I hope you all enjoyed Dr. Hake’s essay last week! If you didn’t get a chance to read it, I would definitely recommend looking it over. It’s tightly packed with invaluable insight you won’t want to miss, and quite readable. It might seem a bit long, but I promise you it’s worth it.
Anyway, I think it’s time for me to answer a couple of questions posted on the blog several days ago. Celerina asked:
Can you please elaborate on the contest guidelines requiring self-editing? What sort of helps would I be allowed to receive from my parents or friends that would not violate this guideline?
It’s a somewhat tricky question, because there’s often a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not. In some circumstances you just have to use your discretion. It is fine for a friend or parent to proofread your manuscript for technical mistakes (typos, glaring inconsistencies, etc.). But the story itself has to be your own: no one can write it for you. No one else can decide your plot, invent your characters, or structure your story. Friends and parents can give minor suggestions here and there, but try to keep their advice to a minimum.
I wanted to ask a question about one of the hints.
“2. Edit and revise several times before you submit. Clarity of style and grammatical excellence are both a “must.””
I just don’t quite understand this. If these things are “musts” then why have many of the winning entries of past years not shown this. I just don’t understand. If you don’t really judge by this what do you judge by? Thanks so much for organizing this contest, I always enjoy it.
Ouch. Hmm…that’s definitely worth looking into. Thank you for raising the point! To clarify, though, let me say that clarity of style and grammatical excellence are “musts” in that they are highly preferred, and they definitely do matter to the judges. However, the stories are judged for other qualities as well – originality, strength of theme, realism of presentation, and so forth. If some winning entries have not always exhibited grammatical excellence in the past, then they must have excelled over other entries significantly in some other area. However, winning entries are almost always more grammatically accurate than other entries: a few typos won’t wreck your chances, but consistent violation of the basic rules of grammar will do so.
And finally, several people have inquired whether historical fiction is an appropriate genre for this contest. This answer is: Yes. :-) You may write in any genre you choose.
And now, I have a question for you. Consider the following quote:
"Poorly written novels - no matter how pious and edifying the behavior of the characters - are not good in themselves and therefore not really edifying." - Flannery O'Connor, Mystery and Manners
Do you agree? Disagree? Can you think of any specific books that might fall under O’Connor’s condemnation here? (I can.) We’ll touch on this next week, but in the meantime, what do you guys think?