V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Specifics about craft, talent, technique, etc.
amyhg
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V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby amyhg » Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:33 pm

Hey, folks!

Some of you might be aware that I requested to read people's Q1 stories. I had about a dozen sent my way with varying results from Q1. I'd need a much larger sample to hang my hat on what I learned, but it was still a good experience. Here's my overall conclusions.

Disclaimer: This is me guessing what Dave wants from a story and how he decides to rank stories. I very much doubt that I'm guessing everything correctly (thus the "Discussion" element of this topic). Please do not take this as Gospel!

Rejections:
My thoughts: Your story's intro failed. Reasons vary widely. As far as I can tell, Dave looks for these things in the beginning of every story.

The first 450 words should:
- Provide a hook.
- At least mention the story's original concept(s) and speculative element(s).
- Identify or at least imply one major conflict central to the story.
- Orient the reader in a specific setting/world. (Description!)
- Orient the reader in a specific scene. (Sensory Detail!)
- Set the tone and point of view of the story.

The first 1000 words should:
- Expand on the story’s originality. (Don’t be stingy with plot-relevant details but beware of irrelevant world-building or commentary.)
- Identify/Clarify the external, internal, physical conflicts (or at least one).
- Prime the readers’ expectations (make promises) for genre, tone, POV, and the discoveries they will make during the course of the story.
- Identify the characters' desires/wants/goals and essential character traits (especially the main character).
- Introduce or establish the instigating event that launches the rest of the story.

Check out Dave's article on immediate rejections: https://mystorydoctor.com/ten-reasons-w ... our-story/. There's a continuation of this article, titled "A Few Common Problems with a Story's Opening, Part 1" and "A Few More Ways to Get a Quick Rejection," but I wasn't able to find the articles on his blog. I believe they were sent to me through Joni. So, if you want to read those too, PM me and I'll email them.

Honorable Mentions:
Honorable mentions encompass a much wider scope of flaws. It was likely strong on originality in the intro but failed to deliver on another significant point, such as immersing readers with strong descriptions and sensory detail, adequately resolving the conflicts, maintaining originality, poor writing technique, etc...

Dave wrote the following article on Honorable mentions: https://mystorydoctor.com/why-you-only- ... e-mention/. On his blog, he also has a series of articles titled "The Perfect Story..." on all of the following points:
- Balance (balancing the intro/backstory, middle, climax, and resolution and the conflicts of a story). https://mystorydoctor.com/the-perfect-story-balance/
- Content (delivering a story that influences readers. https://mystorydoctor.com/writing-the-p ... ry-part-2/. Also see his articles on Profundity ( https://mystorydoctor.com/aim-for-profundity/) and Surprise ( https://mystorydoctor.com/the-perfect-story-surprise/).
- Economy (making every scene, description, sentence, and word matter). https://mystorydoctor.com/the-perfect-story-economy/
- Engrossing the Reader (using description and sensory details to engage readers). https://mystorydoctor.com/the-perfect-s ... he-reader/
- Escalate (creating a sense of rising action to keep readers engaged). https://mystorydoctor.com/the-perfect-story-escalate/
- Flow (pacing the reveal of information to maintain tension and logic). https://mystorydoctor.com/the-perfect-story-flow/
- Guidance (using sensory detail, specific details, and logical descriptions to guide the reader's attention). https://mystorydoctor.com/the-perfect-story-guidance/
- Promise (setting up the reader's expectations and fulfilling them). https://mystorydoctor.com/the-perfect-story-promise/

Weakness in several categories would result in an HM.

Silver Honorable Mentions:
As far as I can tell, this is similar to HM but had fewer flaws than a story that receives an honorable mention.

Semi-Finalist:
I was only able to read one SF so I can't be very precise here. I think most SF have 1 major weakness (but nothing that has to do with the plot so most commonly a weakness in description and use of sensory detail or perhaps an unsatisfactory resolution) or a combination of minor weaknesses (e.g. not very profound content as well a few awkward passages and overlong descriptions).

Finalist:
Strong intro, contains original concepts and/or plot elements, and meets Dave's "A Perfect Story" list adequately.

So, what are y'all's thoughts? From your experiences with WOTF, do these conclusions fit with your results? What do you agree/disagree with? Are there articles that have helped you recognize what issues your stories have?

Thoughts, anyone?

P.S. Thank you everyone who allowed me to read and/or critique your stories!
Last edited by amyhg on Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
v33: Q3 - R; Q4 - R
v34: Q1 - R; Q2 - SECOND PLACE! Q3 - HM (oops...?)

ImaWriter
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby ImaWriter » Tue Jun 20, 2017 3:21 am

If someone is really looking for advice, they should read Dave's Daily Kicks. He's the coordinating judge, and he gives writers all the advice they need. Generally, I think writing advice from novices can steer one rapidly down any number of rabbit holes. But if we're giving out novice advice, here's mine: Read the previous winners, read Dave's Kicks, be true to yourself, and write your best story.

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J'nae Rae
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby J'nae Rae » Tue Jun 20, 2017 8:45 am

ImaWriter wrote:If someone is really looking for advice, they should read Dave's Daily Kicks. He's the coordinating judge, and he gives writers all the advice they need. Generally, I think writing advice from novices can steer one rapidly down any number of rabbit holes. But if we're giving out novice advice, here's mine: Read the previous winners, read Dave's Kicks, be true to yourself, and write your best story.


Many of us have been published, not just enough to knock us out of the competition. We learn form each other too.
HM Q1 2015, Q3 & Q4 2016.
R Q1 & Q2 2017
The Trade's On, in Issue 8 of Sci Phi Journal, November 2015
Naidin's Song: Blood Bound, published August 2016
Nine-Tenths, on Empyreome (Weekly Flash Fiction,) June 2017

wotf024

amyhg
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby amyhg » Tue Jun 20, 2017 10:44 am

ImaWriter wrote:If someone is really looking for advice, they should read Dave's Daily Kicks. He's the coordinating judge, and he gives writers all the advice they need. Generally, I think writing advice from novices can steer one rapidly down any number of rabbit holes. But if we're giving out novice advice, here's mine: Read the previous winners, read Dave's Kicks, be true to yourself, and write your best story.


I agree and disagree. As you can probably tell, I follow Dave's articles fairly closely. He has A LOT of content to sift through, and even though I read a lot of his articles, that doesn't mean I know how to apply what he says to my writing. I've also read several of the WOTF Anthologies and again, even though these stories show me lots of "right" things, they don't show me anything wrong. So, unless I concoct some formula based on all the finalist stories and stick only to that formula, reading only winners isn't going to help much.

I agree that novice advice (truth be told, any advice) can steer one down "any number of rabbit holes," but Alice came back with a very interesting story from the bottom of her hole. ;)
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Dustin Adams
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby Dustin Adams » Tue Jun 20, 2017 12:38 pm

My S-F is in my signature if you're interested.
Dave's advice was to cut the last 3 pages. I did, and it sold next time out.

I think your list is great.

Yeah, there's lots of advice out there, and one can get lost in it, but that's what experimentation is all about. One piece of advice can come in and your next story is all about that. Maybe it does well, maybe not. Maybe it blends well with the next piece of advice. Like yellow and blue making green. As long as you're flexible, then read up!
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby KristyEmber » Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:12 pm

Thanks very much for all your work! It's a great analysis, and a fantastic resource for everyone.

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reigheena
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby reigheena » Tue Jun 20, 2017 2:30 pm

While Dave's kicks are good, he is just one man. It's nice to get another person's opinion, especially since we plan to sell stories to more than just him. :)

It's taken a long time for me to get past HM. It's one thing to hear about the items to work on. It's another to recognize it in a different story, or have it pointed out in yours. I think Amy definitely got the best deal out of her project. :)

It's also my understanding that given that there are only 8 finalists and 8 semi-finalists, the semi-finalists usually have very little wrong with them.
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ImaWriter
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby ImaWriter » Wed Jun 21, 2017 3:18 am

J'nae Rae wrote:Many of us have been published, not just enough to knock us out of the competition. We learn form each other too.


Oh, I totally agree with that. I just think it's better to learn from people who have some "credentials" (e.g. some decent contest results, other publications, etc.).

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disgruntledpeony
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby disgruntledpeony » Wed Jun 21, 2017 5:38 am

ImaWriter wrote:
J'nae Rae wrote:Many of us have been published, not just enough to knock us out of the competition. We learn form each other too.


Oh, I totally agree with that. I just think it's better to learn from people who have some "credentials" (e.g. some decent contest results, other publications, etc.).

And that's what Amy was doing by posting this, here. wotf008 She wants to talk about what she learned from her analysis and see if she's got the right idea. For the most part, I think she does.

Semi-finalists are often just shy of being finalists. I got a semi-finalist result last year, and Dave's analysis said I only made a couple of mistakes. (Namely, I waited too long to introduce the speculative element--he wants to see that within the first four pages, preferably the first two--and I had a few places where I told instead of showing.)
If a person offend you, and you are in doubt as to whether it was intentional or not, do not resort to extreme measures; simply watch your chance and hit him with a brick. ~ Mark Twain
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby Jeremyteg » Wed Jun 21, 2017 5:34 pm

Based on my experiences, Amy is spot on. wotf008

amyhg
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby amyhg » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:02 am

While scouring The Story Doctor website, which features many of Dave's writing tips, I came across an interesting checklist Dave composed that he used to use. Here's a link: https://mystorydoctor.com/12588-2/ .

Talk about extensive. I started reading not realizing how in-depth it was and finished with a headache. I guess something like this might be useful to me if critics point out a specific category I failed in, like "your setting was lame" or something. Otherwise, I'm afraid I might peck my piece to death.
v33: Q3 - R; Q4 - R
v34: Q1 - R; Q2 - SECOND PLACE! Q3 - HM (oops...?)

amyhg
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby amyhg » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:07 am

ImaWriter wrote:
J'nae Rae wrote:Many of us have been published, not just enough to knock us out of the competition. We learn form each other too.


Oh, I totally agree with that. I just think it's better to learn from people who have some "credentials" (e.g. some decent contest results, other publications, etc.).


Yeah, I know what you're getting at. That's why I'm upfront about my current history and why I wanted to encourage discussion. Aside from my lack of credentials, was there something in my conclusions that you didn't agree with? Especially since you keep up with Dave's writing tips and the Anthology winners?
v33: Q3 - R; Q4 - R
v34: Q1 - R; Q2 - SECOND PLACE! Q3 - HM (oops...?)

hlreinhold
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby hlreinhold » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:19 am

amyhg wrote:While scouring The Story Doctor website, which features many of Dave's writing tips, I came across an interesting checklist Dave composed that he used to use. Here's a link: https://mystorydoctor.com/12588-2/ .

Talk about extensive. I started reading not realizing how in-depth it was and finished with a headache. I guess something like this might be useful to me if critics point out a specific category I failed in, like "your setting was lame" or something. Otherwise, I'm afraid I might peck my piece to death.

Wow. I hadn't seen that checklist before. Thanks for posting it. It looks very helpful.

I think I'll probably use it once I already have a draft of a story, and feel something's wrong without being able to put my finger on what exactly it is--or what to do about it. Then I'll go to the checklist, pick a few of his questions, and use them to interrogate the draft and, hopefully, make it better. A few questions at a time. More than that, and I'd certainly end up with more than just a headache. :p
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amyhg
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby amyhg » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:19 am

reigheena wrote: It's taken a long time for me to get past HM. It's one thing to hear about the items to work on. It's another to recognize it in a different story, or have it pointed out in yours. I think Amy definitely got the best deal out of her project. :)


You discovered the truth of the situation. wotf001 It was pretty awesome going through a dozen stories and picking them apart for pros and cons, especially since forumites tend to have more of the basics down than many Critters so they were much more enjoyable reads. Hopefully I have a chance to do it again. These next two quarters will reveal how helpful it was (or wasn't?). wotf017
v33: Q3 - R; Q4 - R
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby Jeremyteg » Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:44 pm

hlreinhold wrote:
amyhg wrote:While scouring The Story Doctor website, which features many of Dave's writing tips, I came across an interesting checklist Dave composed that he used to use. Here's a link: https://mystorydoctor.com/12588-2/ .

Talk about extensive. I started reading not realizing how in-depth it was and finished with a headache. I guess something like this might be useful to me if critics point out a specific category I failed in, like "your setting was lame" or something. Otherwise, I'm afraid I might peck my piece to death.

Wow. I hadn't seen that checklist before. Thanks for posting it. It looks very helpful.

I think I'll probably use it once I already have a draft of a story, and feel something's wrong without being able to put my finger on what exactly it is--or what to do about it. Then I'll go to the checklist, pick a few of his questions, and use them to interrogate the draft and, hopefully, make it better. A few questions at a time. More than that, and I'd certainly end up with more than just a headache. :p


I'll say this; I have read that checklist multiple times while revising entries. It is, in my opinion, a very useful tool for Writers of the Future, though a daunting one.

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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby reigheena » Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:53 pm

amyhg wrote:While scouring The Story Doctor website, which features many of Dave's writing tips, I came across an interesting checklist Dave composed that he used to use. Here's a link: https://mystorydoctor.com/12588-2/ .

Talk about extensive. I started reading not realizing how in-depth it was and finished with a headache. I guess something like this might be useful to me if critics point out a specific category I failed in, like "your setting was lame" or something. Otherwise, I'm afraid I might peck my piece to death.


For my Q2 story, I did a bunch of passes where I focused on just one thing. (this one had gotten HM before, so I was determined to put the best shine on it possible) My passes were:

Structure - make sure each of the subplots were well formed.

Culture - making sure I got all the details right.

Theme

Character

Description

Wordsmithing

It took me all quarter to do, but it gave me what is my best story to date. Now to see if I can get better than HM!
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby amyhg » Thu Jun 22, 2017 6:09 pm

Dave's Writing Tip today was on word count. He said that "word count" is actually not the number of words in a story. A word, by professional definition, is 6 character spaces. Therefore, most stories are actually 30% longer than the computer calculated word count. So sometimes novice writers submit stories thinking they are under the word count when in fact they are well over. He also mentions that many novice writers get underpaid and don't know it because the publisher uses the computer word count.

Is this definition of word count the industry standard? Does it depend on the publisher? He gives a format recommendation that allows a writer to calculate the professional word count so I'm wondering if I should start using this regularly.

P.S. The reason I included this on this feed is because it would be another reason for an immediate rejection. My first submission to WOTF was over 14,000 words. Now, I realize I was over the word limit even though I thought I was well under.
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby Jeremyteg » Thu Jun 22, 2017 6:58 pm

amyhg wrote:Dave's Writing Tip today was on word count. He said that "word count" is actually not the number of words in a story. A word, by professional definition, is 6 character spaces. Therefore, most stories are actually 30% longer than the computer calculated word count. So sometimes novice writers submit stories thinking they are under the word count when in fact they are well over. He also mentions that many novice writers get underpaid and don't know it because the publisher uses the computer word count.

Is this definition of word count the industry standard? Does it depend on the publisher? He gives a format recommendation that allows a writer to calculate the professional word count so I'm wondering if I should start using this regularly.

P.S. The reason I included this on this feed is because it would be another reason for an immediate rejection. My first submission to WOTF was over 14,000 words. Now, I realize I was over the word limit even though I thought I was well under.


This has been discussed around here before. I think it's important to realize that WotF is an amateur contest. I don't think Dave is really expecting entrants to know the industry nitty-gritty about word count, etc. As he notes in the kick-in-the-pants, he judges overlong stories more harshly, but it isn't an automatic disqualification.

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reigheena
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby reigheena » Thu Jun 22, 2017 9:24 pm

I've seen other places say explicitly that they will measure the word count themselves using Word's word count to make it the same for everybody. So, perhaps when a contract is offered, you can ask how they determine word count.
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby MattDovey » Mon Jun 26, 2017 5:50 am

Well they bloody well paid me by my word processor's word count, not by the 6-character estimate... so I'd say ignore this. It's old fashioned advice.

If WotF suddenly send me a cheque for the other 30% I will be sure to come back here and report it!
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amyhg
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Re: V34 Q1 Analysis and Discussion

Postby amyhg » Fri Jul 07, 2017 6:03 pm

MattDovey wrote:If WotF suddenly send me a cheque for the other 30% I will be sure to come back here and report it!
y

ha ha. Please do.

I wonder if it's more applicable to paper-copy magazines where page count matters more. Still, that would apply to WOTF. I guess it's something to look at and ask about when looking at other publishing venues.
v33: Q3 - R; Q4 - R
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