So I gave in and submitted another entry to the Writers of the Future contest. I wasn’t planning on doing so, but the fact that my first entry made it up onto the scoreboard has given me what may be false confidence that I can top myself. But a single rangefinding strike, no matter how visible, is still only one data point. It’s impossible for me to know whether I’ve adjusted correctly for windage until I see further results.
Out of curiosity, I recently read an article that purports to delineate the characteristics of a strong WotF entry (after I entered in December, of course). I laughed at how badly I’d handicapped myself. First, because trace elements of fantasy don’t even appear in my story until right toward the end. Second, because the story is set in a very specific historical time and place—one which I know only through Internet research. Third, because the coordinating judge is partial to a “traditional Freytag triangle with three Try/Fail Cycles” … whatever the heck that is. Basically, I’m lucky the thing even got read.
So did I buckle down and do my due diligence and pick the brains of successful entrants and research plot structure and map out an optimally-calibrated story specimen on a grid? Of course not! That’s not how I write, and it’s not how I got where I am. Why on earth would I switch gears now?
What I have done this time is to create original content for inclusion in my second entry. I have neither the time nor the inclination to write original stories simply to enter them in contests, but in order to continue cannibalizing “Seed of Glory Sown in Sorrow” I had to do some retrofitting. Last year I tossed Book Two’s overture in the WotF hopper because it was the only chapter in my series that was entirely self-contained. This time, my selection made more of a ripping sound upon extraction from its surroundings. This time, I’d turned to the overture from A Sea Sought in Song.
If you’ve read it, you know it’s full of questions. I originally wrote it as an exercise back when I was first fleshing out the character of Ilina Lightkeeper, without ever intending it to see the light of day. It’s a petri dish of thematic ambiguity from which the whole novel burgeons. Yes, it has an arc. But it was never intended to stand alone.
So I went to work. First I had to figure out which threads could be left to dangle and which needed tying off. Turned out there were two that felt out-of-place sans closure: Forkbeard’s relationship with Ilina, and Ilina’s relationship with her father. A Sea Sought in Song explores both of those relationships in detail later on, and its overture—”To Face the Night”—concerns itself primarily with the Ilina/Rikard dynamic. Nonetheless, I had to bring those supplementary relationships to some kind of conclusion if I wanted to refashion the overture into a self-contained narrative. They needed little arcs of their own.
And hey, you can decide for yourself whether I succeeded, because I ended up liking my additions enough to include most of them in the story proper. So if you click through to the initial chapters available on my website, you can read a version of “To Face the Night” that’s nearly identical to my WotF entry. I think it’s a strong contender, but what do I know? After all, I’m not even familiar with the traditional Freytag triangle, lol.
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