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Sunday, November 20, 2011

And the winner is...

In a traditional limbo contest, you keep lowering the bar until only one person can shimmy under it, without falling over or bumping the bar. In a non-traditional limbo contest, you start with a bottle of baby oil, a fifth of tequila, and... uh, never mind.

If any of you are able to take a second look at your own work, and see ways in which to improve a concept so that it can be more successfully developed, the effort will be worthwhile.

Those of you who vote are allowed to assign a range of “0” to “3” points, per entry. Since challengers may not vote for their own stories, a bonus of 2 points is given to a participant's highest-ranked work, if that participant also takes the time to numerically vote on the other entries.

Official judges receive a 30 point allocation, to assign as they see fit. The only restriction is that at most, only half of those points may be given to any single entry (unless there is only one entry, in which case the silly restriction is lifted!), and there is no requirement for a judge to use the entire 30 point allocation.

J.M. Perkins is about to put on the “Editor Hat.” It's sort of like the “Sorting Hat” they use at Hogwarts (“In the first draft, I was written as a set of ‘Sorting Earmuffs.’”), but a little less sarcastic.

Limbo! (a.k.a., "How Low Can You Go?")

“First Novel, First Chapter (First Section)” by Jack Calverley

J.M. Perkins: Jack, thank you so much for participating: you get all the points! I know it can feel like a hollow victory when nobody else participates; but you've obviously put a lot of effort and thought into reworking your First chapter. You've obviously improved, and what I think is most interesting is how your process has changed in the _ years since you first wrote these words: ie your use of a synopsis and the change in tense.

xdpaul: 1 / Jack Calverley: thanked xdpaul for feedback!
J.M. Perkins: 30
Participation bonus: 2
Total: 33


“There can be only one.” That would make a good movie quote, wouldn't it? Only one entered, so that one won, but the victory is no less deserving of recognition simply because everyone else was slacking off:

1st Place: 33 points — First Novel, First Chapter (First Section)” by Jack Calverley

Congratulations, Jack Calverley! As a recent winner, you have the option of proposing next week's challenge, scheduled to be announced the morning of Friday, 25 November 2011, or of offering a chance to wear the “Editor Hat” to a challenger of your choice.


So what was the lesson of this challenge?

J.M. Perkins: I find, that while I had an awesome imagination for world and critical technologies/magical elements back in the day, I didn't really understand character; probably still don't. I can revisit the world the spun about in my young head, but I can't bring myself to retell the same old stories “peopled” with person shaped facsimiles pushed around by the needs of the plot I'd cobbled together to show off whatever “gee whiz” element I wanted to demo.

Which brings me to my next point: without knowing it, I kinda, sorta, maybe made an impossible challenge. Because we are not merely better writers (hopefully), we are better story tellers and so rewriting one section alone misses the point. Or — barring any sense of improvement — we are different writers, different story tellers. Some common threads remain but I — at least — am not telling the stories I used to tell. Improvement in the nuts and bolts of prose is well and good, but the bigger question is how we approach character, pacing and the thousands telling details to inspire empathy and concern in readers for the shit we make up.
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