Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Open topics on the Contest itself, to include results-watch threads and other items of note.
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glenn84
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby glenn84 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 9:41 pm

Michael Kingswood wrote:
glenn84 wrote:It's amazing the way that works huh? You would think that with all the technology we have life would be simpler. Nope. I'm here paying $1,400 a month for a 400 square foot studio in San Diego. Every little penny I earn pays some kind of bill. It's hard enough for a bachelor. I can't imagine for someone who has kids like you disgruntled. I have nightmares thinking about what I would do if I ever got that call from the lady. wotf002


You're in San Diego too? Hello, neighbor! wotf009 Dunno about you, but I'm busily plotting my escape from CA as we speak.

Hard to do with an ex-wife who refuses to leave and 4 kids you wanna be Dad to. But nothing worthwhile is easy. And I can't think of anything more worthwhile for a patriotic American (or really anyone with economic sanity) than to get the hell out of CA. wotf001

Vegas, here I come! In a year or so.

Meanwhile, let's grab a beer sometime, eh? wotf013



We are neighbors! That's so cool! wotf010

I'm with you about getting out. Love the weather. But good weather ain't worth $1,400 to live in a box. But I work for the federal government, and let's just say their transfer process is less than ideal. Unfortunately I have to deal with it until it goes through. wotf012

Sorry about your family situation. I can imagine how stressful that can be. You're absolutely right about nothing worthwhile being easy. I drove to San Diego from Florida 3 years ago, alone mind you, thinking that I finally got my break (after two years of no jobs after graduating college) only to find out it is totally unlivable on even a respectable $80,000 yearly salary. And it seems to be getting worse every day. wotf020

I'm totally down to grab a beer! wotf008 Send me a PM with your email or cell phone number.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby DoctorJest » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:45 am

My Q4 story is underway, and already smooth sailing. It's a totally different story than the one I was planning to write, essentially lifting a concept from an earlier story I'd written maybe five or six years ago, but discarding all the details and starting anew. This version is better.

(And I'm glad to realise that I can actually look at the story and see why and how this one is better, even from the initial abstract alone. I assume I couldn't, back when I wrote the one I'm stealing from...)
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby RSchibler » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:09 pm

I've got at least three stories available that haven't gone to WotF. One I wrote this week and two from earlier this year. I'm not sure what I'll be submitting for Q4, since there's still AGES to write more stories. I started a new fantasy novel this week and am querying my historical fiction, but I frequently take breaks to write something fresh to clear my brain out.

I'm up for crits, as always.
Trying to refute entropy with words.

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby empressed » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:03 pm

TimE wrote:
disgruntledpeony wrote:I actually have an idea, a conceptualized ending (although I prefer to write start to finish, when possible, so I haven't gotten there yet), and the first scene and a half rough-drafted for a potential Q4. It kind of happened by accident while I was waiting on feedback for my Q3. I'm usually nowhere near this close until at least a month into the quarter.


Good to hear. A 'happy accident'.

I will finish my Q3 on time to submit, but I hold no hopes for it. Humour's difficult, perhaps I'll go serious again for Q4.


I almost subbed a piece of humorous flash fiction for the current quarter, but I don't recall seeing any flash in previous anthologies. Not that I've read every issue because I haven't. *GASP!* Does anyone recall such a beast? One of their recent videos mentions enjoying humor, so maybe I should do it. . . .
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby empressed » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:07 pm

RSchibler wrote:I've got at least three stories available that haven't gone to WotF. One I wrote this week and two from earlier this year. I'm not sure what I'll be submitting for Q4, since there's still AGES to write more stories. I started a new fantasy novel this week and am querying my historical fiction, but I frequently take breaks to write something fresh to clear my brain out.

I'm up for crits, as always.


I also do historical fantasy and am up for crits. What's your era? My finished MS is set in 220 AD pseudo China (think Grace of Kings without the steampunk), and my current ms is around 100 AD Not-really-Judea.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby empressed » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:29 pm

TimE wrote:So do we have a challenge to get Q4 in before Q2 results come out? Doubt if I can do that, I'm way too slow, but I can try.

(No penguins will be harmed in my Q4 story.)


Glad to know I'm not the only one with that problem. wotf004
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby storysinger » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:44 pm

I'm reading GOT for the first time, all five volumes. George R.R. Martin has taken me down a path ofs enlightenment.

How many characters can I kill today. Hmmm...

Now that I've learned to write a story as it comes to me I can have one ready for Q4.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Henckel » Wed Jul 10, 2019 5:41 pm

Hi all –
What are your thoughts on closing off a character arc for one of my secondary characters. I don’t mind sharing here, because this is part of a full novel/not WOTF story… and I’m interested to hear everyone’s perspective on this.

My character is a dad whose daughter was killed years ago. The cause of her death was circumstantial, and Dad can’t realistically attribute blame to anyone or any party. Thus, his anger caused his own inner meltdown over a period of years (insert heart wrenching jingle here-key of A minor).

So, here are my assumptions (please challenge me on these or offer up your thoughts). To complete his character arc, Dad needs either:
• Closure - Forgiveness (he might have an event that triggers forgiveness. The problem here is that he doesn’t have anyone to forgive),
• Closure – Revenge (perhaps he discovers that someone was actually responsible for his daughter’s death and he gets revenge)
• Use this as the “cause” that riggers a new arc (perhaps he discovers that someone was actually responsible for his daughter’s death and he wants, but is unable to get revenge. Thus, he triggers a new arc: a decent into villainy).

Maybe there’s a way to complete his arc in such a way that doesn’t involve closure and doesn’t start a new arc???

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby disgruntledpeony » Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:31 pm

Henckel wrote:Hi all –
What are your thoughts on closing off a character arc for one of my secondary characters. I don’t mind sharing here, because this is part of a full novel/not WOTF story… and I’m interested to hear everyone’s perspective on this.

My character is a dad whose daughter was killed years ago. The cause of her death was circumstantial, and Dad can’t realistically attribute blame to anyone or any party. Thus, his anger caused his own inner meltdown over a period of years (insert heart wrenching jingle here-key of A minor).

So, here are my assumptions (please challenge me on these or offer up your thoughts). To complete his character arc, Dad needs either:
• Closure - Forgiveness (he might have an event that triggers forgiveness. The problem here is that he doesn’t have anyone to forgive),
• Closure – Revenge (perhaps he discovers that someone was actually responsible for his daughter’s death and he gets revenge)
• Use this as the “cause” that riggers a new arc (perhaps he discovers that someone was actually responsible for his daughter’s death and he wants, but is unable to get revenge. Thus, he triggers a new arc: a decent into villainy).

Maybe there’s a way to complete his arc in such a way that doesn’t involve closure and doesn’t start a new arc???

I can't give you detailed recommendations without understanding the story as a whole, but it seems to me that if you don't know how to resolve the father's arc you're missing a piece of your story. I'd recommend looking at the other themes and/or plotlines you've got going on and considering whether you want to compliment or contrast them. More importantly, don't make the father a slave to the plot--think about what would make the most interesting growth pattern for him as a character. Just because someone may have killed his daughter doesn't mean he has to seek revenge. Remember that he isn't just a father whose daughter died--he's a man with a complex history that might lead him down any number of twists and turns.
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: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Henckel » Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:41 pm

Thanks for your comment!

Absolutely. He has his own life and such in the story that has nothing to do with his past. This little back story of his is simply to a more rounded character with his own past. ...and yep, you're totally on the mark with his personal acr either contrast the main characters personal ark, which (I hope) will enhance or complement the main characters personal arc.

I'll use my immediate plot elements to complete his arc... I'm just looking at various ways to complete this sort of arc. "Forgiveness" feels like low hanging fruit. Just wondering what other options are out there.

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Henckel » Wed Jul 10, 2019 8:44 pm

Spell check on this phone is killing we

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Helge Mahrt » Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:19 pm

If you haven't already, I recommend you look into the five stages of grief and into complicated grief (disorder). Also, what is the father mourning the most, the past memories with his daughter or the future, imagined events, which now never will come true?
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby TimE » Thu Jul 11, 2019 12:09 am

empressed wrote:
I almost subbed a piece of humorous flash fiction for the current quarter, but I don't recall seeing any flash in previous anthologies. Not that I've read every issue because I haven't. *GASP!* Does anyone recall such a beast? One of their recent videos mentions enjoying humor, so maybe I should do it. . . .


I bet there are discussions about flash somewhere in the threads. I'm sure I've seen a thread about the shortest winner.

Good luck with whatever you try.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Henckel » Thu Jul 11, 2019 2:00 am

Helge Mahrt wrote:If you haven't already, I recommend you look into the five stages of grief and into complicated grief (disorder). Also, what is the father mourning the most, the past memories with his daughter or the future, imagined events, which now never will come true?


Good suggestion. Thanks!

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby empressed » Thu Jul 11, 2019 7:19 am

Henckel, I love this idea and Helge Mahrt's suggestion is great. I'd also recommend (in conjunction with what she said) taking a look at what that character's goals are, as that should touch on his emotional/internal arc. Does his internal arc involve changing his status, or maturing, redemption, there are so many options. This is my current go to for understanding where the story is trying to go without having to feel my way there: https://storygrid.com/internal-genres-part-1/

I hope it helps. It's mostly designed for novels, but it works for shorts, too and enabled my last publication.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Henckel » Thu Jul 11, 2019 9:58 am

empressed wrote:I'd also recommend (in conjunction with what she said) taking a look at what that character's goals are, as that should touch on his emotional/internal arc.



Excellent recommendation empressed.

My canumdrum now is that this character has no goals. No motivation. The incident with his daughter left him with a ton of anger and nowhere to attribute it. So he just sort of imploded. Now, hes going through the motions. ...

On the other side of the coin, the main character's ability to achieve his goal hinges on this secondary character pulling out of his funk (achieving some sort of resolution). (Hmmmm???)

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby empressed » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:20 am

Hmmm indeed. My guess is, the seeds of motivation/goals/needs are there. You may need to parcel out - one by one - the things these characters are lashing out against. I doubt they are what the character is angry about. It's just my opinion, but in some way, these rage-targets are likely linked to something within your character. I think what you'll eventually find is, this character is angry at their own failure and unable to articulate that failure without having a greater implosion. The quest to reach that level of articulation IS your internal arc. That said, getting your character to talk to you can take years of therapy. Get your sofa ready and start interviewing your characters. Sounds like it could be a lot of fun, hard work! Good luck!
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby czing » Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:58 am

I don't think forgiveness is low hanging fruit. I think someone actually able to forgive for something like that has all kinds of depth to it. But I went to a conference where one of the sessions was on forgiveness and our society's tendency to put it up on a pedestal as the be all and end all enlightened thing (although from the grotesquely large volume of revenge themed movies/tv etc I'd say we put both things up on very different pedestals). There is a whole area between those two things. What if forgiveness isn't the right thing (i.e. an abuse victim might think forgiveness is so important that it ends up leading them right back to the hands of the abuser - thus forgiveness in that scenario is not necessarily a good thing to pursue).

I think there is great potential for someone considering both forgiveness and revenge - maybe seeking opportunities to advance both option and maybe never actually taking action on either one - realizing that neither is actually to their benefit.

Sorry this is rambly and all over the place but that encapsulates my ways of thinking about revenge and forgiveness a lot of the time!
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Henckel » Thu Jul 11, 2019 6:28 pm

Ya know, these comments are great. You've given me some gems to consider. Thanks for that.

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby amoskalik » Fri Jul 12, 2019 5:25 am

I have a story where the main character had a similar arc. His daughter died of an incurable disease and this sent him into a spiral of depression for some the same reasons your character did. He had no one to blame so he blamed himself. Ultimately his arc was resolved through acceptance that his daughter's death had meaning and therefore was not an empty one.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby DoctorJest » Fri Jul 12, 2019 9:52 am

My SHM entry dealt with a man whose daughter had died years earlier, but with context that:

A) his work revolved around other people's deaths, and
B) he believed that he may be able to undo her death.

It got picked up and published by On Spec later.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Henckel » Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:48 pm

DoctorJest wrote:My SHM entry dealt with a man whose daughter had died years earlier, but with context that:

A) his work revolved around other people's deaths, and
B) he believed that he may be able to undo her death.

It got picked up and published by On Spec later.


Ah, nice. You had yours tied to your central plot. Sounds like a good story.

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby WriterGirl0426 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 7:52 am

Henckel wrote:Hi all –
What are your thoughts on closing off a character arc for one of my secondary characters. I don’t mind sharing here, because this is part of a full novel/not WOTF story… and I’m interested to hear everyone’s perspective on this.

My character is a dad whose daughter was killed years ago. The cause of her death was circumstantial, and Dad can’t realistically attribute blame to anyone or any party. Thus, his anger caused his own inner meltdown over a period of years (insert heart wrenching jingle here-key of A minor).

So, here are my assumptions (please challenge me on these or offer up your thoughts). To complete his character arc, Dad needs either:
• Closure - Forgiveness (he might have an event that triggers forgiveness. The problem here is that he doesn’t have anyone to forgive),
• Closure – Revenge (perhaps he discovers that someone was actually responsible for his daughter’s death and he gets revenge)
• Use this as the “cause” that riggers a new arc (perhaps he discovers that someone was actually responsible for his daughter’s death and he wants, but is unable to get revenge. Thus, he triggers a new arc: a decent into villainy).

Maybe there’s a way to complete his arc in such a way that doesn’t involve closure and doesn’t start a new arc???


I had really good luck with developing character arcs using Donald Maass techniques. To mimic one of the exercises I did, ask yourself, why is Dad angry about his daughter's death? What's driving his anger? List out your answers in order from most impact. Then, as part of the technique, reverse the order and see what you come up with fleshing out the last one as the most important, and see where this takes you.

Basically, the exercise (in my opinion) forces you to both delve deeper into your characters GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) and to let your creative brain "take over" as you reverse things up. For me, it led to a revelation about my character that literally changed the entire trajectory of my book.

I think, as someone in another response noted, not being sure what his arc is means part of the underlying structure of your story is not complete yet. If you're a plotter, it's beyond essential to have this up front. If, like me, you're more of a pantser, it's common to not have this type of thing defined, but it can also be the biggest cause of getting "stuck" in the middle of a story and not knowing where to go. Once I figured out my character arc, I was able to say, okay, I want them to get from A (where they are now) to B (end of character arc) by the end of the book. Then every single scene I came up with from there was just one of many steps to get them from A to B. I call it "building a bridge" as a story technique, and it means I no longer have those icky-sticky middles!!! Seriously, it was an epiphany of major proportions in my writing.

Okay, I'm gushing nerdy writer stuff now, so I'll stop. But really, give Maass a try if you need character arc help. He's GENIUS and has lots of "how to" books available. wotf007
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Henckel » Wed Jul 24, 2019 5:57 pm

WriterGirl0426 wrote:I had really good luck with developing character arcs using Donald Maass techniques.


Thanks WriterGirl0426! That's really helpful!

After a lot of consideration, I've decided to cut this character and another from my story. I liked them bother, but they were't the right fit. I've replaces them with two entirely different characters and they work brilliantly--really bringing the story to life. Looking back, this was waaaayyyy too much emotional baggage for a minor secondary character. It was detracting from the story at hand.

Still, you ad everyone else have given me some GREAT food for thought on the subject of character arcs. wotf007

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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Peter Glen » Wed Jul 24, 2019 6:18 pm

Hey, I'm 4K in and nowhere near the middle of the story. I know the max limit is 17K but with the workload on the judges, I wonder if anything over 10 might be too much??
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby disgruntledpeony » Wed Jul 24, 2019 8:48 pm

Peter Glen wrote:Hey, I'm 4K in and nowhere near the middle of the story. I know the max limit is 17K but with the workload on the judges, I wonder if anything over 10 might be too much??

If you're worried about writing too much, my recommendation would be that you write the first draft of the story as you need to write it. The judges won't be reading that draft--first drafts' sole purpose is to ensure you get the story down. If there are things that aren't essential to the plot and/or protagonist's arc, cut them in editing. This can be a brutal and painful process, but it's absolutely worth it because it will leave you with a tighter story that's more likely to win and/or sell.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Wed Jul 24, 2019 9:26 pm

Peter Glen wrote:Hey, I'm 4K in and nowhere near the middle of the story. I know the max limit is 17K but with the workload on the judges, I wonder if anything over 10 might be too much??


Just to add to the conversation, story determines length. Big ideas and big worlds require more words to set up. So do complex characters and complex plots. Read "Mara's Shadow" for a great example of this in Volume 34. That story needed 17K, and it won the Golden Pen. Your story might need that kind of space, too.

That said, David Farland and other judges have already said red flags go up when they see 17K or close to it on a manuscript. It can mean a new writer doesn't have the skills yet to tell a tight, economized story. Most winning stories currently average around 6000-7000 words. And the higher the word count, the tougher it becomes for new writers to tell a tight story, and the higher the scrutiny judges will place your work under.

I'd recommend not looking up until the story is written. Don't worry about word count. Don't think about contest limits. Just write the story. Then, do your second pass for cleanup. Then, swap with someone in here, the higher the credits the better. If you get back comments like "this lagged" or "I got lost here" or "pacing is off," it's pretty likely you need to tighten your story up. If you get back, "Wow, I was spellbound! Change one world and I'll shoot you," well, you probably did it right.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Peter Glen » Wed Jul 24, 2019 11:53 pm

Thanks disgruntledpeony and Wulf for the good advice ... yeah, I can see that it will be hard to make a judgment on length until the story is done, but don't have any problem cutting it down if needed. I'll go back and read "Mara's Shadow" too ... #35 was my first purchase of the book :)
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Andy Dibble » Thu Jul 25, 2019 2:04 am

I agree that you should write the story first and only worry about length in the revising stage. One exercise that helps me while revising is to force the story to be a certain size (e.g. 20% shorter). Often times, it gets better. The best thing that ever happened to a story I once submitted to Diabolical Plots was that I had to cut it from 5500 words to 3500. Indeed, I think it's the best story I ever wrote, even if so far I've only racked up personal rejects submitting it.

Why can forcing a story to be shorter help? There's "kill your darlings." But it also forces you to cut digressions. Anytime you drop into a discursive mode that doesn't move character or plot along is dangerous. It's common to do this for 1-3 sentences. Readers don't mind that. But doing it for paragraphs is dangerous. Some readers like info-dumps with clever ideas, long description of setting, or dense world building. But the average reader only tolerates this if it contributes to plot or character. If you're already hooked them with engaging characters or plot, readers' tolerance increases, but I'd still proceed with caution.

One thing to watch out while doing this. It's very uncommon for a story to win WoTF if it's written in a minimalist style with almost no description of setting, mannerisms, character reactions and emotions, etc. So if you find your scenes shrinking to just a couple stubby paragraphs, you've probably cut too much.
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Re: Discussion: Q4 Volume 36

Postby Wulf Moon » Thu Jul 25, 2019 7:38 am

Andy Dibble wrote:I agree that you should write the story first and only worry about length in the revising stage. One exercise that helps me while revising is to force the story to be a certain size (e.g. 20% shorter). Often times, it gets better. The best thing that ever happened to a story I once submitted to Diabolical Plots was that I had to cut it from 5500 words to 3500. Indeed, I think it's the best story I ever wrote, even if so far I've only racked up personal rejects submitting it.

Why can forcing a story to be shorter help? There's "kill your darlings." But it also forces you to cut digressions. Anytime you drop into a discursive mode that doesn't move character or plot along is dangerous. It's common to do this for 1-3 sentences. Readers don't mind that. But doing it for paragraphs is dangerous. Some readers like info-dumps with clever ideas, long description of setting, or dense world building. But the average reader only tolerates this if it contributes to plot or character. If you're already hooked them with engaging characters or plot, readers' tolerance increases, but I'd still proceed with caution.

One thing to watch out while doing this. It's very uncommon for a story to win WoTF if it's written in a minimalist style with almost no description of setting, mannerisms, character reactions and emotions, etc. So if you find your scenes shrinking to just a couple stubby paragraphs, you've probably cut too much.


Excellent points here, Andy. As Ken Rand points out in The 10% Solution, every tale can benefit by cutting 10%. For new writers, it's usually much more. That's because we're still figuring out that less is more. We're still learning how to describe scenes and action with an economy of words. I just had the SUPER SECRET challenge members do an exercise in this. It was much more drastic than 10% or 20%. We did 50% on the first cut, and then 50% again. It revealed that many stories got stronger cutting half the words. People found ways to say the same thing with less, and most stories had a much more streamlined and intriguing feel to them. And then we cut 50% out of that. These stories were too much to the bones, and while saying virtually the same thing, had lost much of their charm, characterization, and world building. Like everything in life, balance is essential.

But somewhere in that balance lies perfection.

In perfection lies a potential winner.

All the beast!

Wulf Moon
Wulf Moon http://driftweave.com
Q4 Vol 35 "Super-Duper Moongirl..."
Critters Readers Award: #1, "War Dog," Best SF&F Short Story of 2018
NEW! "Weep No More..." DEEP MAGIC Fall 2019 http://amazon.com/author/wulfmoon


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