses » Thu May 16, 2019 8:13 am

JVAshley wrote:
preston wrote:The trick is getting all these elements into one story! Which is really hard!

Amen to that! wotf005
Thank you all for sharing!
Now, to practice being a good student. wotf024

seconded lol! And thanks for the tips Preston! Very kind wotf009
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Thu May 16, 2019 11:03 am

Thank you, Brittany, for sharing what's working for you with our challenge beasts. It was very nice of you to take the time for such a thorough answer. Glad some of these Super Secrets are helping. I hope others will also weigh in. It's important, not just to help the group, but to help ourselves by ruminating on the subject for a bit.

Rebecca, thank you for putting up the Secrets list. I see there is an overlap on one--know thy judge--but that's okay. I do have a destination with these, but some are needs I see currently and make a Super Secret for, and it bears repeating that you must know what your judge or editor is looking for and what they consider good writing. That was Dave's secret to winning so many contests in his younger years, and it's a good one, one hardly anyone thinks of because it takes some sleuthing. The great thing with Dave as judge is that he puts out his Tips, he does articles on what he looks for in every WotF book's intro and elsewhere, he has abundant novels to read to see his style (you'll understand why he talks about "world building" and "big worlds" folks!), and he conducts seminars you can attend to figure out exactly what your writing needs, because in the right seminars and workshops, you can ask him! Seriously, go take his workshops if you have the means, he's got a good one coming up next month at Fyercon. Take his online courses or buy his writing books if you can't. He's a top shelf expert in writing, the guru editor to top names in the industry, and you can get one on one time with him! He's the judge, the only guy who can put you into the finals. By any means possible, find a way to go sit at the feet of this master and learn. You want to win. He's teaching. Shave some years off your learning curve. Get your win sooner by taking lessons with this writing coach.

Preston, good list, buddy. I recommend everyone interested in improving their writing print it out. Some of these things are coming up--trying to release all of this in measured doses. I especially appreciate #3, polished prose. Error-free prose is vital. Your manuscript will likely survive one typo, one repeated word or missed quotation mark, etc., but if the count becomes a count, its over. This contest discovers the best of the best, and the best of the best--pro writers--turn in professional, publishable stories and manuscripts. This is why I have asked those of you I have invited to get a critique so far, to send me your very best, as free of typos and such that you can make it. You should be sending me what you would be sending to Dave...and I am finding many are not careful enough about submitting error-free manuscripts. This will be a FAIL, even with a great story. Good call, Preston! And thanks again for posting your list.

Here's the good news. You took this challenge--to commit to writing four FRESH stories, not rewrites--because you knew you could push yourself to do it, or needed to push yourself to do it. Either way, it likely means you've already been employing many of these skills. You don't have to fret about doing them all, because you are already doing MOST. But there's one or two you must be weak in, or your story would be hitting higher marks, or getting to the bullseye of the eight finalists, or even passing the four judges for the win. Use these Secrets to figure out what your blind spot is. Use a partner with more skill than you to help you find your blind spot. And then fix it. Do better. Write more. It all comes through understanding...and writing.

As Brittany said, lightbulbs will happen.

Light 'em up!

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Annual Critters Readers' Choice Award: First Place, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
Gala Awards Ceremony Speech: https://youtu.be/9Vf1eeeKPRA Located at 1:09: 00

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Mon May 20, 2019 3:43 pm

I’ve just crossed 14k of new material, which is not going to WOTF but to F&SF Mag. But still a new story. Sort of.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.




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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Mon May 20, 2019 5:03 pm

Corbin Maxwell wrote:I’ve just crossed 14k of new material, which is not going to WOTF but to F&SF Mag. But still a new story. Sort of.


Much success with that story. F&SF is a great pro market with good readership.
Wulf Moon
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Annual Critters Readers' Choice Award: First Place, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
Gala Awards Ceremony Speech: https://youtu.be/9Vf1eeeKPRA Located at 1:09: 00

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Mon May 20, 2019 5:06 pm

So, Brittany shared which SUPER SECRETS helped her the most, and why they did so. Anyone else want to share what's helped their writing before I post more?
Wulf Moon
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Annual Critters Readers' Choice Award: First Place, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
Gala Awards Ceremony Speech: https://youtu.be/9Vf1eeeKPRA Located at 1:09: 00

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Tue May 21, 2019 8:21 am

Well, I liked Brittany's tennis coach's quote: "Practice doesn't make perfect--perfect practice does." DELIBERATE practice. FOCUSED practice. Practice is writing. But FOCUSED practice? That's practice where we are actively engaged in improving our skills. That's trying to turn in our best, recognizing that the next thing we write is going to likely be better than the thing we wrote before--if we engaged in FOCUSED practice. If we are trying to grow, and not just turning something in for the sake of saying we entered every quarter. When I hear people say they got their story in early, and their next quarter's done too, unless you have some event that's going to keep you from submitting that quarter, why? Write to win. If you have time to write more than one story a quarter (and the ultimate goal for all of us should be to get to the level of writing a story or chapter a week), you should be selecting your pick of the litter for the dog show, because you want to WIN, not just say you enterred.

WIN may sound commercial. It may sound crass to those that wish to be *artistes*. But WIN is important. It is a marker. It means you are finally writing stories of high enough caliber that editors are now willing to pay you for them. In writing, this is how you show your work. This is your art show. Writers of the Future is a beautiful prestigious art gallery and you want your work hanging on that wall. So, like any good artist, you target that gallery, focus on the artists they are showing, and you work your hardest to level up and present to the owners your very best portfolio to get in those doors. You don't hand them drawings you did in grade school. You show them works that are so good, they won ribbons, they got you accredited with various professional societies, they appeared in another known gallery. And then you show them what you just made, your latest and greatest, and how you have always longed to show in this gallery, it's been a dream of yours. And if you have worked to create your best, and you show them your best, you just might have a chance. Writing is like that. Winning this contest is like that.

Remember: if it's an important gallery, someone else has that same dream, and is trying with all their might and focused effort to get showcased on those same walls. Someone with blue ribbons and prestigious art school training and accredited by some famous society of peers. They are doing everything, just like you, to get their work to a level that will meet this owner's discriminating tastes and be accepted. You have to want it more. You have to work harder. Because this is YOUR dream.

And it won't end once you win WotF. So it's good to learn this now, while the playing field is a bit more levelled. Listen to what Dave said today in his Tips: "I also sometimes hear new writers talk about how tough it is to write professionally. They’re correct. Writing crap is easy. Writing at a level where you are competing against the best writers of today, can be hard. But it can also be very, very rewarding."

Writing crap is easy. We aren't talking about churning words for the sake of bumping word counts. We're talking about becoming one of those *best writers of today.* That takes focused practice. That takes turning in our BEST work.

Which is why I have created these SUPER SECRETS. Use them. Pick one you sense you're weak in and really work on it until you feel you've got it mastered.

Because someone else already is. They are most likely right next to you, on this challenge list. Because that's why they're here...

All the beast,

Beastmaster Moon
Wulf Moon
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Annual Critters Readers' Choice Award: First Place, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
Gala Awards Ceremony Speech: https://youtu.be/9Vf1eeeKPRA Located at 1:09: 00

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby TimE » Tue May 21, 2019 10:46 am

I like my Q2 entry a lot. Feels my best entry yet. I don't think my Q3 attempts are crap, but if my Q2 entry isn't good enough then it doesn't seem worthwhile completing and entering my Q3.
The Q3 I'm struggling with effectively continues the style of my Q2 (very different story). Perhaps I should try something completely different rather than 'practise' the same style.
mmm.... thinks...
5*R 2*HM - I thought I was getting closer, but perhaps not.
CWA-Debut Dagger shortlist. https://thecwa.co.uk/colours/ (Still trying to find my genre - but perhaps it scifi!)

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Tue May 21, 2019 11:22 am

TimE wrote:I like my Q2 entry a lot. Feels my best entry yet. I don't think my Q3 attempts are crap, but if my Q2 entry isn't good enough then it doesn't seem worthwhile completing and entering my Q3.
The Q3 I'm struggling with effectively continues the style of my Q2 (very different story). Perhaps I should try something completely different rather than 'practise' the same style.
mmm.... thinks...



You should keep in mind that just because you don't win doesn't mean your writing wasn't necessarily good enough, only that the needs of the contest weren't met by your piece. Your Q2 may not have exactly what they want, but a subsequent entry might. You just have to keep writing your stories and keep sending them out. That's why you write for yourself first; you write because it makes you feel good and because you cannot not write regardless of publication.

When you're at your lowest in life, and still write, then you know you're a true writer.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.




SF x 1
HM x 10

Corbin Maxwell
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Tue May 21, 2019 11:32 am

preston wrote:This is all great stuff, Wulf, and very helpful knowledge. I sure learned some stuff. In the same spirit of giving, I can perhaps add a little bit to all of this. I've read every WOTF volume multiple times, and have studied all the stories looking for commonalities. As a result I've come up with about seven items which are present in almost all the winning stories. Here, in no particular order, are the seven things that appear in WOTF winning stories.

1. An inventive, unique, creative trope. A new twist on an old idea. Something different. IMHO, this is the single most important element. Judges have said multiple times that originality is a must!

2. A strong hook. This hearkens to Wulf's tip #15. Don't start with someone waking up. Don't start with stale exposition. Start "en media res" and deliver your very best stuff asap. Make your story accessible and readable.

3. Polished prose. One or two errors are fine. Three or four will be forgiven if the story is fantastic. But the readers for this contest can tell very quickly if they are in the hands of someone who knows the tool of their craft. Your prose can be lyrical, or transparent, or clever, but it should be as free of errors as you can possibly make it.

4. A Satisfying Ending. Every time I finish a WOTF story, I marvel at how the author has managed to satisfy the reader. KD and Dave have both discussed endings and how important they are. A satisfying ending is one which involves a catharsis, a change in character, the solving of the main dilemma facing the MC, and done in a way that's inventive, unexpected and packs an emotional punch. Stories with upbeat endings are far more common in the WOTF books than dark endings.

5. A well-structured plot. Slice of life stories, meandering musings, and unfocused narratives do not appear much in the WOTF books. Instead we find well-plotted stories with try/fail cycles, an easy-to-identify conflict that escalates from the MC to the world around them, unexpected twists, characters that move and change both physically, geographically, and emotionally. There must be a story with a beginning, middle, climax and an end.

6. Vivid and Interesting setting. Look at the settings in the WOTF books and you will be amazed at their creativity, imagery and detail. Your setting should be as creative, original and inventive as possible. Specific and accurate. Should appeal to all the senses, touch, sight, taste, smell, and hearing.

7. Strong believable characters. This is all about "voice" and "POV." The characters are real and vividly imagined. They are interesting people who we are able to identify with because the author has written the internal dialogue that is needed in a well-balanced story.

Now all of this is pretty much exactly what Wulf has written above, but it was something I put together before winning the contest. Funny, I shared it with another finalist who had also put together a list of "elements" in wotf-winning stories. His list and mine were almost exactly the same, with a few tiny minor variations in the way we worded it.

I think for me the problem was, while I had the recipe, I could never put it all together. I'd write a story and it would have elements 1, 2, 4, 6 & 7, but were missing 5 # 3. And of course, every variation of that. The trick is getting all these elements into one story! Which is really hard!

So, hope that helps. And thanks for the tips, Wulf! My favorite is #28. It's both so easy and so difficult!



2. A strong hook. This hearkens to Wulf's tip #15. Don't start with someone waking up. Don't start with stale exposition. Start "en media res" and deliver your very best stuff asap. Make your story accessible and readable.


As to not starting with someone waking up, I'm not so sure that's a hard rule. So I have this to say:

When he woke in the woods in the dark and the cold of the night he'd reach out to touch the child sleeping beside him. Nights dark beyond darkness and the days more gray each one than what had gone before. Like the onset of some cold glaucoma dimming away the world. His hand rose and fell softly with each precious breath. He pushed away the plastic tarpaulin and raised himself in the stinking robes and blankets and looked toward the east for any light but there was none. In the dream from which he'd wakened he had wandered in a cave where the child led him by the hand. Their light playing over the wet flowstone walls. Like pilgrims in a fable swallowed up and lost among the inward parts of some granitic beast. Deep stone flues where the water dripped and sang. Tolling in the silence the minutes of the earth and the hours and the days of it and the years without cease. Until they stood in a great stone room where lay a black and ancient lake. And on the far shore a creature that raised its dripping mouth from the rimstone pool and stared into the light with eyes dead white and sightless as the eggs of spiders. It swung its head low over the water as if to take the scent of what it could not see. Crouching there pale and naked and translucent, its alabaster bones cast up in shadow on the rocks behind it. Its bowels, its beating heart. The brain that pulsed in a dull glass bell. It swung its head from side to side and then gave out a low moan and turned and lurched away and loped soundlessly into the dark.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.




SF x 1
HM x 10

Wulf Moon
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Tue May 21, 2019 12:23 pm

There are exceptions to every rule. I just advised someone in a critique to keep such an opening, IF they did some changes to justify it. But opening with a character waking up is a well known new writer mistake. Do this at your own peril. And I'm not the only one saying it. Here is one of Dave's Tips that comments on it, because he has seen this problem in this very contest many times:

"Powerful Openings

Is your opening powerful? If not, why not?

I’ve been judging a huge writing contest this week, and had literally a couple hundred stories that came close to placing as finalists. These stories were good, the writing beautiful, but the story itself was often flawed—and usually in the opening.

You see, in a short story, every scene must be needed. Every paragraph, every sentence, should be vital. There should be no deadwood.

Think of your scenes as links on a chain. If one of those links is rusty or broken, the whole chain is weak.

So how do you break the story early on? The most common way is to have a character traveling to a meeting. Maybe John is driving down the freeway to the most important meeting in his life, or Urcyk is climbing a mountain pass to reach the temple that his mentor is in, or Glom 38 is landing his ship inhabited only by biological organisms—no hope of sentient life at all.

The question is, does the character need to be in a vehicle thinking, instead of doing something?

A similar problem occurs when your character starts out asleep and wakes up. Boring.

What’s even worse is when your character has been running and finds himself sitting on a log, wondering how he had gotten himself into this terrible predicament.

Your story begins when you have a character (likeable or not), in a setting (interesting or not), with a problem (and it darned well ought to be a doozy). My mentor Algis Budrys said that as a rule of thumb, if a writer doesn’t have that by page two, then the story most likely isn’t sellable. He’s right. The stories that do well in my competition are the ones that grip me from the first page to the last.

Remember, the first link in your chain must be strong. Then make sure that every other link is just as formidable. Oh, and the ending link: it needs to be stronger than all the rest."
Wulf Moon
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Annual Critters Readers' Choice Award: First Place, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
Gala Awards Ceremony Speech: https://youtu.be/9Vf1eeeKPRA Located at 1:09: 00

Corbin Maxwell
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Tue May 21, 2019 12:42 pm

But what does everyone think of the quoted paragraph? Is it hurt by having the main character start by waking up?
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.




SF x 1
HM x 10

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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby thegirlintheglasses » Tue May 21, 2019 1:28 pm

Corbin Maxwell wrote:But what does everyone think of the quoted paragraph? Is it hurt by having the main character start by waking up?


I can't remember which of Dave's tip emails it was in, but he said something along the lines of you can prove him wrong and go against his tips. Heck, there are hundreds of ways to do it "right"--but there are a lot more to do it wrong. He's just giving general advice. Same with Wulf. The general advice is that opening with a wake-up scene is less powerful. Generally.

But you'll find plenty of good books that seem to negate this rule. The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which you quote here, is a Pulitzer Prize winner. He was inspired to write it when he was at a hotel, watching his son sleep, and imagining what the world would be like in fifty or a hundred years. You can feel that in his writing. Maze runner also opens with the MC just waking up.

There are ways to do it right.

There are many more ways to do it wrong.

At least, that's what I've understood from the tips I've read...
Brittany Rainsdon
R-SHM-HM-R-HM-R-F-F

John Goodwin asked me to type up a blog post about writing my wotf entry around giving birth. Here it is!
https://www.writersofthefuture.com/birt ... -rainsdon/

Corbin Maxwell
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Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Tue May 21, 2019 1:46 pm

Of course in Maze Runner that would be absolutely necessary to the story given the story world.
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.




SF x 1
HM x 10

Corbin Maxwell
Posts: 358
Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:53 am

Re: Moon's SUPER SECRET Bonus Challenge! Vol. 36

Postby Corbin Maxwell » Tue May 21, 2019 1:51 pm

thegirlintheglasses wrote:
Corbin Maxwell wrote:But what does everyone think of the quoted paragraph? Is it hurt by having the main character start by waking up?


I can't remember which of Dave's tip emails it was in, but he said something along the lines of you can prove him wrong and go against his tips. Heck, there are hundreds of ways to do it "right"--but there are a lot more to do it wrong. He's just giving general advice. Same with Wulf. The general advice is that opening with a wake-up scene is less powerful. Generally.

But you'll find plenty of good books that seem to negate this rule. The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which you quote here, is a Pulitzer Prize winner. He was inspired to write it when he was at a hotel, watching his son sleep, and imagining what the world would be like in fifty or a hundred years. You can feel that in his writing. Maze runner also opens with the MC just waking up.

There are ways to do it right.

There are many more ways to do it wrong.

At least, that's what I've understood from the tips I've read...


A fellow Cormac McCarthy fan?
For there is death in the sound of it, and a glamorous fatality, like silver pennons downrushing at sunset, or a dying fall of horns along the road to Ronceveaux.




SF x 1
HM x 10


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