O | The Online Writing Workshop for SF, F & H Newsletter, March 2007 W | http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com W | Become a better writer! | - - CONTENTS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | - Workshop News: April writing challenge Market news Oddysey workshop 2007 Membership payment information - Editors' Choices for February 2007 submissions - Reviewer Honor Roll - Publication Announcements - Workshop Statistics - Tips & Feedback | - - WORKSHOP NEWS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | Earlier this month, the Online Writing Workshop celebrated its eighth year online. (A very few people were part of the beta-testing, which began in the fall of 1998.) Originally sponsored by Del Rey, the workshop attracted talented writers from the beginning. Jim Butcher won one of the first Editor's Choice awards for a Harry Dresden story that he had written as an exercise in plotting, and within months he had sold the first three books to Ace. Cecilia Dart-Thornton sold her Bitterbynde trilogy the next year, and soon after that Karin Lowachee won the Warner Aspect First Novel Contest. But those first success stories seemed few and far between, and there were months without any sales announcements at all. Now it's hard to find any place in the genre that OWW and its alumni can't be found. A Campbell Award winner, two Writers of the Future Grand Prize winners, plus Hugo and Nebula and Campbell and Sidewise finalists, plus familiar names in the ToCs of almost every Year's Best collection, with books from almost every publisher in the genre, with first publication and translations in a variety of world markets, and stories in all the pro and semi-pro magazines, and members who are still waiting to make their names as writers have made names for themselves as editors in the meantime. In some ways, OWW has worked just as we expected, as an incubator for new talent, where writers learn from each other while everyone improves. In other ways, it's succeeded beyond our boldest expectations, with more sales and publications than ever seemed possible those first couple of years. Ellen, Eric, and Charlie -- the folks who run OWW -- want to salute all the members who've made this success possible: the pro writers who keep giving crits and the new writers just learning the ropes, the people who've been here for years and those just giving it a trial. We understand that careers in writing come with no guarantees, no promise of success, and yet we're confident we'll see new successes this year. We can't wait to find out who it will be. APRIL WRITING CHALLENGE Getting From Here to There: One of the most difficult skills a writer has to learn is transitions, how to move from one piece of the story to another. Often times it's easiest to insert a scene break with a # and go on to the next scene. But every scene break is a chance for the reader to put your story or book down, and sometimes, following a section of exposition or lower tension, it's better to flow smoothly into the next scene without a break. There are tricks for creating effective transitions. In conversation, for example, there's the use of the non sequitur -- one character brings up something important to them that's outside the conversation to that point, changing its course and direction. Physical action can work the same -- Raymond Chandler's body-through-the-skylight theory. Knowing when to tell instead of show can work the same way: summarizing a transition for the characters in a sentence or paragraph, ripe with one or more telling details, can create an effective transition. It's even possible to create seamless transitions without breaks in tight third POV by having one character focus on an external object, moving through a neutral paragraph about that object, and having the second character pick up on the same thing, then moving into their head (Maureen McHugh, for example, does this in one of the climatic chapters of HALF THE DAY IS NIGHT). Your challenge this month is to write a story or chapter this month involving several different modes (set piece, exposition, action), physical scenes, or POVs with smooth transitions and no scene breaks. There are bonus points if you use the technique in a way that's integral to the meaning of the story, or in a way that increases tension and pacing. More bonus points for using more than one of the techniques above or for finding your own ways of making transitions. Stretch yourself this time. And don't be afraid to fail -- it's better to fail spectacularly and learn something useful, than to play it safe and never grow. Please don't post your challenge pieces to the workshop until APRIL first. Include "April Challenge" in your title so you can show off how fancy you are to all your friends. For more details on the challenges, check the OWW Writer Space at: http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/tike/tiki-index.php?page=Challenges ODYSSEY WRITING WORKSHOP ANNOUNCES SUMMER 2007 SESSION Since its inception in 1996, Odyssey has earned a place as one of the most respected workshops for science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Forty-six percent of Odyssey graduates go on to professional publication. The six-weeek program is held every summer on Saint Anselm College's beautiful campus in Manchester, NH. Odyssey's founder, director, and primary instructor is OWW Resident Editor Jeanne Cavelos, a best-selling author and former senior editor at Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, where she won a World Fantasy Award for her work. This year's Writer-in-Residence is Nina Kiriki Hoffman, author of novels, juvenile and media tie-in books, short story collections, and more than 200 short stories. Her works have been finalists for the Nebula, World Fantasy, Sturgeon, and Endeavour awards. Guest lecturers include Michael A. Burstein, Rodman Philbrick, Michael A. Arnzen, Elizabeth Hand, John Clute, and George Scithers. The workshop runs from June 11th to July 20th, 2007. The Odyssey website (http://www.odysseyworkshop.org) offers writing and publishing tips, a class syllabus, and articles by graduates about their Odyssey experiences. Information about the new Odyssey Critique Service is also available on the website. Prospective students, aged eighteen and up, apply from all over the world. Those interested in applying to the workshop should visit the website, phone/fax (603) 673-6234, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The application deadline is April 13th. MEMBERSHIP PAYMENT INFORMATION How to pay: In the U.S., you can pay by PayPal or send us a check or money order. Outside of the U.S., you can pay via PayPal (though international memberships incur a small set-up fee); pay via Kagi (www.kagi.com--easier for non-U.S. people); send us a check in U.S. dollars drawn on a U.S. bank (many banks can do this for you for a fee); or send us an international money order (available at some banks and some post offices). If none of those options work for you, you can send us U.S. dollars through the mail if you choose, or contact us about barter if you have interesting goods to barter (not services). Scholarship fund and gift memberships: you can give a gift membership for another member; just send us a payment by whatever method you like, noting who the membership is for and specifying whether the gift is anonymous or not. We will acknowledge receipt to you and the member. Or you can donate to our scholarship fund, which we use to fully or partially cover the costs of an initial paying membership for certain active, review-contributing members whose situations do not allow them to pay the full membership fee themselves. Bonus payments: The workshop costs only 94 cents per week, but we know that many members feel that it's worth much more to them. So here's your chance to award us with a bonus on top of your membership fee. For example, is the workshop worth five dollars a month to you? Award us a $11 bonus along with your $49 membership fee. 25% of any bonus payments we receive will go to our support staff, sort of like a tip for good personal service. The rest will be tucked away to lengthen the shoestring that is our budget and keep us running! For more information: Payments: http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/memberships.shtml Bonus payments and information about our company: http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/bonuspayments.shtml Price comparisons: http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/memberships_comparison.shtml | - - EDITORS' CHOICES - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | The Editors' Choices are chosen from the submissions from the previous month that show the most potential or otherwise earn the admiration of our Resident Editors. Submissions in four categories -- SF, F, horror, and short stories -- receive a detailed review, meant to be educational for others as well as the author. This month's reviews are written by our Resident Editors, Jeanne Cavelos, John Klima, Karin Lowachee, and Kelly Link. The last four months of Editors' Choices and their editorial reviews are archived on the workshop. Go to the "Read, Rate, Review" page and click on "Editors' Choices." Congratulations to the current Editors' Choice authors! Editor's Choice, February, Fantasy Chapter/Partial Chapter: GATEWAY TO ETERNITY - CHAPTER 1 by Janice Smith I like that Janice Smith's cross-genre chapter "Gateway to Eternity" starts in media res like any good epic story. Instead of spending a lot of time setting up her world and its characters, the reader is thrust immediately into the action of a car chase and is left gasping for breath. This type of beginning works very well in fast-paced novels with a lot of action by grabbing the reader's attention and pulling them along through the story. The problem here is that after a fast beginning, Smith slows the tempo down by going backstage at a rock concert. There is a lot of tension backstage as the band is waiting for the band member -- Lilli, who was involved in the opening chase scene -- to arrive, but there is little in the way of action. I think Smith has packed too much into this opening chapter. Expanding the car chase scene -- perhaps starting a little earlier by describing the scene of Lilli noticing the gentleman watching her instead of telling the reader about it -- might be a better use of the opening chapter and a way to keep the action at a higher level throughout. Then, Smith can move backstage at the rock concert in the next chapter. This gives the reader a chance to catch his/her breath and start to learn about the story. Smith gives rich, powerful descriptions of her character and settings. Here's an extended description of Zhara's costume: The silver headpiece that fit snug against her head covered masses of blond hair that matched her brother's thick tresses. When it caught the overhead light and reflected it back, the silver flames etched on her headpiece seemed to flicker and flare as if they were alive. Keiko shuddered. She'd seen them alive once. She'd expected them to devour the singer. They hadn't, but it was only a miracle that had saved them that time. The description gives a physical sense of what the character looks like and a piece of the characters' history at the same time. This is true throughout the chapter: in addition to giving the reader a sense of what things look like, Smith's descriptions work to develop the tension between the characters and their situation. Each character is concerned about the whereabouts of Lilli as they wait to start their concert, but it manifests in different ways. Early on, Smith is working to develop these characters in the mind of the reader. With each character, there is a little hint of the history of the group and their lives outside of the music scene. As it was, I had some trouble keeping the characters straight in my head. I had a lot of trouble keeping the characters straight. The characters all had similar descriptions. Perhaps this was due to the fact that the characters dress in costume to perform as a band, but it seemed like more than that. I also kept imagining the band KISS in my head from what the costumes sounded like, but I think that was me projecting onto Smith's writing, and not Smith's intention. I realize this is only an initial chapter, and more description is to come, but it felt like a lot of information at once. I don't know if all the people who make up the band that Lilli is in will be just as important as she is, but if so, they should almost each get their own chapter. This way Smith can have the reader spend some time with each character and learn about them. This wouldn't necessarily need to be a series of chapters about each character to start the novel. Think about how the television show "Lost" works. Even without using the flashbacks that "Lost" uses, Smith could weave in chapters about individual characters without disrupting the flow of the story. Of course, if Lilli is to be the main character, then all of this is moot. I'm not a big fan of depictions of music performances in fiction. Often it doesn't feel real to me. Smith doesn't spend a lot of time giving a detailed description of the concert, and that's a good thing in my opinion. I think unless you're describing an existing piece that readers would have access to in some fashion (i.e., the Mona Lisa, a specific recording, etc.) the interpretation the reader draws from your description most likely won't be the interpretation you want. If you have a fictional artist, or writer, or musician, it's better to leave more to the reader's imagination than less. As a writer, you won't be able to convey the image of the artist in your head to the reader in the way that you want, so it's best to let the reader create their own interpretation. Even though I think the chapter would be served better to be expanded and spilt into two separate chapters, I like that the chapter comes full circle. The reader starts with Lilli being tailed while she tries to drive to the concert and the reader ends with the man who was tailing her showing up at the concert to watch Lilli perform. This way the reader doesn't get wrapped up in the description of the concert and all its trappings and forget where the story started. It was obviously important that Lilli was being followed, and just as important that the person following her knew that she was different, so the ending of the chapter serves as a solid reminder to that fact. Smith's chapter starts with engaging action and moves into compelling characters with an interesting history. The reader is given just enough information to want to know more about these people and what they're doing. Even so, don't try to put as much information as possible, and instead spend a little more time developing the people and places with which the reader will be interacting. --John Klima Editor of _Electric Velocipede_ and the forthcoming LOGORRHEA http://www.electricvelocipede.com Editor's Choice, February, SF Chapter/Partial Chapter: ASHES CHAPTER 6B - PASSENGERS by Treize Aramistedian Though this month's choice is part-way through a novel, it stood very well on its own as an example of coherent, often exquisite writing. The imagery of the Italian villa was not overpowering but effectively evoked both ruins and grandeur, and the two characters -- Kuze and Urbino -- rang true: The man, wings of gray at his temples while his bald pate shone in the moonlight, tucked his hands in the pockets of his overalls, his sandals slapping his feet quietly as he shuffled along the cobblestones of the pathway. A pungent scent of wine surrounded him, and when he scratched the back of his head in that surprisingly disarming gesture of his, Kuze could see the traces of smashed grapes on the man's fingers. The same could be seen along his ankles, even in the evening. Dialogue flowed well in this first scene; the sense of history and regard between these men is self-evident. Considering I've come into the book in the middle, being able to execute that through consciously placed hints and a certain ease of interaction speaks well of the writing. Setting description conjured an exotic place and even time -- this future: The land smelled of grapes and tulips, and the dirt road wound a twisting pathway through cornfields into a gate formed by tall fir trees. But in between the leaves, Kuze could see the houses of the villa that the trees protected. Stormclouds hurried the dying sun under the horizon, but with its last rays, the sun touched the sloping tiled rooftops and reached tentatively towards the spire of the local cathedral. Be mindful of repetition of words or phrases, and the too-easy route of cliche in order to convey an image or emotion, as here: "With a flick of a light switch, the back porch was suddenly flooded with light, an island glowing in a sea of twilight." The numerous uses of "light" could be pared back. In addition, "Bits and pieces of memory, like shards of broken glass," is a common simile. Don't dilute the original, striking imagery with throwaway lines. This leads into the main issue of consideration for the author: the scene between Sibyl and Kuze. This entire section read as overwrought, melodramatic, and highlights one of the trickier aspects of writing novels or any fiction that relies on character interaction as dramatic turning points: how to convey strong emotion without going overboard. As a general rule of thumb, less tends to be more. Beware of grand sweeping statements like this: "Sibyl," he whispered. He felt Urbino and the Sister who had opened the gate fade away into the shadows, leaving Kuze with a woman he had loved and abandoned a long time ago. Or exaggerated feelings like this: "You are welcome, Prelate." The ice in her voice stung like no physical wound he had ever endured. Nearly every other line utilized rather overused images or overdramatic feelings. Even if the relationship was profound and dramatic to the characters, the reader should not get a sense of it being overwrought. The restraint or bitterness or hurt could be mostly conveyed through non-verbal or more subtle markers, by stating perhaps how far they might be standing from each other, or if they do not look at each other, or by the things he says which might be the opposite of how he truly feels. There is no way for me to itemize it all line by line, but be conscious of how much you are outright telling the reader and how much is implied. Implication tends to be more powerful in heavy emotional scenes; this way the reader draws their own conclusions without being hit over the head with them, and thus the scene becomes more realistic and effective. Coming from a far more subtle interaction between Kruze and Urbino, this scene with Sister Sibyl rang too loud and clashing, too obvious. All in all, however, the chapter did move things along rather well, had a great pace to it as far as action and dialogue, and introduced a new direction to the plot, for as much as I could tell, with the recruiting of Urbino for this new 'cause.' The characters and their situations are definitely interesting enough to keep a reader going. --Karin Lowachee Author of BURNDIVE and CAGEBIRD http://www.karinlowachee.com Editor's Choice, February, Short Story: "Twinklers" by Swapna Kishore This is a solid draft of a story set in modern-day India about family, faith, and the ways in which life can change -- forgive the pun -- in the twinkling of an eye. The elements that are already working here -- character, setting, the sense of the main character's estrangement -- are also the same elements that need to be strengthened in the next draft. In other words, you're on the right track: do exactly what you're doing, but do more of it. In "Twinklers," Deepali, who has recently lost her husband, must decide whether or not to let herself be changed by an otherworldly presence which manifests as small, floating colored dots. Those who accept the dots appear to be in communication with some kind of alien mind and they warn Deepali, repeatedly, that those who do not choose the dots will die on a day which is fast approaching. As Deepali hesitates, waiting until the very last moment to make up her mind, spending her time keeping a diary, both her mother and her son choose to be changed. And when, in the end, Deepali refuses the dot one more time, her mother and her son seem to be preparing to kill her and Deepali flees into the night. The reader is never told how they should think of the twinklers. Their motivations are never discussed, and Deepali never asks her mother or her son much of anything. Deepali, when she tries to research them, discovers that all newsstories, etc, have been pulled from online, or altered. As a reader, the map that fits closest for most readers will probably be the religious one: Deepali is being offered a choice. She can choose the little twinkling dots, which offer knowledge, shared purpose with other humans, and communication with a higher power, or she can refuse the dots and salvation. This fits pretty closely to the standard Christian model of how salvation works, but it probably works just as well with most religions, possibly even with most sports teams. Even the family dynamics fit onto a religious framework -- unless Deepali chooses the twinklers, her family will no longer be her family. Shared belief matters more than blood ties. And yet this story doesn't, at the moment, have much religion in it. We don't know what kinds of things, religious or otherwise, Deepali might have believed in, up until now. At the very end, Deepali is running away from some kind of new and powerful experience that most of the rest of the human race has embraced. So we need to know what Deepali has faith in. Her job? Her family? Good books? We don't know much about the tensions or connections between Deepali and her mother, and Deepali and her son, except that just as her mother and her son give up on Deepali once they've got the dots, Deepali also gives up on them. And the ease with which Deepali accepts that her mother and son are lost to her are a problem here. Why doesn't she try to wash the dots off of her son? Or something equally useless, but which a desperate mother might attempt anyway. Why doesn't she try to keep some kind of connection to him? Why does she seem more interested in keeping a journal of her past life than in trying to understand what's happened to her son? What does she fear for him? What does she hope? The same is true of the relationship between Deepali and her mother -- we need either to understand why Deepali accepts the estrangement, or that she might already have had some sort of estrangement from her mother. For example, both Deepali and her mother have lost a spouse, and Deepali's mother may not understand the ways in which her daughter's ways of coping are different. Perhaps Deepali has been distant from both her son and her mother, or perhaps she has clung to them while her son has grown distant. In any case, we need to see more of these family dynamics so that when Deepali loses the rest of her family, there's an emotional weight to the loss. Give us more complicated scenes -- more dialogue, more sense of history, more telling detail -- between Deepali and her family so we can see them, and through them, her, more clearly. Too much of the dialogue at the moment only advances plot without showing character, or filling in history or relationships. One large question: why is it that Deepali resists the dots, while everyone else we meet in the story succumbs to them? What is it in her character or history that makes her wait so long, and then, in the end, decide that death and separation from her family is preferable to assimilation? We need to know her better to understand her choice, and even once we understand her choice, we still need to see whether or not she is devastated by the loss of her mother and son, or whether it is almost a relief to her to lose the last ties she once had to her old life. A couple of smaller suggestions: Arjun, a secondary character and friend of Deepali's, should either be more important in the story, in terms of friendship or history, or else gotten rid of. At the moment, he seems more like a plot device than a human being, and not a very useful plot device at that. Secondly, although I like the hierarchy of colored dots, I'm not quite convinced by the climactic scene in which the green dot explains/shows to Deepali that she will be a leader, admired by her family. I'd be happier if she reads theories about the meanings of various colors in online discussion groups, where green ones are supposed to be leadership dots, reserved for people who have shown an intelligent sort of caution, and then gets a green one in her room -- or even a color which no one has ever described seeing before. Make the choice more complicated. Also: consider having the twinkleheads do something more significant than just falling into trances, although the trances are nicely spooky. Maybe they could be collecting certain, apparently meaningless things, or building odd structures, or behaving in ways that non-twinkleheads find absurd as well as ominous? As far as the prose goes, some of the dialogue falls flat. For example, when Deepali is explaining to her mother about the twinklers, her mother says, "That sounds confusing. What do you mean by trances?" There's not even a speech tag. Dialogue should never just be doing one thing -- it should advance plot, but it should also suggest character, or voice, or show us something about how Deepali and her mother relate to each other. There are more than a few places where pronouns are unclear. As a general rule, especially early on, use your viewpoint character's name rather than a pronoun at least two or three times so that the reader has a chance to get acquainted. When you have a scene with more than one character in it, if you jump from one character's name to a pronoun that refers to another character, you may be in danger of losing the reader -- even, sometimes, when the genders are different. And don't try to pack in description too tightly. For example, [Deepali] relaxes as she finds the usual quaint jumble of functional furniture and appliances and intricate ivory boxes, miniature paintings, and patchwork cushions. When I read this, I wonder what Deepali was expecting to find in her mother's house. "Relax" is a very odd verb choice. Why not just pause and describe the room instead of forcing a tension that isn't really present in the scene? And, when doing so, pick more telling details than "functional furniture" and "appliances". And finally, let's take a look at that opening paragraph: Deepali's sitting in the autorickshaw, clutching her handbag and portfolio of sketches. The wind's blowing her hair wild; she's always loved this dried-leaves smell and the profusion of pink bougainvillea, but today she's not noticing any of it, or even listening to the driver's grumble about Bangalore traffic. She's remembering the way Bordoloi's face changed during the meeting -- the blank look that replaced his usually bright eyes, the jaw slackening and that small dribble making its way down his chin. First of all, there's a lot of information here, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that the reader is already working hard. Almost immediately there's sensory detail, which could be a good thing, except that there's wind and then there's a smell AND there are flowers. Too much, too fast, and the connections between these things is still a bit sloppy. But then we find out that Deepali isn't actually noticing any of the things we've just taken in. So whose POV are we in? And why are we being told all of this, if the main point is that none of it matters? Here's the thing -- this technique could be effective, only it has to be done extremely well -- much better than, say, a simpler approach to setting the scene. And, by the way, keep on setting the scene. Give us more description throughout. Think about how _where_ something happens makes a story different just as _who_ a story happens to makes that story unique. That way, when Deepali flees at the ending, the reader will have some idea of the landscape and culture that she is either escaping into, or else running away from. Good luck with this. I enjoyed it a great deal. --Kelly Link Editor of TRAMPOLINE and co-editor of YEAR'S BEST FANTASY & HORROR http://www.kellylink.net/ Editor's Choice, February, Horror: "Singing the Round" by Krista Hutley In this story, Cassie discovers a garbage bag with dead kittens in the lake, and this triggers a worsening of her insanity, leading her to attempt to kill a neighbor and eventually to kill herself. The plot builds some strong suspense by raising questions in the reader's mind and offering little clues along the way -- about what caused Cassie's insanity, about what happened to her son -- that keep the reader engaged in the story, trying to figure out the answers. In that way, the story functions in part as a mystery. The description of the kittens' ghosts is another strength. Since they're invisible, these ghosts are a great challenge to describe, and Krista, you do a wonderful job of it. Their purring and romping and biting come through vividly. For me, this was the most enjoyable element in the story. I'm teaching Poe's "The Black Cat" in my Literature of the Fantastic course right now, and I really liked the echoes of Poe's story in this piece. I think you were very wise to write this in third person limited, for several reasons, one of which is that it keeps your story clearly distinct from Poe's. I understand that you wanted this story to tread the line where the reader isn't sure whether supernatural events are truly occurring or if the point of view character is simply insane. Some of my favorite stories do that. For me, this story was clearly in the camp of the insane narrator. I never believed the ghosts of the kittens were truly haunting her, or that her dead son was singing to her. I don't feel this is a weakness in the story, though. I enjoyed reading about the kittens' ghosts as hallucinations, and I wanted to see where her insanity would take her. The main weaknesses I see in the story are the ending and some awkwardness in the writing. The climax and denouement are the test of a story -- it's here that either all the elements come together with a powerful impact, or they don't. When I read the stories of developing writers, they often have strong openings and exciting middles, but very few have powerful ends. The ending of this story needs to show her insanity reaching its full expression, and it needs to provide satisfying answers to the questions that have been raised. I don't feel that everything in the story leads to her swimming out into the lake to kill herself. This feels sort of like a "placeholder" ending. I call an element in a story a placeholder when it doesn't quite seem to be the right element. Often, the author knows that something needs to go in a spot, but doesn't know exactly what, so she puts in something to hold the spot, a placeholder. A placeholder might be a character, an event, a setting, a scene, or pretty much anything. The problem is that usually the author isn't aware that she's put in a placeholder; she thinks this is the right element. That's why it's important to question yourself about every element in your story -- is this the best possible character/event/setting/scene for this story? Or is it a placeholder? Let's first look at the mysteries you've created and the answers you've offered. We've wondered throughout the story how Cassie's son died. Gradually we learn that he died in the lake, seemingly by reaching for something in the water and capsizing the boat. The end of the story suggests that he went out on the boat by himself, that Cassie wasn't fast enough to go with him. This is not a satisfying answer to the mystery. It seems a rather random circumstance, and it puts the blame on the son, whom we don't know. The idea of singing "Row row row your boat" is interesting but never seems to tie to the other pieces of the story. Another mystery is who killed the kittens. We don't receive any answer to that. It also seems there should be some connection between the kittens and her son; otherwise, it's just a plot convenience that dead kittens are in the lake. All these elements need to come together to create a unified, satisfying story. How could you do this? One possibility would be that her son killed the kittens. Perhaps he is a mean boy, and Cassie is in denial about that. She finds him with the dead kittens and flips out, decides they have to hide the bodies in the lake. While they're in the boat, he tries to open the garbage bag, so he can throw the individual kittens in the water to see if they'll float. She fights with him, the boat capsizes, and they both go in. He dies. Or perhaps Cassie kills the kittens. Perhaps she and her son find them and start to feed and care for them. Her son loves them and plays with them all the time, and Cassie is jealous. So she kills them and hides the bodies in the lake. Her son catches her doing this and swims out after the kittens, thinking they are still alive in the bag, and he drowns in the attempt to rescue them. Or the link between the kittens and the son may be more subtle. Perhaps both have been discarded by guardians who didn't want the responsibility, or were irritated by them. In that case, we may never know who killed the kittens, but we learn that Cassie found her son too much responsibility, or demanding too much attention, or crying too much, so she gave him a sleeping pill, put him in a garbage bag, and dropped him in the lake. There are many possibilities; you have to choose the one that carries the themes you want the story to reveal. But the end of the story, whatever it is, should reveal a striking and horrifying truth, one that feels both surprising and inevitable, and that ties together all the pieces of the story. Regarding the awkward sentences, I'll just give one example of a problem I saw several times in the story: She'd been canoeing for at least twenty minutes, feeling the burn in her arms that she never used to feel before when she went out regularly, when the oar, on the up draft, caught on something and dragged it to the surface. This is an example of a sentence that encompasses more than one idea. A sentence should be one idea. It may be a simple idea or a complex idea, but it should be only one unified idea. This sentence has three ideas: (1) she's been canoeing for 20 minutes and her arms are burning ,(2) her arms didn't used to burn when she canoed more often, and (3) her oar catches on something. This should be broken into three sentences to reflect the three ideas. The last one is the most important, and it gets lost because the sentence is so confused. Here's a possible way to rewrite it: She'd been canoeing for at least twenty minutes, feeling the burn in her arms. She used to be able to row all the way across and back with no pain. Now, though, each stroke was an effort. She dug the oar into the water and felt sudden resistance. The paddle caught on something, dragged it to the surface. I added sentence 3 as a transition between the ideas before it and after it. And I expanded the discovery of the garbage bag into two sentences to give more emphasis to that key event. Krista, you say this is one of the first stories you've written; for that, it's really an incredible and impressive piece of work. I hope my comments are helpful. I'll be interested to see the 20th story you write. --Jeanne Cavelos Editor of THE MANY FACES OF VAN HELSING and author of INVOKING DARKNESS http://www.odysseyworkshop.org | - - REVIEWER HONOR ROLL - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | The Reviewer Honor Roll area of the workshop recognizes members who have given useful, insightful reviews. After all, that's what makes the workshop go, so we want to give great reviewers a little well-earned recognition! If you got a really useful review and would like to add the reviewer to the Reviewer Honor Roll, use our online honor-roll nomination form -- log in and link to it from the bottom of the Reviewer Honor Roll page at http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/honorroll.shtml. Your nomination will appear on the first day of the next calendar month. The Honor Roll will show all March nominations beginning April 1. Meanwhile, here are two advance highlights from this month: Reviewer: Sylvia Volk Submission: The Filigree - Chapter 1 by Victoria Kerrigan Submitted by: Victoria Kerrigan Nominator's Comments: What makes a review stand out for me is whether I learn something from it; not just about the mistakes I've made in that particular piece but about writing in general. Sylvia's comments about the rhythm within sentence structure were an AHA moment for me. Great work, Sylvia. Reviewer: Ruth Burroughs Submission: REBELS Chapter 1: Fall of the Empire by David Beltran Submitted by: David Beltran Nominator's Comments: Ruth spent a great deal of time actually tackling the mechanics of my work, a job many reviewers don't do too often. I have to admit, I love being taken back to school, and Ruth did just that. Not only did she do an exceptional job focusing on the weaknesses in my writing, but she also suggested and showed ways that I can go about improving my work. Heh, she even went as far as pointing out additional reading material for me to review. Reviews such as these are priceless, and though I would not ask each reader to be as thorough as she was, it is of more value to the author when the reviewer is. I'd like to personally thank her for her efforts, and will definitely work out the time to return the favor. Here's hoping she makes the honor roll! Regards, David Beltran. Reviewers nominated to the honor roll during February include: David Cummings, Ruv Draba (2), E E, Victoria Kerrigan, Michael Keyton, Mary E Tyler, Marianne Van Gelder. We congratulate them all for their excellent reviews. All nominations received in February can be still found through March 31 at: http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com/honorroll.shtml | - - PUBLICATION ANNOUNCEMENTS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | We can't announce them if you don't let us know! So drop Charlie a line at email@example.com whenever you have good news to share. OWW Member Sales and Publications: Ilona Gordon, writing as Ilona Andrews, will see her first novel MAGIC BITES, published by Ace, available in stores March 27. Ilona says, "Thank you once again to everyone who believed in the manuscript and offered their advice, critique, and support: Charles Coleman Finlay, Ellen Key Harris-Braun, Jenni Smith-Gaynor, Hannah Wolf Bowen, Jeff Stanley, Larry Payne, Nora Fleischer, Mark Jones, Del Whetter, Steve Orr, A. Wheat, Betty Foreman, Catherine Emery, Elizabeth Hull, Susan Curnow, Richard C. Rogers, Aaron Brown, David Emanuel, Jodi Meadows, Christiana Ellis, Kyri Freeman, Elizabeth Bear, and Mary Davis. Without you, the manuscript would not have made it into print. I owe you more than I can express." Angela Boord's story "Evergreen" was chosen for BEST NEW ROMANTIC FANTASY, edited by Paula Guran. Amanda Downum's story "Smoke & Mirrors" was chosen for BEST NEW ROMANTIC FANTASY, edited by Paula Guran. Mark Fewell sold his story "Return Of The Troll-slayer" to _Sorcerous Signals_ (http://www.sorceroussignals.com/). Way Jeng, who was part of the OWW group at Clarion in 2006, has his second and third pro sales, with "Second Banana" sold to _Baen's Universe_ and "Time Tells All" to _Realms of Fantasy_. Sandra McDonald's "The Mountains of Key West" was chosen for BEST NEW ROMANTIC FANTASY, edited by Paula Guran. Bill McKinley is pleased to tell us that issue 27 of _Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine_ (http://www.andromedaspaceways.com) includes his short story "The Return of the Queen," which the workshop helped him polish in 2005. Joshua Palmatier's first novel, THE SKEWED THRONE, is one of the four finalists for the Baltimore Science Fiction Society's Compton Crook/Stephen Tall Memorial Award for best first novel of 2006. Sarah Prineas's "Jane: A Story of Manners, Magic, and Romance" was chosen for BEST NEW ROMANTIC FANTASY, edited by Paula Guran. (Is anyone else starting to notice a pattern here?) She also sold the German rights for her forthcoming trilogy in an auction to Bertlesman, with a release date in 2009 just like her American editions. This follows the sale of world Dutch rights, in a pre-empt, to Gottmer (Netherlands), Danish language rights, in an auction, to Borgen (Denmark), and world Spanish rights, in a pre-empt, to Random House Mondadori (Spain, with divisions in Mexico plus South America). Can you say "Wow?" David Reagan sold his story "One Choice, No Decisions" to _Renard's Menagerie_. He sends "thanks to the folks who critted it in November of 2004: Wade White, Gregory Clifford, Maria Zannini, Daniel Sackinger, and Zvi Zaks." | - - WORKSHOP STATISTICS - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | Number of members as of 3/19: 578 paying, 53 trial Number of submissions currently online: 380 Percent of submissions with 3 or more reviews: 72.63% Percent of submissions with zero reviews: 4.47% Average reviews per submission (all submissions): 4.84 Estimated average review word count (all submissions): 677.40 Number of submissions in February: 236 Number of reviews in February: 956 Ratio of reviews/submissions in February: 4.05 Estimated average word count per review in February: 834.26 Number of submissions in March to date: 142 Number of reviews in March to date: 608 Ratio of reviews/submissions in March to date: 4.28 Estimated average word count per review in March to date: 761.62 Total number of under-reviewed submissions: 51 (13.4%) Number over 3 days old with 0 reviews: 5 Number over 1 week old with under 2 reviews: 13 Number over 2 weeks old with under 3 reviews: 33 | - - FEEDBACK - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - | Got a helpful tip for your fellow members? A trick or hint for submitting or reviewing, for what to put in your author's comments, for getting good reviews, or for formatting or titling your submission? Share it with us and we'll publish it in the next newsletter. Just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll do the rest. Until next month -- just write! The Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror http://sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com email@example.com | - - Copyright 2007 Online Writing Workshops - - - - - - - - - - - |
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