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Friday, April 22, 2011

The Friday Challenge — 4/22/2011

This week in The Friday Challenge:

Guy Stewart dips into his Pensieve to share a story of being sucked into an unfamiliar genre the fortuitous convergence of events that kick-started his career in adolescent fiction. • Join the discussion...

Bruce Bethke muses on companionship, confesses a fondness for long-haired brunettes, and virtually guarantees he'll never be a Guest of Honor at DemiCon. • Join the discussion...

Kersley Fitzgerald tracks down the object of Henry Vogel's lifelong desire, complete with visual aids. • Join the discussion...

Kersley Fitzgerald also picks a bone with a successfully self-published author and suggests that "self" wasn't quite as effective in the role of editor, while Bruce Bethke responds with a challenge to spot the sloppiness inherent in the system. • Join the discussion...

All this and more, as Americans celebrate a slightly-delayed Render Unto Caesar Day and the inmates discuss the view from their respective places in the asylum.

And now for this week's Friday Challenge.

Wait... what? A genuine, honest-to-goodness Friday Challenge? Announced on a Friday? With the intent to judge?

All right, hold your horses a second. (Alternately, "Cool yer jets." Bat Durston has been known to use the two phrases interchangeably.) Let's all take a deep breath and a step backward, as we remember something important: The Friday Challenge operates under this name for a reason. It's not about any one individual, or a troika of excellent judges, or even the assorted publications any of our names might grace... it's about you, and the interplay we share.

So what is The Friday Challenge? We are a gathering of friends, drawn from a disparity of backgrounds, interests and ability. From time to time we serve as a sounding board for one other, as well as a safe place to vent, a gathering in which to celebrate, and a company of shoulders upon which to cry... but we also share a dirty little secret. Ready? By joining us, you are not making any declaration of creed or ideology aside from the assurance that you either are, or long to be (or even share a deeply ingrained relationship with!) a writer.

There aren't any "You must be this high to ride the rides" signs here. Never written a word? No problem. Using your rejection slips for toilet paper? Glad to have you. Published on a weekly basis in the finest glossies? Come on in. Try not to step on the toilet paper.

And now — now that we've reintroduced the concept, welcomed the newcomers, and turned to face the sunrise — it is time for this week's Friday Challenge.

As a writer it is always important to hook the readers, but readers will generally allow at least a few pages before deciding whether you've adequately set the hook. As a writer hoping to sell anything to a professional market, you must hook an editor. Editors are much bigger fish, and they've seen all the fancy bait.

Let's assume you are submitting to a professional market, and the market requires a hard copy submission in standard manuscript format. That means you'll have, on average, somewhere between 90 and 120 words in which to make a valuable first impression, and convince the editor to turn the page. (Realistically, very few editors are so callous that they would immediately toss a manuscript with a dull first page. It's been known to happen, though.)

This week I am playing editor. Not only do you have to hook me in 120 words or less, your character(s) and/or situation(s) must be believable. Write as much as you want, but for the purposes of this challenge you must cut your entry off after a maximum of 120 words. Make me need to turn the page.

Anyone can enter, except for me. You may enter as many times as you wish, but each entry must be independent of the others. You are not allowed to supply a more lengthy setup in 120-word chunks, and you are not allowed to build on anyone else's setup.

Everyone is asked to vote, and to say a few words about what they liked, and why. Or to say a few words about what they disliked, as the case may be; by submitting an entry, you implicitly agree to accept criticism, because there will probably be some handed out, and no one is immune. When voting, please rank a work as either "0" (not so good), "1" (not as bad), "2" (could have been better) or "3" (pretty good stuff!). If you give either a "0" or "3" vote, feel free to argue in support of your reasoning.

For the purposes of this challenge I will be serving as High Territory Marker. (I didn't make up the title! Blame Guy Stewart.)

As of now, we are playing by the loosely enforced and slightly modified rules of The Friday Challenge. All entries are due by 6 AM Eastern time on the morning of Friday, 29 April 2011. A winner will be declared by the evening of Sunday, 1 May 2011.

Oh, there is one more thing... but it is the most important! Have fun. Always have fun.
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