May 2016 – Wuxia Fiction – Judge’s Report

Wuxia is Chinese martial arts fiction featuring heroism, usually set in imperial China. The main protagonist is often a hero who is incredibly skilled and seeking justice.
Most of the entries followed a training-story structure where their hero was trained first and then thrown into action but the story that stood out the most, was one of the few that focused their storyline on the protagonist’s mission for justice.
Though Wuxia is a form that lends itself to the language of folklore and legend, I found some of the stories were a bit heavy handed on this language and had the tendency to become too flowery, detracting from the story.
Ironically, a form like this, with well-defined tropes, can often be one of the most difficult forms to get right because you can easily slip into cliché. I found that though these stories started out well, they often ended up succumbing to this pitfall.
I was impressed by the correct Chinese terms and phrases that were used throughout the stories. The writers had done their research about the culture and I found it added authenticity to their writing. For the most part, I found that the entrants have a good understanding of storytelling but often, weak fundamentals drew me out of the story and left me frustrated.
Unfortunately, all but one of the entries were incorrectly formatted. This seems like a petty thing because the focus is on storytelling but in order to prepare yourselves for professional submission, you have to get this right. Agents and publishers will not give your manuscript or short story a second glance if your formatting is incorrect. Do yourself a favour and research this. William Shunn has some fantastic examples of how to do this correctly – for both novels and short stories.
I also felt that every single entry could have done with more editing – not just in terms of formatting but tense usage, grammar, and confusing descriptions. I highly recommend reading your stories aloud while you edit so that you can hear, as well as read, your mistakes.
In spite of what seems like a lot of criticism, I enjoyed reading these stories. I am always proud to see writers giving their work over for feedback because it takes great courage to share your work.
The most important thing I would like to say to the entrants: you are all apprentices in a craft where no one is a master. In other words, being a writer means that you will always be learning. Always. This is what the critique is for – to learn how to improve your craft. I am also a writer, and therefore I am not a master either, I am only further down the road than you and can only offer advice based on the things I have learned on the road ahead. So take my opinions on your story with an open mind and a learning disposition – they are only given in order to help you become a better writer.
Basically, don’t give up because of a few mistakes, and never stop writing.
Well done to everyone who entered – I wish you the best of luck for your writing career.