My day job in real life involves work as a proof reader & fact checker. So, off the clock, I don’t review books and I’ve never been a slush reader. The contest has been a new experience for me. A surprisingly good one.
We are almost halfway through 224 entries. There is still time to join the forums and vote. Bonus: Forum access includes past contest winners from their other pods.
Yes, some of the efforts induce Deep Hurting. That pain is easily offset by the endorphin release and euphoria experienced when reading the quality entries. There are quite a few of those already. Two–neither penned by me–are my choices for Best Story so far.
It’s amazing and depressing how easy it is to dissect another’s work. To see the right word for their story and blindly ignore better choices in my own. H.G Wells said it best. “No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft.”
Writers love to quote Mark Twain’s “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” The poet in Dan Simmon’s Hugo-winning Hyperion quotes Twain and goes a step further.
“…I discovered that the difference between finding the right word as opposed to accepting the almost right word was the difference between being struck by lightning and merely watching a lightning display,”
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”Elmore Leonard
Reading for the contest has helped me as a writer. I’ve revisited the tropes and the ‘Oh no not again‘ plot lines. I’ve reminded myself of the rules of writing from Elmore Leonard:
- Never open a book with weather.
- Avoid prologues.
- Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
- Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
- Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
- Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
- Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
- Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
- Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
- Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
Perfect timing, as I’m in the middle of some major edits on my own. The month of May ushered in two short fiction rejections. Both rejections included thoughtful comments that, in hindsight, I should have caught and fixed before submission.
Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.”T. S. Eliot
I look forward to each new dump of contest entries. Most of all, I look forward to finding out who wrote the stories so that I can let them know just how much I loved their work.
Thank you, Escape Artists and best of luck to all of the contestants!