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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » The Witch o' Words wants New Reading (Page 1)

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Author Topic: The Witch o' Words wants New Reading
TaleSpinner
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A new icon, a black witch's hat, blinked on my computer screen. I had no idea how it had gotten there; months had passed since I last installed new software.

Cautiously I clicked it. An image flickered onto the screen: an elegant woman sitting in a Victorian study. She looked up, her eyes twinkling in gaslight that illuminated her face, and the massive tome she had been reading.

"Hello, me dear," she said. "Wondered when you'd drop in. Cuppa tea?"

"Um ... yes," I said. "Excuse me, but ... who are you?"

"I'm the Witch o' Words," she said. "I read everythin'. I've read everythin' that's bin written, and everythin' that will be written."

Somehow--magically I suppose--a cup of tea appeared at my elbow. I sipped it. "I don't believe in witches."

"You will, me dear. I see the future--I know these things. You're goin' to offer to run another Sudden Fiction contest--"

"I'm ahead of you there," I said. "We're discussing short stories in another thread and now seems like a good time to--"

"--You can't be ahead of me. I see the future, remember? Anyhow, the new contest is why I'm 'ere. You need a fresh alter-ego to 'elp you run it."

"I do?"

"Yes," she said, with a firm thrust of her jaw. "I want some new reading from your 'Atrack colleagues. I tell you, me dear, there are some great stories lurking in their minds and hearts."

"But we're busy. We have RFM, the 13 Line Challenge--"

"No excuses." She wagged a finger. "Everyone needs to write new stories, all o' the time, to keep those creative juices flowing and make more material for their 'Einlein pipeline. Besides, I, the Witch of Words, will read 'em all. Now who would not want to write a story for me?"

"Well, I, er," I fumbled.

"I said I'd 'elp," she said, "and I 'ave some triggers ..."

She read from her tome.

"The triggers are ...
- an unusual aroma;
- a secret library;
- an invisible child. "

The words appeared on my screen, ready to cut 'n paste into this post.

"They're designed," she said, "to appeal to writers of SF or Fantasy. Now, all you have to do is open the contest."

"Okay," I said ...

Who's up for a sudden fiction contest?

(You'll recall perhaps that some of us find the discipline of writing a really short story helps us draft a new idea quickly, learn to write concisely, make each word count, and focus on what moves the story along. We started with the 1000 word 'flash' format, then gave ourselves a bit more room with the 2000 word 'sudden' format--while retaining the idea of writing something really short so that there's not too much of a burden to read, crit and vote on the stories.)

2000 words, triggers as above, by the end of Feb. Detailed rules as our previous contests http://www.hatrack.com/forums/writers/forum/Forum1/HTML/005084.html

In summary,

- 2000 words or less, using one or more of the triggers above
- we vote on first 13s and best story
- we commit to read and crit at least one story
- no sharing of stories for crits, to preserve anonymity of voting

If you're interested, please so indicate in this thread by Sat 17th Jan and I'll post detailed rules and so on over the weekend ...

Cheers,
Pat

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 11, 2009).]


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Troy
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I'll participate.
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satate
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I think I'll give it a try. I'm not big on short stories but I believe new experiences cause growth.

Do you have to include all the triggers?

[This message has been edited by satate (edited January 11, 2009).]


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snapper
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I walked in unannounced into Grannies home. She was bent over her computer screen. Man was I surprised to see what was on it.

"Grandma! What are you doing bugging Talespinner!"

She almost jumped out of her green-skin. "Ahhh! Don't do that! I thought the woodsman was coming to get me!"

"Grandma! I told you I wanted you to find out what is the deal with Zac. I haven't heard from him lately."

She buried her face in her hands and shook her head. "Zac isn't anybody real. I told you he's in his head."

"I know he's in his head, he's a computer implant..." I yelped when she smacked me behind my ear.

"I swear I really don't know how a head that is so empty could be so dense. Another thing, kiddo, quit calling me Grandma, I'm the Witch o' Words. I don't want Patrick James to think were related." She grabbed my arm and twisted it. "Oh, how sweet. You got a tatoo with my intials."

"No, you old bat, your looking at it upside down." I sniffed the air. "You making lunch?"

"Yep, care to join me? I made my favorite."

"Not roasted children again!"

She nodded.

"Grandma! You know how much I hate kids!"

I stormed out. Content on letting Talespinner deal with her on his own.


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Seraphiro
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I'm interested, but I want to know what you mean by "we vote on first 13s and best story." Do you mean that everyone shares their first 13 lines and we all vote on it? How does best story work then? Or are the two one and the same?
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TaleSpinner
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satate, we use at least one of the triggers, or more for extra kudos. The actual trigger words don't have to be in the story, they're supposed to just get fresh ideas going.

The benefit of triggers is odd, one I'm still getting my head around. It seems we're often more creative when there are constraints -- like triggers and a 2000 word limit -- than when totally free.

Seraphiro, substantially, yes, you're right. I'll post the details later, but the gist of it is that all the stories get sent to me, I strip them of author names (so we vote and crit without prejudging authors we know and love), post the first 13s and send them to everyone as an anthology. We vote for first 13s and best story, and our votes for first, second and third count for 3, 2 and 1 points respectively. I use a spreadsheet that Zac made for me. There are two winners -- best first 13, and best story; could be the same story but not necessarily.

snapper,I didn't realize that you and the Witch o' Words are related, but now that you mention it ...

The list on the fridge reads:

Troy
satate
snapper
Seraphiro
TS

The Witch o' Words tells me she wants at least 8 new pieces to read, because "It ain't much of a contest with less, me dear."

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 12, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 12, 2009).]


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Symphonyofnames
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I'm interested.
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annepin
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I'm in. Though I'm wondering how Zac and the Voice from Afar feel about this new development. N
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SchamMan89
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I'm in. Just a story that is generally science fiction and following a trigger?

~Chris

[This message has been edited by SchamMan89 (edited January 12, 2009).]


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annepin
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Troy
satate
snapper
Seraphiro
TS
Annepin
Symphonyofnames
SchamMan89

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dee_boncci
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I'll give this a try. Sounds like fun!
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Bycin
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Sounds like a great idea. Count me in. Now, where does one download this Witch program? I'd love some tea right now...
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philocinemas
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Yo-ho-ho! OI'm aboard Captain. OI suppose it would be a sacrilege if OI didn't try to retain my hat.

Troy
satate
snapper
Seraphiro
TS
Annepin
Symphonyofnames
SchamMan89
dee_boncci
Bycin
philocinemas


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shimiqua
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I want to play!
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tchernabyelo
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I'l give this a go.
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honu
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please sir, may I give 'er a go? count me in
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honu
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when and where do we send?
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Unwritten
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Troy
satate
snapper
Seraphiro
TS
Annepin
Symphonyofnames
SchamMan89
dee_boncci
Bycin
philocinemas
Unwritten

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Troy
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Don't forget tchern and honu.
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Icared
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I want to play too!
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TaleSpinner
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Anne, I haven't heard from the Voice from Afar since the ansible vanished :-( As for Zac, he's busy researching fractals right now and keeps disappearing on recursive walks; I might be able to get him to help with the spreadsheet--may need to, since we have more entrants than ever before.

SchamMan89, yep, just a story that fits the usual Hatrack genres (F, SF, dark) that was prompted by one or more of the triggers and runs to 2000 words or less. The idea is to get us generating fresh stories, and sharpening our writing skills with a short format--that's short enough not to be too onerous to crit.

The Witch o' Words tells me she's written to the elven paper makers, requesting more blank leaves for her tome; these she will use to anthologize our new stories--thats nice of her, isn't it.

(The anthology is used to e-mail all the stories to all entrants for voting and critting at least one story; it's never published anywhere so your first publication rights are preserved.)

(BTW, Bycin, if you want tea, just click the witch icon on your screen--it can be hard to see, especially if you look at it directly ...)

Welcome, everyone. I think the list on the fridge currently includes 16 names:

Troy
satate
snapper
Seraphiro
TS
Annepin
Symphonyofnames
SchamMan89
dee_boncci
Bycin
philocinemas
shimiqua
Unwritten
tchernabyelo
honu
Icared

If I've missed anyone, or if there are further takers, please let me know by either posting here or simply casting a spell in my direction ...

honu, and everyone, I'll post detailed instructions about where and how to send etc this weekend. Suffice to say, please do feel free to start writing now, and any of the usual formats will be okay (.txt, .doc, .rtf but please not Word 2007 because not everyone has the format converters). Also, we don't want to see the stories in the Fragments and Feedback area because that would destroy the anonymity. It's understood by everyone that these will be first drafts, not polished, and we'll all have the same disadvantage of not having had readers until we submit for the crits and votes.

Cheers,
Pat

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 13, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 13, 2009).]


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BoredCrow
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I left my spell casting software on my other computer.

Count me in!


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weekes15
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Well I read the starters and an idea jumped into my head, through my hands and now rests on my hard drive. I suppose since a draft is done, you might as well count me in.
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shimiqua
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Since we have so many takers, I suggest we split it up into two groups, then the top four stories from each group compete in a champion group to decide the winner.

I just worry that with eighteen stories, many will get missed, and won't get a crit, or the attention it might warrant. I'm excited though for everyone interested. Not everyone will want it to be competitive, but I think it will encourage everyone to bring their A game.
Just an idea. (And yes I am researching sports for a story, how'd ya know?)
~Sheena


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snapper
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I suggest we either read them all or we spilt into groups of five or four. We all commit to reviewing at least one in the group. The top winner of each group will face off with as many people that wish reading each one to determine the final winner.

One last thing. I suggest that the moderator assign us to review a group that our stories are not in. Looks like your work is cut out for you TS. AND don't skirt out of the voting because you are the moderator. You can judge fairly. I'll sick granny on you if you try that excuse again.


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TaleSpinner
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Sorry to have let this slide these last few days. I had an unusually heavy travel schedule which left little time for life.

Well, wow, welcome everyone. Here's the list on the fridge ...

Troy
satate
snapper
Seraphiro
TS
Annepin
Symphonyofnames
SchamMan89
dee_boncci
Bycin
philocinemas
shimiqua
Unwritten
tchernabyelo
honu
Icared
BoredCrow
weekes15

We get a very broad range of stories in these contests. I think we'd all hate it if a lesser story from one group beat a better story in another group because the better one was second or third in its group and didn't make the final. So I think we need each group to produce more than one winner for the grand final.

So how about this: three groups of six, each group producing two finalists? We crit one story in the semifinals groups, and one from the finals group--so we each crit at least two stories. (I'll divide the stories at random into three groups and make sure that the group you receive doesn't include your story.

And if a couple more people join us, we could make it three groups of seven, or even eight.

At the risk of incurring snapper's granny's wrath, while I will contribute a story, I'll not vote or crit myself so that I have the time to crit stories that don't attract crits, and thus everyone gets at least one crit. It would be nice if the winners would offer, as well, to crit stories that fare less well so that hopefully everyone gets more than one crit. (In the past most people have done several crits and I'm hoping that will happen again--good people, Hatrackers.)

I'll put up a proper invitation over the weekend in the challenges forum, complete with the detailed rules (same as before modified per this discussion.)

Now I'm off to check that the Witch o' Words has enough elven paper, and to persuade Zac to take a break from his Mandelbrot sets and make a fancier spreadsheet for me ...

Cheers,
Pat


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Gan
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I'm in so long as I can find the time. I'm curious about the 'triggers' though. What exactly do you mean by them?
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Sherpa7
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Includeme. I need the practice on writing something less than 150,000 words.
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tchernabyelo
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Gan - "triggers" (sometimes also known as "seeds") are story ideas. A little spark to feed the fire of the imagination. Rather than just sitting at a blank piece o paper going "I have to write a story! I have no idea where to start!", you get to have one (or more) little nuggets that you can start to wrap a story around. The story may end up wandering well away from the initial seed (I wrote a story once that had to include the word "bioluminescence". I did, then polished the story adn sold it; the polish included removing the reference to "bioluminescence").

So think about one or more of the triggers/seeds here - the unusual aroma; the secret library; the invisible child. Why is the child invisible? Is the unusual aroma what leads someone to find the secret library? What are the books in the secret library - who keeps it secret? Start wondering about these things and you may well find that, in time, a story strikes you.


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philocinemas
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In the past we did not have to use all of the triggers. Talespinner may have stated this above, but I did not see it in his or the witch's words. Could someone clarify whether or not all the triggers must be used?
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Tiergan
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quote:
2000 words or less, using one or more of the triggers above

Nope, just one or more.


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philocinemas
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Thanks, Tiergan. The words must have put a spell on me.
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TaleSpinner
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Yes, tchernabyelo and Tiergan are exactly right on the triggers.

Triggers fascinate me, for they enable us to explore the hidden caves of our creativity and find new, unexpected treasures.

I first discovered this when someone ran a contest here at Hatrack with some triggers which I found entirely uninspiring ... or maybe just difficult, for they seemed to take me out of the SF genre I felt comfortable learning to write. But I wanted to enter the contest and learn, so I carried the triggers around in my head until -- I never know when this will happen, but it always does -- an idea surfaced. A trigger had provoked in my mind the question, “What would it be like if ...?” The story idea was just a concept, and it was a genre I had never considered writing, so it involved research. As I did the research, more ideas came until I had a story. Now, a year later, it's awaiting its final revision before, at last, I start submitting it.

I believe this creative process is not unique to me. The constraints of closing date and trigger seem to stimulate previously unsuspected creativity. The trigger seems like a mental hook, or a lure, catching passing ideas until a story appears.

That's a big part of these contests, stimulating fresh stories. Especially if you're writing short stories, you need lots of them to succeed and finding ideas can be difficult. The triggers can tempt us out of comfort zones, jumping tracks to new genres and milieus. Then, of course, the short form encourages one to learn tight writing, no bad thing even in larger works.

You can interpret the triggers as broadly as you like.

An unusual aroma could be the smell of cinnamon issuing from a freshly-dug well; the acrid smoke of fire in a star-ship's engines; the stench of corruption at the King's Court.

A secret library could be the Grand Wizard's spell books, hidden from lesser magicians; the knowledge of an ancient alien race buried in myths and legends; a radio station's collection of rock 'n roll CDs that would be destroyed by a puritanical regime if found.

“Invisible” could mean hidden from view, an invisibility cloak, or a child disowned. “Child” could be a young girl, a dragon's hatchling, or a huge green alien we mistake for an adult.

Finally, the trigger words themselves don't have to appear physically in the story. As long as you can say to yourself honestly that the story came to you, however indirectly, as a result of one or more of the triggers, it's fine.

Cheers,
Pat

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 18, 2009).]


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TaleSpinner
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Here's how I propose we run this contest. This process is based on those we've used before, scaled up for more contestants.

(Sorry this post is so long, but it's necessary to cover all eventualities and be fair. I'll post short summaries of "what we do next" to make things easy as we go along.)

Triggers
========

- an unusual aroma;
- a secret library;
- an invisible child.

Rules
=====

Sudden fiction, 2000 words max.

Use one or more of the triggers to create the story's concept, theme, a central character or object.

Closing date for entries: 18.00 GMT Saturday Feb 28th (about six weeks from now)

Closing date for first round crits and votes: 18:00 GMT Sat March 14th (about two weeks to read, crit and vote the stories in your group)

Closing date for final round crits and votes: 18:00 GMT Sat March 21st (about one week to read, crit and vote the stories that make it to the final round--less than the two weeks before because everyone will want to know who won!)

Entries limited to 24 contestants (three groups of eight)

In the first round you crit at least four of the stories in your group.
In the final round you crit at least one of the stories in the final group.

Usual Hatrack rules for content apply. Please, no fanfic, no use of copyright stuff.

Your commitments:
=================

Write a story and send it in by closing date above
Vote on first 13s by closing date for first round, above
Vote on first round and submit four crits by closing date for first round, above
Vote on final round and submit one crit by closing date for final round, above

For extra kudos you can:
========================

Use all the triggers
Crit more stories
Help me crit the stories that don't fare so well
Suggest triggers for the next contest (two or three months after this one)

Submission Guide
================
e-mail your story in .doc, .rtf or plain .txt format to me by 18.00 GMT on the closing date above.

Please do not put early drafts of your story through the regular F&F threads for first 13s, for that would destroy the annonymity of voting.
(If you use Word 2007 please save in .rtf or an earlier .doc format because we don't all have the format converters for earlier versions of Word.)

In the e-mail subject line please put "Hatrack Contest--Story name--author's Hatrack name" in order to get past my spam filters.

In the body of your email please put your Hatrack name and your e-mail address.

On the first page of the manuscript (and nowhere else) put your name and the word count.

Voting and Critting process
===========================

Voting and critting is anonymous.

I'll create a fresh thread for first 13s and post them all there so we can vote on them. We all vote on the first 13s (because that doesn't take much work).

To crit and vote on the stories ...

I will delete names from manuscripts, assign them numbers, and reformat them only to the extent necessary for ease of handling. I'll allocate the stories at random to three groups, combine the stories for each group into one anthology file. I'll divide contestants also into three groups and send one anthology file to each group for first round votes and crits, and I'll make sure that a contestant isn't in the group that gets his or her story.

For the final round I'll make a fresh anthhology of the finalists and send it to everyone for final votes and crits.

(If you can't read Word .doc files let me know.)

In the first round you vote for your top three stories. I will tally the votes like this: three points for your first choice, two for your second, one for your third. You cannot vote for your own story.

I will not be voting myself so that I have the time and independence to manage things, and break ties if necessary.

In case someone doesn't vote, please include at the end of your 'vote-and-crit' e-mail your votes for the other stories, but not crits.

You must crit your first four choices and send the four crits together with your vote to me by 18.00 GMT on the voting due date above. (Votes without crits don't count.) If you don't vote I'll delete your story and redistribute the votes.

Then we'll repeat the process for the final round, but with just one more crit.

Please use this vote and crit format in your e-mail to make my administrative life easier:

--------------------------
Your hatrack name

First 13 1 -- story number
First 13 2 -- story number
First 13 3 -- story number

Story 1 -- story number
Your crit of story 1

Story 2 -- story number
Your crit of story 2

Story 3 -- story number
Your crit of story 3

Story 4 -- story number
Your crit of story 4

Story 5 -- story number
Story 6 -- story number
Story 7 -- story number
Story 8 -- story number

---------------------------

If any stories don't get at least three crits, I'll crit them and request the three winners to help me, so everyone should get at least three or four crits.

If for some reason you're unable to submit your story or vote on time, please let me know and we'll make due allowance.

If I don't hear from you by the due voting date I'll delete your story and redistribute the votes received appropriately.

Contestants
===========

Annepin
BoredCrow
Bycin
dee_boncci
Gan
honu
Icared
philocinemas
satate
SchamMan89
Seraphiro
Sherpa7
shimiqua
snapper
Symphonyofnames
TaleSpinner
tchernabyelo
Tiergan
Troy
Unwritten
weekes15

Currently 21 contestants. We're open for one or two more, to a maximum of 24.

===============
How's that? Any comments, questions? Dates okay?

Cheers,
Pat

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 18, 2009).]

[This message has been edited by TaleSpinner (edited January 19, 2009).]


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Troy
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Counter-proposal:

Closing date for entries 18.00 GMT Sunday Feb. 1.
Closing date for first round crits and votes 18.00 GMT Wednesday Feb. 11.
Closing date for final round crits and votes 18.00 GMT Sunday Feb. 22.


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philocinemas
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I would prefer TaleSpinner's schedule - otherwise it would be a "philobuster".
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TaleSpinner
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I'm assuming, Troy, the rationale for the counter-proposal is to make things happen faster and while I understand that a sense of urgency can, too, stimulate creativity, we've seen in past contests that some people do need a few weeks for one reason or another. IIRC the last con had an original due date of four weeks, and we slipped it to six in order to be inclusive of everyone's needs.

Also, I have a personal preference for Saturday due dates because that gives me Sunday to do the admin bits. Well, Zac does a lot of it, and I guess the Witch o' Words will help this time too, but I'll still need to supervise, or make tea, or something ...

Of course, there's nothing to stop contributors from setting a tighter personal deadline for first draft if that will help.

Cheers,
Pat


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BoredCrow
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Sounds great to me.

Pat, I'll volunteer to crit extra stories if the need is there.


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TaleSpinner
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Magic! Thanks, BoredCrow.

Pat


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Seraphiro
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I'll volunteer to crit extra stories too if there's the need. I have one question though. Are we supposed to crit 3 or 4 in our submissions, because in your template there is room for 4, and before that you said we should only include crits for our first three choices?

My question comes from this: "In case someone doesn't vote, please include at the end of your 'vote-and-crit' e-mail your votes for the other stories, but not crits."


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TaleSpinner
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Sorry, I copied and pasted wrongly from the previous contest. It's four crits in the first round, and one more in the final round. That's to give all the stories a decent chance of a crit in the first round, and to give the opportunity of a broader set of crits for the most popular stories in the final round.

And thanks, Seraphiro, for your offer to add crits if there's a need.

To keep us all jazzed about the contest, progress reports will be welcome in this thread, even if they're just "I have an idea but I'm stuck ..."

Cheers,
Pat


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SchamMan89
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Well, I've finally decided on a trigger, and I've got a really unique concept. The issue I'm having now, is finding a good way to showcase the idea in 2000 words.

There's my update =P


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shimiqua
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Wrote a good first draft, about 1600 words or so. I need to flesh it out a bit more, and fix some glaring grammatical mistakes, but I'm liking it.

It makes sense, which is better than the last one I wrote for one of these contests.

So bring it Peeps! I'll see you in the final round.

Can I get a What! What!

Yo.
~Sheena
(Sorry for talking smack.)


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annepin
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I plan on critting all the stories, though it might take me a while.

I'm mulling over the triggers, letting them stew for a while in the back of my mind. Maybe I'll try brainstorming.


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satate
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I have a story and have written about 1000 words. I'm really excited about this whole thing. This will be my first short story and I'm having fun writing it. My biggest problem is keeping it short and not letting it turn into a novel.
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dee_boncci
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Well, I have the germ of an idea and the first couple paragraphs written, but so far I'm working with only some images and haven't got too much in the way of a story worked out. Good thing there's still some time.
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philocinemas
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I have a story, but it is involving a little bit of research. I wrote the first paragraph, and hopefully, I'll start the body within the next couple of days.
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Tiergan
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Yep. Got the story planned, beginning, and end, need to outline it tough as I have never written a story as short as 2,000 words, want to make sure the middle doesnt put it over. I will need to keep myself in check. Funny, had the trigger i wanted instantly. Went out to plow out of the latest snow storm and the rest came. I am now really please with the intended result.
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TaleSpinner
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Thanks Anne for your offer to crit all the stories.

Pat


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TaleSpinner
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The Witch o' Words smiled. With a huge cup of tea at her side, she studied her tome. Fresh creamy pages had arrived from the elven paper makers and she had bound them into it. Leafing through the new pages slowly, she peered at the sketches of character, wisps of plot and notes on backstory which swirled and vanished and reformed upon them. She paused, read a complete first draft of a story and grinned. On another page, words danced as their author revised the text. She watched until they stopped moving. "That version's better," she murmured.

Several pages were blank, and she thought about the writers whose stories they soon would bear. "Shall I cast creative spells towards them?" She sipped at her tea, then shook her head. "No. They're Hatrackers. Creative writers one and all. Ideas will come to them." She nodded to herself, took another sip of tea, and smiled.


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