A Word Re: Revisions

Open topics on the Contest itself, to include results-watch threads and other items of note.
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reigheena
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A Word Re: Revisions

Postby reigheena » Fri Sep 20, 2019 7:16 am

It's been a long time since I've been on the forum, due to life and password issues. To be honest, I'm glad I took a break, because if I had been active, I would have been ticked off by Wulf Moon's constant pressure to write FRESH ORIGINAL STORIES.

Is it good to write new stories? Absolutely. Working on new characters, plots, and worlds will exercise your skills in ways that revising won't. Also, many times it is easier to write a story from scratch than it is to fix one with a flimsy foundation.

But revising is also an important skill to hone. Brandon Sanderson has said that he didn't start selling until he learned how to revise.

But some of you may say "you can write a story in a week, and then revise it for the quarter." Look, that may work for you, but it doesn't work for all of us, and certainly not me.

Here's what my writing process looks like:

- Due to life and kids, I write about 1,000 words a week (not interested in tips to improve this unless you know the details).
- My first drafts are essentially outlines with dialogue. They miss large swaths of description and emotional beats. So I need to write a second draft to put those in.
- I then send my story out for beta reads to catch things that I have a blind eye towards. This takes around a month.
- I then write another draft incorporating feedback.

3 drafts plus beta reads is the minimum I find I need to get something submittable. If I want to get all of that done in a single quarter, that means I have to write a story that is less than 3,000 words, and that's at the low end of what does well in this contest. So, I end up submitting several revisions to the contest. When I do, I have one of two reasons.

1. I was unable to complete the 3 drafts plus beta reads process before submission. This is the boat I'm in with my current Q3 submission. When I get my results (unless I miraculously happen to win), it will be going straight to beta readers so I can prepare for another draft. Why did I submit if it wasn't ready? Because I have a goal to submit something each quarter, and there is NO PENALTY for submitting something half-baked.

2. When I get my story back 3+ months later, I am able to look at it with fresh eyes and new skills and see things that will improve the story. Or in sending out to another wave of beta readers, I find more things that I can improve. And since there is NO PENALTY for resubmitting, I'll send it in.

Now, it is easy to fall into a trap of never writing anything new if I only focus on revisions. Which is why my rule is that for every revision I submit, I have to submit something new. But I feel like if I was following Wulf Moon's challenge, I would not be improving my skills enough to get something salable because I wouldn't have time to work on the details that will really make it shine.

This is a great supportive forum, but I feel like there is a pressure here to write a certain way, and it absolutely doesn't work for me. May each of us find our own way to win!
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby disgruntledpeony » Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:28 am

Your writing process sounds a lot like mine, reigheena. I do tend to plow through my first drafts within a day or two lately, but I often need a month (sometimes two) of downtime so my brain can shift gears from one story to another, deal with general life pressures, etcetera.

My stories have gotten a lot shorter since I've had the twins. My wordcount used to hover in the 5k to 7k range, and now it tends to hover between 3k and 4k. My first draft for the current quarter was even shorter than that at 2.6k, although it has blossomed since then because, like you, my first drafts are often little more than an outline with words. Stuff happens, people say things. I punch up my descriptions of setting, characters' thoughts, and so on later.

Really, in the end, all writing advice should be considered subjective, because different things work for different people. That's something it took me awhile to fully grasp when I was just getting started, though. It took reading several writers' advice, noticing conflicting information, and thinking get seriously about those conflicts to really get me to internalize that.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby Wulf Moon » Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:07 am

Welcome back, Reigheena. I'm glad you are writing, and I respect your process. The fact is, go to any con, and any panel on writing, and every single writer on that panel will tell you a system of writing that's different from the other. They agree on some points, and on other points they are as far apart as night and day. It's because we are all unique individuals.

I'll tell you something at the WotF workshop this year. We had three of the greatest speculative fiction writers in the industry teaching us: Orson Scott Card, Tim Powers, David Farland. Not a day went by, and I'd argue not an hour went by, where one said "this is the way" and another would totally counter that way and assert their own approach, and then the last to comment would counter the other two and assert their method was "the right way." All through the week. It was hilarious at times. But it made for good observation--every writer is different, every writer believes strongly in their method because it's how they got where they are today, and as an aspiring writer listening and trying to figure out your own path, you figure out pretty quickly there's as much advice on writing as there are stars, and you have to choose what works for you.

I have always argued for that. Choose what works for you. And yes, I have an ongoing topic challenge going on where people VOLUNTARILY could join to write four fresh stories for the year. They liked the idea, they didn't think it was impossible for them, and so they signed up for it. That was their choice. You obviously would not have chosen to sign up for the challenge because it wouldn't have worked for you in the circumstances you write within. No pressure. You've just told people how your system works, and I'm glad. There is no one right way.

I'll say that again. There is no one right way.

However, I do have a challenge running where I'm telling people what I learned after entering this contest for 25 years and finally winning. They signed up to write four original stories in a year because they felt they could do it. They also signed up for me to explain the things I personally learned along the way. I do believe they have grown in the process (many have written and told me so, btw), and it's not like they can't rewrite other stories, or even revise the original story they wrote for the quarter before they submit it. And they can drop out of the challenge, no questions asked. It's just for fun. And for cheering one another on that have similar beliefs that writing fresh, original stories is beneficial for writers, aspiring or not.

As for rewriting and rewriting the same story, sometimes for years, some have won this contest doing that. I certainly have acknowledged that. I myself tried it for many years, and found it did not work for me. I certainly have the right to tell people what did work for me, and the right to post a voluntary topic in here on the subject, which has had wonderful support from the members. I do think some have mistakenly taken my topic to mean you send off your rough draft without ever going back over it. I have never advocated that, and have always said if you want to win, you must submit your very best work. But I also believe you can rework a story to death, and very quickly if one is not careful. I'm not the only writer that feels that way, and could quote many successful professional writers that say the exact same thing that I have in my Super Secrets' topic.

You called me out directly, Reigheena, so I have posted my direct response here. I will now leave you to create your own topic where you can tell people your own system. I have never had a problem with that. But I do believe you could have done that without going after me personally for stating my views on writing fresh stories--views primarily stated in a voluntary challenge for the members that chose to take that challenge.

If Orson Scott Card and Tim Powers and David Farland could sit at one table and each assert that they believed their method was the right way, day after day, I certainly don't think I'm at fault for saying my way is another way, and here is what worked for me. You go tell people what works for you. But please, without a personal attack. That is contrary to the spirit here, and against Forum guidelines.

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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby disgruntledpeony » Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:27 am

I don't think reigheena meant her words as a personal attack, Wulf. She didn't say anything harmful toward you--she simply expressed a differing opinion on some parts of the writing process. It read to me like she disagrees with some of your methods, not with you as a person.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby AlexH » Fri Sep 20, 2019 10:57 am

I read through every secret posted on that challenge thread in the past month or so, and Wulf does say his secrets (including writing fresh) are what worked for him. It's a very valuable thread, and I wish I hadn't had password issues so I could have participated. Everyone is different, and your balance of a fresh story for every revised story sounds the best of both worlds.

Plenty of writers work in a similar way to you. I don't know if Sharon Joss (a former winner) still does, but she used to write 'white-room', returning to add description later. Considering the character reacts to the setting, I do feel I need to add some setting on my first draft, though I used to write white-room myself.

As we become more experienced writers, we likely don't need to revise as much as we used to. That's partly thanks to what we learn from revising. I did think Dean Wesley-Smith's advice on a recent WotF podcast was potentially unhelpful for new writers - if I heard right. I'm paraphrasing and may have missed something, but I think he was saying we should write a story then move onto the next without revision. He's at the stage where he can do that, but I don't think that's necessarily a good plan for new/non-pro writers. Especially considering the bar is so high these days and with so much competition. But as disgruntledpeony says, a lot of advice is conflicting. It's about figuring out what works for us.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby reigheena » Fri Sep 20, 2019 11:13 am

Wulf, I did not mean my post as an attack. I thought I was being fair by sharing when I thought writing new stories was good. I apologize my intentions were not clear.

I am not asking for an end to the super secret challenge, but I do feel like there is a bias on this forum against revision that predates your challenge. A few years ago, Heinlein's rules were all the rage and people kept quoting it. In contrast, I don't think I've seen anyone quoting the many contemporary authors, agents and editors that talk about the necessities of revision. Bookends for example - http://bookendsliterary.com/2019/09/18/ ... o-success/

It's all about balance and allowing room for those who don't agree with you.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby storysinger » Fri Sep 20, 2019 12:15 pm

Reading the interaction between the two of you, reigheena and Wulf, led me to an epiphany.
Like a borg I assimilate information. We all strive to improve our writing and I have to admit I have never sent a story anywhere without revising it, sometimes I overdo it due to OCE(obsessive compulsive editing).
When Wulf extended his challenges I was more than happy to participate. I've learned to be a more prolific writer reading his advice.
My last two Wotf entry's were in the minimal editing style. I liked both of them but they lacked the feeling of what I am used to.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby zeeteebeez » Sun Sep 22, 2019 6:01 am

Applying writing advice is like trying to take elements of other recipes to make your favorite dish better.

I make a mean Mexican chicken sandwich. Almost a mix between a taco and a torta. I combined elements of different foods I liked in a way that works well together. Writing advice is so broad and varied that sometimes it can be literally the exact opposite of someone else’s writing advice.

I couldn’t assimilate the ingredients of my Mexican chicken sandwich into my wife’s French macarons. It just wouldn’t work.

My point is, read ALL advice, and apply what works for you. Trying something new can lead to brilliance. But it’s also good to be aware of the things that just won’t work for you.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby Retropianoplayer » Sun Sep 22, 2019 10:56 am

I am absolutely thrilled to have found out about the WOTF international contest; prior to September 10th, 2018, I had never heard of its existence.

I am equally delighted to be part of the WOTF Forums. Every time I read a post or comment, I see a unique individual out there who loves the process of writing and has a dream/goal of winning the bronze, silver, or gold.

Although I already had four fresh stories in by the time I was admitted to the Forum, I chose to accept the challenge, and am glad I did. See, maybe I'm completely wrong, but I don't view these fine folks on Forum as my competitors; I view the real competition to be crafting such a unique story, so original in its premise, in such a way that it might become a winning entry.

I believe, in the bottom of my heart, that writing TWO FRESH STORIES each quarter might (there are zero guarantees in life) bring me closer to that goal.
I also feel that Wulf wants us to win and is offering invaluable advice he's picked up over a quarter of a century; on a deeper level, I'm sure he wants us to avoid the trials and tribulations he underwent all those years by imparting the wisdom he's learned during his week-long session at WOTF.

Remember – in the broader perspective, here is a guy who's willing to offer free advice, despite the workloads and pressures he faces in the current non-stop scheduling deadlines of publishing companies and agents.

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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby reigheena » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:08 pm

Is Wulf doing this to benefit us? Yes, I believe that is his goal. I'm just pointing out that for me, his tips are doing the opposite. Yes, some writers publish 2-3 books a year. But others only publish 1 book every 2-3 years. Some make a living by writing fast. Others by writing more thoughtfully.

So, I see some people positing that revising a previous submission is taking the easy way out. Now if all you're doing is changing a sentence here or there, sure, that will be easy. It will also most likely get the same result as before. When I do a resubmission, I do deep structural changes, essentially rewriting every single word. This is as hard, or even harder, than drafting the first time, due to the darlings that have to be killed, new ideas that have to be created, and then fit in to what is already there. And yes, this process will often take me the entire quarter for a longer story.

Justine Larbalestier has a good 101 post on rewriting. I've found that following these tips is what has taken my writing to the next level.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:25 pm

I'm afraid I have seen no "constant pressure". No "pressure" at all, merely a discussion of A way to write.

Discussion of ways to write is the point of this forum.

Getting upset because someone has a different way of writing makes no sense to me. Their way is not an attack on your way. You can discuss your way without getting upset with them. "Try this" is not "You must do this!"

If you think the Forum needs more discussion about revision, discuss! That's what we're here for! But I don't think you achieve balance by calling discussion of another approach "pressure".
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby Martin L. Shoemaker » Mon Sep 23, 2019 5:31 pm

For every "I didn't start selling until I did X" story, there's an "I didn't start selling until I stopped doing X" story. If you say "It doesn't work for me," you might be right. (But did you try it? Or did you just assume?) If you say, "That can't work for anyone," you are almost certainly wrong.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby DoctorJest » Mon Sep 23, 2019 8:30 pm

I'd echo that for sure -- or every "writers must do X" piece of advice out there, there'll be professional and successful writers out there doing the opposite (with the possible exception of "writers must write"). By and large, all the advice is just a bunch of clues and breadcrumbs, to help you find what works well for you.

For example, I can't do the minimal-editing thing that Wulf described -- I tried, but my first drafts tend to be horrible. It's just how I write, so I do a lot of editing and revising. On the other hand, I do need to stop editing before I destroy all that's good in my original work -- it's just that the good, high-energy version of the story isn't generally draft 1 for me, but more often draft 2 or draft 3. That's part of me learning how to take a piece of advice, and spin it into what works.

Take what works, leave the rest.

On the editing side, though, I think the pressure is mostly perceived because the super-secret challenge thread has been popular, but there's no corresponding chat ongoing, challenge or otherwise, that focuses as deliberately on revising the heck out of a previous story to see what you can do with it. There's no reason why not, of course -- people have had success with that strategy in WotF, just as Wulf did with his new stories each quarter approach -- but Wulf's challenge has one quite enthusiastic driving advocate who has kept pushing it forwards, while those who're editing stories are, by and large, a little quieter. I would imagine that they're mostly busy editing -- Wulf is, quite frankly, cheating, because he's already won, and as such he never ever has to write ever again.

(I assume that's how it works.)

But seriously, I think there's a pretty well established pattern of folks here revising and editing their stories, sometimes managing to polish them into something that climbs higher, and other times accidentally polishing an SHM straight down into an R. But they're still around here, of course. I never tried this, simply because for the longest time, I thought you couldn't (since you can't usually submit one story to the same market twice -- an R is an R is an R, don't you know). But for me, just like going 4 for 4 in v36, this is something I haven't done before -- which makes it interesting to me. And as such, I have designs on doing so in one of the v37 quarters (assuming, of course, that I haven't won before then).
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby disgruntledpeony » Tue Sep 24, 2019 3:12 am

DoctorJest wrote:On the editing side, though, I think the pressure is mostly perceived because the super-secret challenge thread has been popular, but there's no corresponding chat ongoing, challenge or otherwise, that focuses as deliberately on revising the heck out of a previous story to see what you can do with it. There's no reason why not, of course -- people have had success with that strategy in WotF, just as Wulf did with his new stories each quarter approach -- but Wulf's challenge has one quite enthusiastic driving advocate who has kept pushing it forwards, while those who're editing stories are, by and large, a little quieter. I would imagine that they're mostly busy editing -- Wulf is, quite frankly, cheating, because he's already won, and as such he never ever has to write ever again.

(I assume that's how it works.)

But seriously, I think there's a pretty well established pattern of folks here revising and editing their stories, sometimes managing to polish them into something that climbs higher, and other times accidentally polishing an SHM straight down into an R. But they're still around here, of course. I never tried this, simply because for the longest time, I thought you couldn't (since you can't usually submit one story to the same market twice -- an R is an R is an R, don't you know). But for me, just like going 4 for 4 in v36, this is something I haven't done before -- which makes it interesting to me. And as such, I have designs on doing so in one of the v37 quarters (assuming, of course, that I haven't won before then).

I think you're right on the money about the perceived pressure thing, DoctorJest. I've been participating in Wulf's challenge to write a fresh story every quarter, but not all of his tips work for me, so I've been experimenting with what works for me and what doesn't. Writing a fresh story every quarter I can do, when I'm not focusing on other projects--and entering a fresh story every quarter has sped up my process a bit, which is a good thing.

On the other hand, I don't think I'll ever be able to write so swiftly and excellently that I can pen a story in 24 hours, send it into the contest, and place. My first drafts are too barren of sensory and emotional detail, and trying to consciously focus on working those into my first draft kills the story I'm working on every time. If I realize something's wrong after I've written it I can go back and fix it, but if I think too hard about what is or isn't working while actively writing a first draft my brain locks up and I lose all interest in the project. Happened to me three times this quarter before I found a story I could plow through a terrible first draft in one day and then revise over the course of the next three weeks.

I will admit, I've questioned some of Wulf's tips in the past--not because I was trying to be rude, insubordinate, or what have you, but because the methods that worked for me were very different and I wanted to offer a counterpoint. I've since stopped that for the most part, because I realized Wulf was aiming for a more workshop-style thread than a discussion of various methodologies, and some of my questions were not received in the way I intended them.

I've thought about making a discussion thread on revision strategies in the past, but impostor syndrome tells me that while I came close I didn't make it all the way and who am I to offer writing advice anyway? wotf019 I'm a decent writer, but I don't know that I'd make a good teacher, because my methodologies shift and change from story to story. I can't just give one solid rule or example and say "This is how I do things" because it's not always true. I'm still very much learning.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby reigheena » Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:05 am

I'm happy to make this thread a discussion of revision strategies. I agree with you on the "who am I to offer writing advice anyway" since I haven't sold pro yet, but I do know what it takes for me to feel confident enough to send something into markets beyond WOTF where you can't resubmit once they reject you.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby disgruntledpeony » Tue Sep 24, 2019 5:52 am

reigheena wrote:I'm happy to make this thread a discussion of revision strategies. I agree with you on the "who am I to offer writing advice anyway" since I haven't sold pro yet, but I do know what it takes for me to feel confident enough to send something into markets beyond WOTF where you can't resubmit once they reject you.

Sounds good! I'm thinking of starting a topic in the Craft, Talent, and Technique section, as well. Gonna take a week or two to compose my thoughts and see what happens.
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby thegirlintheglasses » Wed Sep 25, 2019 12:46 pm

This thread made my head hurt. There is always room for discussion. I like to learn from a variety of places and people. I love hearing how people discover what works for them—heck, in talking about craft I find things that work for me. But the original post sounded like a rebuke, not a discussion. It felt like cutting someone at the knees and then calling it a difference of opinion. It made me cringe and I don’t like the spirit behind it (or at least what it sounded like in my head. That’s a problem with writing online versus in-person discussion).
wotf025

Then I read the rest of the thread. If I understand correctly, the lack of representation (of another way of writing/winning) seems to be the source of frustration. Not Wulf, nor his challenge. The original post does come across harsh and personal (to me) and reading it made my spirits sink. This guy gives a LOT of his time and energy to us, and frankly, I don’t want him to stop lol. But I think I understand what you mean. The problem is representation. There’s more than one way to skin a cat and I’m happy there are some volunteers willing to share. Just don't do it on top of Wulf.

On that same note, I’ve got two stories I’d LOVE to learn how to revise. They need major structural overhaul and I find it hard to maintain voice and fluidity when I go back to try to break things up. I’d welcome anyone posting tips. That takes time and dedication and I tip my hat off to anyone willing to put some good back into the world by sharing what they have learned.
wotf009 That’s AWESOME! I look forward to the revision challenge because Lord knows I could use it. Lol. Are we posting in the craft section then? Just wondering where I should look.



As for Wulf, I hope you read this.

People pay good money for the work you are posting. And let’s not kid ourselves—your dedication to the challenge is work.

I have four kids. I volunteer twice a week at my kids’ elementary school and at least once a week at my local youth group. There are dance classes and gymnastics, preschool, and recently lots of doctors visits for two of my kids. I am committed to being there for my children—and you have never made me feel I have to put my writing above them, or any other obligations, to do your challenges.

In fact, last year during Q4—when I was a week away from having my baby (and 2 weeks away from the deadline)—you were the forumite who told me it was okay to take a break. That having a baby was KIND of a big deal and that there would be no judgment if I backed out of the 4 for 35 challenge. You were practical and you were right. I put away my story until after my baby was born. Lucky for me, things fell into place and I was able to finish and submit a story that quarter. No critique. Little revision. I used Grammarly and hoped for the best lol. Then that story made finalist. I was stunned.

Because of how all that happened, when you encouraged us to write fresh, I chose (and choose) to try again. And again. Because of your encouragement I have a quite a few other fresh stories in my arsenal that I can send out to markets—I wouldn’t have them otherwise. I wouldn’t have known how to grow my writing habits. I wouldn’t have pushed myself to evaluate what I am writing and HOW. I wouldn’t have made finalist a second time.

This quarter I’ve really struggled to keep up. Life has hit me hard and I’m frantically trying to finish another fresh story by Monday. I don’t know if I’ll make it, but I’m trying. And Wulf, you have never made me feel bad or overly pressured. I signed up for this. You’ve just encouraged me to keep running. And if I keep running, eventually, I think I’ll get there. Maybe. Hopefully. Don’t stop cheering me, please. It means a lot.

So for ME, your challenges work. For ME, I’ve produced more than I ever have previously. For ME, I’ve formed new habits that I hope will make me a professional writer (one day). For ME, I hope you continue to share your secrets.

I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Brittany Rainsdon
R-SHM-HM-R-HM-R-F-F-HM-HM

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/

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reigheena
Posts: 196
Joined: Tue Sep 16, 2014 9:26 am
Location: Seattle, WA
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Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby reigheena » Wed Sep 25, 2019 5:58 pm

girlinglasses, thank you for pointing out your perception of my tone in a nondefensive way. It does help me see that I let my frustrations of a lack of counerpoint get the better of me.

I started a thread in the craft section of the forum - first topic is discussing different methods of rewriting. I've dabbled a little in strategies that I've seen, but have mostly stuck with my "rewrite essentially every word" strategy. I'd love to hear what works for other people.
Silver Honorable Mention: 3
Honorable Mentions: 7. Published HM - Infant Insomnia
Other published works

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Retropianoplayer
Posts: 76
Joined: Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:23 am
Location: Peoria, Arizona

Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby Retropianoplayer » Wed Sep 25, 2019 6:41 pm

Girl in Glasses, I totally agree with everything you've posted in your comments. Even before you posted your comment, I guess having experience judging different debaters throughout New York State, read through the comments, and made my decision.

By the way, Girl In Glasses, you have a very, very impressive set of results with WOTF. Whenever I see F, F, F, I often think, "Holy cow, what the heck was it that separated you from the bronze, silver or gold? Probably not very much.

I reiterate (try not to groan): Here is a guy whose wife is on his case because he's helping WHO?

HELPING US! AT NO COST!

Where on God's Earth are you going to find this sort of invaluable advice?

Wulf, thanks again for all you do. Although I'm a relative newcomer to this contest and forum, I mean it most sincerely: Your tips have improved my writing.
At Loyola University in Maryland, there's a gentleman named John E. McIntyre on You Tube who I would have dearly loved to have taken one of his classes when I was in my twenties. He's a professional editor and college professor. Promises his class to be one of the most boring classes you will ever take in your entire life.

I would have found his class fascinating!

storysinger
Posts: 1025
Joined: Tue Jul 30, 2013 1:00 pm
Location: Pensacola

Re: A Word Re: Revisions

Postby storysinger » Thu Sep 26, 2019 11:19 am

If anyone has noticed I have given thanks to members of the forum over the years for bits of advice that helped enhance my ability to write.
Now we have Wulf helping on a regular basis and I am very appreciative. I haven't learned to write without revising but I have learned to get my thoughts down first time through which cuts down on OCE.
HM-1
Today's science fiction is tomorrow's reality.
D.R.Sweeney


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