Sixfold

by Intermittent Rain ~ November 19th, 2019

I am entered in the fall 2019 Sixfold competition.

Sixfold is writer-reviewed. I was assigned six stories to rank and review.

I was impressed by how few grammar errors I found. The grammar quality is far above most of the submissions that come to the online publication that I slush read for. I didn’t expect that and I don’t know what this means. Are these stories well workshopped and fixed? Did some of these writers take their stories to a professional editor for correction? Are some of the submissions written by professional short story writers, slumming? Or by journalists or other professional writers trying their hand at short stories?

The quality of the prose was another matter. And the premises of the stories and depth of characters fluctuated with the prose; the better the prose, the better the characters and premise and execution of the premise.

The worst submission was almost childish. It had simplistic dialog that sometimes had nothing to do with the theme of the story (though it fit the setting at that moment) and flat characters and no realistic expression of a very emotional, serious topic. It reminded me of my first NaNoWriMo attempt except with a more serious theme but no perceptible attempt to understand the characters as real people. The grammar is much better than my story from eleven years ago, but execution of the premise is not. And my story wasn’t particularly good.

Yesterday I finished my second round of reviews.

I expected the quality to improve, that all stories that made it to the second round would be the level of the best one or two of the first round but that’s not what I got. I know there is a random factor involved, but none of my second round stories were better than the best of the first, and maybe not even the second best. What did change is the worst story is not quite as bad as the worst of the first. I had a hard time ranking this round because all six were all clustered around the fifth to third best of the previous round.

For the $5 entrance fee I’m not in Sixfold to win it. I’m in it to find some good writers and to send those writers my contact information in hopes of finding some reviewing buddies. The process is entirely confidential except, if you choose, you can leave your contact information in your review.

Sadly, I’ve only done so once, out of twelve reviews.

Ah well, can always hold out hope for better in round three, starting in a week from now.

Mind you, those that make round three receive 78 reviews (in theory, the first round produces 6 reviews, the second 24). Those that make round three have a huge number of reviews and likely a large number of potential contacts.  On the other side, I guess I can hope to make the second round and get 24 reviews and maybe a few potential story-swappers.

Strengths and Weakness of your writing

by Intermittent Rain ~ October 4th, 2019

What are your strengths and weakness as a writer?

You might look at:

  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Plot

How would you rate yourself on a scale of 1 – 10?

How do others see you?

Then, what about:

  • Dialogue
  • Conflict
  • Prose
  • Theme
  • Description

But then there’s also:

  • Variety
  • Flow
  • Balance
  • Structure

And even within the elements there are sub-characteristics, such as for Character:

  • Believablity
  • Interest
  • Consistency
  • Depth

And the same with all the other basics, they can all be broken down to deeper levels.

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I spend a lot of time looking for what I’m missing in my writing: action, description, clarity, flow. I also look in critiques for what others see as weaknesses: consistency, excess commas, murky wording. I’m trying to improve my writing, trying to make it better, stronger.

Like a musician, trying to improve his upper range to even his tone quality through the entire range. Or a pitcher working on his curve ball so that his fastball will be even more effective.

But there’s value in doing the opposite. In determining what you to best and emphasizing it.

  • Writing powerful interactions if you write dialogue well.
  • Building your story around tortured, complex characters if you are good at understanding and presenting them.
  • Offering inspired settings and descriptions of landscapes and peoples if that always reaches your readers.

Playing to your strengths. Like Shaquille O’Neal who never became a decent free throw shooter. Or a trumpet player not worrying about his high notes because his strength is in his improvisation and ingenuity like Miles Davis. In a jazz big band the highest notes are written for the lead trumpet but solos often go to the second or fourth trumpet, where the strongest improviser sits.

So, where do you sit? What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Effects to Cause

by Intermittent Rain ~ August 1st, 2019
  • Start with an event, a cause. This cause will result in an incident, but don’t decide on the incident yet.
    • the cause may be minor; Joe stops to look in the pet store window.
    • the cause may be major; Joe drives his car through a red light.
  • Determine a cause for that cause.
    • Joe lost his transit pass and has to walk
  • Determine a cause for that cause, perhaps bringing in additional characters

 

  • Consider bland, normal reasons for believably or to heighten realism, or, consider strange, bizarre reasons for comedy, surrealism, generating interest, or, consider themes or parallel tracks or levels or mixing these
  • Consider bringing in additional characters so you can create a new branch of incidents that will still tie into the ultimate incident. Someone close to the original character will make it easier to tie their effect back to the ultimate incident, but, they could also be strangers that fate has thrown together only they didn’t expect it until the incident occurs.