Review and more: Paul Harland Prijs 2013

This week I dropped up to Holland to visit the Paul Harland Prijs Day, 2013, held in Delft on Saturday, Februari 9 and organized by Martijn Lindeboom.

To see what is going on in the Netherlands. To meet old friends. To see people I only knew online and/or from mention.

This is a quick write-up. If errors and misinterpretations: guilty, not intended, let me know!

Short

It was worth it. To see Paul van Leeuwenkamp and Mike Jansen and the core crew of Holland SF was maybe the biggest reward for old-times sake. To meet Boukje Balder, Rochita Loenen Ruiz, Grayson Bray Morris, Martijn Lindeboom, Jurgen Snoeren, Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Paul Evanby, Peter Schaap and Floris Kleijne was wonderful.

It touched me emotionally. It made me happy to see the changes since 2003 and 1995, the last times I popped my head in.

Panel and workshop

During the same time-slot there was a panel in “room 1” and a writer-workshop, held by Thomas Olde Heuvelt  in “room 2”.

I attended the workshop and missed the panel. The workshop was fun, well given (in Dutch) and short.

The panel — apparently — was very entertaining and gave a lot of info people I spoke appreciated.

In all: fun and awesomeness.

Dinner after

Most people left. Some stayed. We ate. We talked. We left.

The winners

The top 3 are (with my best translation of the titles):

  1. Thomas Olde Heuvelt — The fish in the bottle
  2. Linda Mulders — One second wiser
  3. Jurgen Snoeren — Find/search/seek me between the stars

The W.J. Maryson Talent Award for the best story of authors younger than 30 in which most raw talent comes forward, awards 500 euro and a  talk with an editor of professional publishing house: Meulenhoff Boekerij (also sponsor of this award). The winner is: Sander de Leeuw with: Corvus Ultimus.

The NCSF Premie for the highest ending SF story is sponsored by the “Nederlands Contactcentrum voor Science Fiction” and is 150 euro. This has been awarded to: Jürgen Snoeren with the story “Zoek mij tussen de sterren”.

The Feniksprijs, for the writer who emerged strongest since the previous yearn 2011 and sponsored by Fred Rabouw with 35 euro is won by: Jen Minkman.

Translation from Dutch to English: a fund

Following my rant on: “Why do we stop at the Dutch Border?” in my first open letter to the Dutch SF/F scene and my idea on “we should have an European platform showing European writers” I decided — while writing this post — to donate money and hire a translator to have — at least — ALL price-winning stories by Jurgen, Thomas, Linda, Jen and Sander translated into English: to put them online somewhere for the world to see.

Putting my money where my mouth is.

Amount to be announced. After talking to at least 2 possible (and/or native English) translators. If you feel about this the same way (AND are willing to donate as well) ping me.

There! (Let’s make this shit happen.)

Publication

All (top three?) winning stories will appear in “Wonderwaan” in Dutch, a magazine dedicated to Dutch-language short stories

Review: the now

Right now, Dutch Sf and Fantasy has a solid basis. Even if some of the pillars are wobbly and the usual gossip goes around about “Publisher X being so and so, with editing meh blah blah blah” and “person Y probably blah blah blah”, here is what has changed since 2003.

  1. A dedicated day for Dutch SF/F writers — In the past, the King Kong Award and the Millenium Prijs were a side-event in the yearly NCSF SF and Fantasy convention, held in some shabby and costly Dutch 4 star-hotel.
  2. At least 5 semi-pro publishers — Including Verschijnsel, the Weird Books series (Fantastische Vertellingen) and Silverlicht. Allowing you — as a writer — to be edited and published with a book that looks like a BOOK.
  3. A quarterly SF/Fantasy “stories only” magazine — Called “Wonderwaan” and running for 10 years
  4. The chance to be picked up by a publishing house — In the case of the Paul Harland Prijs: “De Boekerij”.
  5. Three separate prices next to the top 3 awards in the PHP — The Phoenix price, for strongest emerging writer, the W.J. Maryson price for the best young talent and the NCSF price for the best SF strory. Each connected to either money or more guidance.

Review: 2003 and earlier

In 2003, was the last time I showed up, mainly because the whole event around the award was sadness filled with misery.

Back then the Millenium Price (which is the same thing under another name) was part of the NCSF SF and Fantasy Convention held yearly in some place in the Netherlands, in some depressing overpriced and underwhelming 3 or 4 star hotel with ghastly greyish-something carpets and low-ceiling conference rooms.

Until 1990: general, passive nothingness

The award-section was a one-hour event planned in the total program with the announcement of the top-30 stories by story-title, name and ranking, snippets from the jury-reports read by the specific jury member and then (drum roll) the unveiling of the top 3 and the winner.

Once the award-thingy was done, the people would stand (moving chairs) have some brief exchanges (“congratulations with your Nth position” “thank you, you with your Xth”) and on you went to another item on the program, or back home.

Your story then — might — appear in NCSF or SF-Terra or one of the Belgium magazines if you cared to send it. If you did not, nobody would protest.

Babel: 1993 and up — Your story! In a book!

In 2003, publishing house Babel (now Verschijnsel) already published the top 10 or top 20 in three separate books: “Black stars” and “Black souls” and “Black arts” for the SF, Horror and Fantasy stories, doing this from 1993 on, with only a few gaps in a period of over 10 years.

Before that, in 1991, Roelof Goudriaan, as one of the first, published a King Kong Award specific collection on the WorldCon, held in the Netherlands.

Ganymedes

Before that time, until 1987 (if memory serves me) the only way to be published professionally as a Dutch SF and Fantasy was in the yearly “Ganymedes” collection of Dutch short stories, published by A.W. Bruna and edited by Vincent van der Linden.

1990: Rakis, Ator Mondis, the rise of writer-centric publications

Writer-centic publications arised from 1990 on. Jos Weijmer was the first with a quartely stories-magazine called “Rakis” for the very reason that there were NO Dutch, writer centric publications for Dutch (and Belgium) writers. Rakis only appeared for one year, with four issues, but set into motion the birth of “Ator Mondis” in 1991 (published and edited by me, produced by Mike Jansen in year 2 and discontinued in year 3), Publishing house “Babel” the year after, by Roelof Goudriaan and Mike Jansen and “Wonderwaan” by Jaap Boekestein and Marcel Orie in the early 200onds.

Conclusion

Things move slowly. I still believe not enough is happening for Dutch writers, but at least things are still moving forward.

And it was a good day!

Advertisements

Writing: Review and feedback

Hi and welcome. There are two possible reasons you got on this page:

  1. Stumbling upon it – Either via Google, my other posts or some referral by someone else
  2. I gave you the link – Beacuse I asked you to review one of my stories. And this post explains to you how you can help me improve my work

In the first case, replace “I” for “the writer”. In both cases: read on.

I did this shit before

It is possible that you already wrote many reviews on stories before I asked you. Awesomeness! See if this format applies to you.  If it does, super! If you use your own format: good as well.

Three reasons why I need your help

  1. Moving it from mediocre to good – A story needs proofreaders to weed out the shit. Any feedback helps to improve the story. Feedback from you make the difference from “mediocre” to “good” and from “good” to “better” and “awesome”.
  2. Cutting the fat – Ever skipped pages and chapters in a book because they were boring? That is the fat. Help me find it so I can cut it.
  3. Exposing the blind spots – I forget things. I put things in that are not necessary. Where I think things are obvious the reader is like “!!???”

Why the format?

  1. Overview – It gives em a good and quick overview on the things that are good and the things in the story that suck and that needs change
  2. Short – Reviews of stories can easily grow to documents of the same lenght of the story itself. This helps you to keep it short
  3. To the point – You can be very short in your comment and still be of great help. By giving me the good, the bad and your idea of the main story elments I can see where I failed and where I was successful
  4. Time – In most cases, you will probably not have 4 hours to give me feedback. 30 minutes is more likely. The “type 1” review allows you to give me all I need in below 60 minutes.

Additional info

I included three items:

  1. Starting points / overview – What is most useful in your feedback? Do I need feedback on typo’s and spelling errors? What kind of wirting do I try to do? Read it there.
  2. Five reasons why you might not like my work – Why would you not like my stories? Well: here are five reasons to start with
  3. Five reasons why you might like my work – Why might you like my stories? Five reasons.

Type 1: Basic review

A basic review is the simplest, quickest and most direct form of feedback. It is short and can be done in 30 minutes or less. It contains the following basic information:

  1. Is it your genre? – Would you read the story normally? Why? Why not? What would you read instead?
  2. General impressions – What is your general impression about the story?
    1. Readability – Was it readable? Did it take effort or not?
    2. Depth – Is the story a “deep” story? Did it make you think or did it do nothing to you?
    3. Topics – How did you like the topics and the the way these topics were addressed?
  3. Three – Mention minimally three of each. More is OK but not mandatory. You can keep it short. See the example review.
    1. Main story elements – What do you think it is about? What themes are covered? What are the main questions asked in the story?
    2. Things that worked for you – What did you really like about the story? What hit you? See for inspiration: “Five reasons why you might like my work”
    3. Things that did not work for you – There are many reasons why you might not like what I wrote. See for inspiration: “Five reasons why you might not like my work” What hit you most? Why did you not like it?
  4. Bonus – Not required, but nice to have
    1. Things that can be worked out better – What needs more attention? What is missing? What would you like to read more about?
    2. Things that can be removed – What can be removed from the story?

Example review

This example review is short. It has some repetition, which is OK.

Genre

I normally read fantasy and crime novels. The story is SF and not really my genre.

General impressions

Readability 

In most cases I had to make an effort to stay in the story. Sentences are too long. There is too much stuff that is not relevant and I still have to read through.

Depth 

I was bored most of the time. The story seems to have no depth at all but is very cliche instead. No new insights, no mind-blowing stuff.

Topics

I did not like the way the topics were handled. The death of a friend seems to me experienced in a different way. I did not like the characters and how they perceived things and I do not think the writer intended me to think they are either assholes or whiny bitches.

Main story elements

I think the story is about death and how people handle death (of someone else). I think it is also about family and friendship. I think the main question is “how random is an accident when you believe someone deserves it?” and “when does that become a sort of wishful murder?”

Things that worked for you

It is hard to say what I liked. (See: what I did not like.) The idea itself is compelling. I kind of liked the descriptions on the environments and the way actions were described.

Things that did not work for you

Sentences are too long. I do not believe in the characters or their motivations. The dialogues are very stiff. The way the people respond to the death feels unreal, fake.

This is just a short example. It is up to you what you want to make out of it.

Type 2: Extended review

The extended review probably takes about 2 hours to write. This is if you really feel inclined or when you offered to give me an in-depth review.

  1. Is it your genre? – Would you read the story normally? Why? Why not? What would you read instead?
  2. General impressions – What is your general impression about the story?
    1. Readability – Was it readable? Did it take effort or not?
    2. Depth – Is the story a “deep” story? Did it make you think or did it do nothing to you?
    3. Topics – How did you like the topics and the the way these topics were addressed?
    4. Main story elements – What do you think it is about? What themes are covered? What are the main questions asked in the story?
  3. Per subject – Mention minimally three of each. More is OK but not mandatory. You can keep it short. See the example review.
    1. Subjects – How did you like [fill in the subject]? Exciting, gripping? Boring? Did it suck? Was it nice?
      1. The writing 
      2. The story 
      3. The characters
      4. The ideas
    2. Describe per subject
      1. Things that worked for you – What did you really like about the story? What hit you? See for inspiration: “Five reasons why you might like my work”
      2. Things that did not work for you – There are many reasons why you might not like what I wrote. See for inspiration: “Five reasons why you might not like my work” What hit you most? Why did you not like it?
      3. Things that can be worked out better – What needs more attention? What is missing? What would you like to read more about?
      4. Things that can be removed – What can be removed from the story? What is excessive, not needed, simply boring?

Using the document for feedback

Feedback in the Word document

The process is quite simple: you mark what you do not like and add in red why you do not like it.

I will then take those remarks and feedback and try to make the best out of it.

Starting points/overview

The story you will read is probably still a draft version. Meaning that things will be rewritten and changed afterwards. Here some pointers:

  1. What is most useful in the your feedback? 
    1. Stuff that did not work for you – I removed most of those things already, but I have blind spots. Be brutally honest. Point it out to me.
    2. Stuff that worked for you – What worked? What made you laugh? Did you cry? Did it do something for you? Was it enjoyable?
    3. Is it your genre? – Stories can fail for you because you simply do not care about the content. It is possible you simply do not give a fuck about the topics I write about. Tell me. Its OK.
  2. Typo’s/spelling errors? –  Not relevant yet. Here is why
    1. Known problem – There will be — on average — 10 to 20 spelling errors per page. Only mention the ones I consistently have wrong. Ignore the others.
    2. Text will change – The text itself might change. Usually 20% to 50% of the manuscript will be heavily revised and (partially) rewritten, including the words I got wrong.
    3. Will be addressed later – When the manuscript is table — meaning that I have reached the point where everything feels good and even great — spelling errors will become very relevant. If you are awesome in that, we talk about editing those then.
  3. What writing?– What writing do I intend to do?
    1. Clear and to the point – I strive to be clear and to the point. When you read, things should be clear. Where you are, who is talking, what is going on, and so on.
    2. Explicit – I try not to shy away from naming things as they are named.
    3. Strong, human characters – As in: Make mistakes, take decisions which are not always the best or most logical. Could be real people. Will not give up to strive for the better.
    4. Filling gaps – How many (mainstream) (SF) stories did you read about  non-white, non-male gay/bisexual characters? I do some gender-bending and randomly decide what the background (country/culture) and sexual preferences are.
    5. Fast paced/gripping – I strive to write stories you want to read. Who grab you from page 1 and only release you when you reach the end. That leave you craving for more

Five reasons why you might not like my work

  1. The writing sucked – My stories are boring or shallow or feel fabricated. There are too many gaps and holes. It is boring, long winded.
  2. The story sucked – It simply does not happen. You read and read and read and nothing happens to you. Where you end it (if you come that far) and you think: “I really did not give a shit about anything that happened”.
  3. The characters sucked – You try to get in their minds but they simply suck. You do not like them, you hate them, you do not believe in them, you really do not care less if they would die some horrid death. They are boring, annoying, stupid. They might even insult you by the ideas they represent (fascist, sexist, cliche, just plain annoying and stupid).
  4. The ideas sucked – Whatever I came up with sucks. Unbelievable, stupid, dumb, badly researched, plainly wrong.
  5. It is simply not your genre – Even if and when my writing was the most awesome ever, you would still be bored by the topics and the kind of stuff the story puts central.

This is all OK. I want you to tell me in your basic review. Better I know now than ten years from now.

Five reasons why you might like my work

  1. The writing is good to awesome – It grips you. It moves you. You like what is going on, how it is described. It has
  2. The story is good to awesome – Almost like a drug. Stuff shifted in your mind. You re-read parts and things in the story itself shifted, making it a different story somehow. You stop reading and look around and reality suddenly seems dull. When you are done you want more.
  3. The characters are believable or even awesome – You understand the choices they make, even if you would do differently. They surprise you. They really seem to speak to you. They could be people you know or like to know. You might even wish your were like them.
  4. The ideas are very OK, even awesome – As you read, you nod your head and go “yeah”. At some points you smile. At some points you might even go “wow! what the fuck!” due to the awesomeness.
  5. It is quite good overall – Even if and when my writing is not mind-blowing, or your specific thing, it was enjoyable. You read it and liked it.

Note: When I hit the “awesome” button in your brain, it is probably accidental.