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Kim St. Lawrence - WRiTE CLUB Champion 2021 - Lessons Learned


Another WRiTE CLUB in the archives, marking ten years of slush pile readers, skilled writers, and hundreds of thousands of hopeful words. The competition is fierce, but the camaraderie is fiercer, bringing writers together with some of the most thoughtful and constructive critique partners they’ll (n)ever meet.

I first heard about WRiTE CLUB through an editor I admire and entered with the quiet intention of workshopping my craft. I can be a verbose writer and knew a 500-word minimum would challenge me to be more concise—cut adverbs, slash filler words, kill darlings, and so on. Through my first two competitions, I did learn to be more intentional with my language. But I also learned a thing or four about storytelling:

1.     Figurative language is cake: delicious in small servings. I love a well-placed simile or a unique metaphor. It can add a bit of richness or sophistication to the writing. But if it’s used too much or without regard for the tone of the piece, it can rip a reader right out of the story. So before you decide her eyes are look like two bowls of blue Jello, consider if it’s serving the plot.

2.     Mood is just as important as storyline. If I begin a new project by asking myself “what’s the plot?” it usually leads to a blinking curser or a cursing writer. So now I ask myself “what makes me feel something?” I start with a place, a mood, a memory that evokes a strong reaction and then build a story around it. When a piece starts from my gut instead of my head, it tends to comes across as more authentic and sets the tone I want people to feel when they read it.

3.     When it comes to revision, get rid of your ego but keep your heart. Editing is the hardest part of writing for me—a different, more tactical headspace. But it’s a necessary evil. The writers who thrive in WRiTE CLUB cage bouts are the ones who understand if and how to integrate feedback. Usually, it comes down to this: if three or more critics call you out on a plot hole or clumsy sentence, it’s not a subjective observation and you shouldn’t cling to it. (Been there, ate that humble pie.) But if you believe in something, if you feel like a certain detail is integral to your theme or character, defend it, even in the face of criticism. It’s up to you to know the difference.

4.     Mind your arc. It doesn’t matter if it’s flash fiction or a chapter in your 300k word novel (bless your heart), I’ve learned that every piece of writing needs some rising and falling action. Even if the end isn’t tied in a bow, people crave a sense of closure. I’m also a big fan of a circular narrative where the beginning and end mirror each other in unexpected ways.

Needless to say, I didn’t win my first two swings around the ring, but I was able to finetune my craft and, perhaps more importantly, get to know myself better as a writer. I went into the 2021 competition equipped with the lessons I’d learned and fully leaning into my strengths. A few comments on the results:

·        House of Whispers - This piece started with the first line. I was fixated on this concept of a slightly sentient house but didn’t like that haunted mansions get a bad rap for being malevolent. I wanted Château du Chuchote to protect its residents, or at least some of them. That’s when Nicolette arrived. 


·        House of Whispers (Partie Deux) - Here, I took a big WRiTE CLUB risk: whipping up a sequel for the readers who enjoyed the first installment. This is a safe play because you have a sense of their taste, but many readers prefer to see versatility. While it was fun to revisit this scene and try out a new POV, I just squeaked by in the round. (And yes, my French is très mauvais.) 


·        Lost and Found Boys - I have a mild obsession with Peter Pan (this is not my first dystopian PP retelling in WC) and knew the mood I wanted to create—a sad depiction of childhood innocence, using the landfill as a metaphor for the burdens of society. I would not recommend introducing an ensemble cast in 500 words, but I still love these boys.


·        The Keeper of Kilkee - For those who read it, this final piece kept with the same haunting vibe as the first three, but dropped into a new story on an Irish coast. This one was a bit allegorical too, exploring the cyclical nature of truth and rumor, beliefs and reality. This one had an obscure ending, which could have gone either way with the judges. Thankfully, the luck of the Irish was on my side.

The prevailing lesson from this season is that there is SO much talent out there. The caliber of the writing and the storytelling was inspiring. Even if I hadn’t pulled off a win, I would still count this experience as a success and look forward to being part of this community for years to come.

A huge thank you to DL and Kim Hammons, Wild Lark Books, the celebrity judge panel, and slush pile volunteers for providing writers with this opportunity for competition, kinship, and some incredible reads. Until next year, happy writing!

1 comment

  1. Congratulations on the win.

    Hope you're having a great day! My latest blog post has my theme for the April #AtoZChallenge (I'm writing speculative fiction and looking for prompts).
    At Operation Awesome we have the #PassOrPages query contest going on (friends or enemies to lovers Romance).
    Looks like I'll be very busy the next few weeks!
    March quote: "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do." - Mark Twain




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