Dr. Jest, well done. There is a secret here. Some call it their muse, but here's what it is: Your subconscious is trying to talk to you. And when it's excited about something, we need to listen. We need to put our butt in the chair, fingers on the keyboard, and capture every word of drama our subconscious is sending up like we're the court recorder in a Perry Mason courtroom--yeah, I go back that far.
How do we get into this dream state? Routines can do it. Rituals around the keyboard--hey, I'm going to patent that! Mine is the teapot going off. That sound is my signal a writing session is about to begin, and my subconscious stirs like a thoroughbred hearing the shot go off that starts the race. The sooner we can get into that state, the better our writing will be, and the faster we will write. When we're thinking about how to employ every one of Dave's tips, how sentence structure and grammar works in a sentence, how can we max the word count to get maximum money to pay our rent, we're not listening to our subconscious. The logical mind has taken over, and it's a drooling idiot compared to our subconscious. Therefore, I unveil the next Super Secret, just for you, Doctor Jest.
Moon's SUPER SECRET #14: Do not overthink your story!
"What?" you say. "Moon has cracked his crock with this one!" No, I haven't. Think about it. Each night, your mind, without conscious thought and without a director, produces full length motion pictures, complete with settings, characters, dramatic scenes, monsters, and near death experiences! You don't direct any of it, it just happens, and I'll bet some of your nightly shows are way better than Home Alone 3.
You already have stories within you. You stuff yourself with the raw materials to make them every day of your life. You just have to get out of the way and let the fat lady sing...because she's beatiful, and she can do magic.
Some of you have asked for the story on my winner. I promised I would tell you the tale. This secret I just told you is how I believe I finally won after 25 years of trying. So, without further ado, I give you the tale of how I wrote "Super-Duper Moon Girl and the Amazing Moon Dawdler."
It was a dark and stormy night...
We come to the end of WotF’s last quarter in 2018. It was a bad month for my wife's health, and left me only two days at the very end of the quarter to write a story to submit. I had no ideas except a one page opening I had written six months ago that I thought would make a cute start to a story. My wife had been begging me to tell that tale. Now I must confess, in my frustration at having so many honors but not making finalist, over the more recent past quarters, I had been trying curve ball stories on the judge. Perhaps something quirky might make the story stand out and propel it to the top. I tried horror, surrealism, high seas adventure, space opera, alternate history, comedy, and this time, I decided to write a story to touch the heart. I only had time to write 1000 words the first day, and I wrote 5000 words on day two, which was the last day of the year end quarter. Contest closed at midnight. Submit a second later, and it's all over, you're not in. As the last quarter of the contest year, that meant another long year of entering once again if I failed, and believe me, that was the hardest thing to shut out of my mind. At 11:15 p.m., I handed the finished first draft to my wife to proof for errors, and went to the kitchen to find something to eat. At 11:45 p.m., I came rushing into the room to see if she was done reading. I was out of time.
She was *bawling*.
I began laughing hysterically.
She snuffled and glared at me. "Why are you laughing? I'm CRYING!"
"Because it WORKED!" I said, still laughing hysterically. I snatched the manuscript from her, raced to my room, corrected marked typos. I pulled up the submission portal, punched like a madman the data they required, jabbed SUBMIT. I made it. My time stamp? 11:56 p.m. And then I went back with tissues to apologize to my wife for being so abrupt, but hey, deadlines make you crazy, as any writer will attest.
I had spent the entire day writing right up to the deadline, no chance to see if it all connected, no second draft, no rewrites. I just wrote like crazy, constantly pushing out of my mind that I wasn't going to make it (the logical mind speaking, which you have to shut off). I would not allow myself to give in and give up, but I must admit, I was scared, because I knew I had something special here. I have never been so in touch with my subconscious as when I wrote that day. I was actually seeing visions of the scenes, and my fingers were flying to get it all down before it vaporized. I have only felt something close to this one other time before. It was when I wrote the story that won the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds contest. This was a breakthrough moment in my abilities, just like back then, twenty years ago.
I’ve played a lot of fantasy games. You know in a game when you’re leveling up. You’ve devoted hundreds of hours and worked hard for it. The game notifies you when you’re close in earned points. When you finally hit the mark, something amazing happens. Fey lights swirl around you, the heavens open in stellar symphonies, and your character shines with new power. Same thing in your writing. Perhaps without the frosty +10 Sword of Ice Bane, but something equitable in the real world.
This is the gift of listening to your subconscious. This is the power when you let go and trust your instincts, instincts you've been training for years because you, my friend, have been WRITING FRESH STORIES!
Best of success,
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
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