Writers of the Future, Q2 Entry

Almost every unpublished or barely-published genre writer I know submits regularly to the Writers of the Future contest, an award limited to promising writers who lack “pro” publication credits. The funny thing about this is that non-writers are pretty much 100% unaware of the contest, and would be surprised to hear it’s considered so prestigious, or such a top-tier market for aspiring writers. I assume the award’s high standing is mostly due to the comparatively large monetary award (up to $1,000 for a quarterly win plus up to $5,000 more for an annual win), but even for less money-focused writers the award is considered something you’re expected to shoot for until you’ve had enough professional publication credits that you’re no longer eligible.

Though I respect the list of more established writers who have made their way up through the WOTF awards, and have been entering every quarter for a little over a year, I also realize that many of my own favorite writers never won, so I won’t be too heartbroken if it never happens for me.

Today I received notification that I received an “Honorable Mention” for my Q2 (this is actually the quarter ending March 30th) entry. All my previous entries had been outright rejections. Aside from the overall winner and 2nd and 3rd awards, WOTF gives “Finalist” and “Semi-Finalist” and “Honorable Mention” awards, so while I didn’t quite reach the highest tiers, this is still a nice bit of positive feedback. Just yesterday I submitted my Q3 story, so maybe after a handful of rejections, I’ll climb up from HM to SF to F to The Winnah!

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Sometimes you shoot for an omelet and end up with a scramble

For a while now I’ve been planning some more “focused” entries to this blog, but this here life has been such a mad dash lately, so my entries end up being a mix of whatever comes to mind.

First there was the Writers Weekend story which I had to submit by June 15, and finished a day early. Then I came down with a nasty cold which ruined this past weekend.

More recently I’ve been back to finishing up my Writers of the Future story, a big long zoomy space story thing. I’m very happy and relieved to finally be done with that. I’ve certainly written longer stuff, but I haven’t actually finished (as in, polished all the way to a submittable final draft) a longer story than that since I started writing again last year. This thing wound up at 9,600 words and I’m quite proud of it. It introduces a new character and a new angle of exploration, plus a cool new artifact/tech device I’m anxious to explore in other stories. And I now think of it as “the WOTF story,” while I always referred to it in my head, as I was planning it, as “the Analog story.”

Now, I rarely write a story with a specific market in mind. I’m usually driven by an idea or an image, something I want to see happen, or a character I want to follow in a certain situation. Then I have to build up story and conflict and plot around that starting point, and only when I’m mostly finished do I start thinking things like “What’s this all about, then? Where will I send it?”

This time I made a conscious effort to write something less character-focused, more about plot, action and conflict. Plus I wanted technology and space travel to be prominent parts, because I really wanted to finally write a story I could see sending to Analog SF magazine. All these touchy-feely “literary SF” stories of mine, with people feeling ways about stuff, certainly have their technological components, and some of them even meet Analog editor Stanley Schmidt’s dictum that the “proper Analog story” shouldn’t function with the technology removed from it. But I wanted to write something that didn’t just sneak into eligibility as an Analog story, but was clearly, definitely about cool tech ideas, off-Earth locations, futuristic travel concepts, and a lot of focus on how human beings will one day travel from here to places very far away.

Now having finished the story, it’s occurred to me that I’m missing out on a potentially useful market for my stories by not submitting to Writers of the Future. I don’t normally enter contests, but I’m assured by all kinds of people who really do seem to know what they’re talking about that so long as you’re eligible for the WOTF contest (they only take stories from unpublished writers), you ought to enter. The prize money is good, and actually winning the thing, if you can pull it off, ends up being a nice platform to get people aware of you in a hurry. So, “the Analog story” ends up going to Writers of the Future first, and I’ll keep on entering this contest (it’s quarterly, with a mega-roundup contest for quarterly winners once per year) so long as I remain eligible.

Now I’m back to starting a few new stories I’ve had cooking, as well as revisiting some problematic or even “broken” stories I started previously and put on the shelf. I have two that are pretty close to being finished, so if I can wrap those up these next two weeks I may be in a position of actually finishing and submitting four new stories (counting the two just finished) in a period of a month. That would certainly be my greatest period of productivity, and would indicate that the extra hard work I’ve been putting in has been worthwhile.

Another Lost Weekend

My super-focused, productive “catching up on everything” weekend turned into a miserable “I’ve got a cold so I don’t care about anything and the world sucks” weekend instead.

Things are a bit better now, but I wasn’t able to tidy up the spare bedroom aka “writing studio,” and was barely able to work on my Writers of the Future contest story, which is due by the end of the month. At least I’ve got the thing below 10,000 words. I want to get it under 9,000 (even though the contest limit is something like 12,000 words), just because that’s where it ought to be. I’m about 1/3 of the way through, and the bigger cuts will come later, when I remove the pointless subplot about the main character interacting with a prostitute who happens to be fixated on him. The prostitute stays (in fact, the five prostitutes in the story are so cool, multi-colored like easter eggs) but the pointless flirtation that never goes anywhere gets cut. Otherwise the story is pretty much fully formed, and makes sense, and I just need to trim a bunch of words so it flows more smoothly.

Observation: plot-driven stories are so much easier to keep straight than stories that are all about how a character felt about something. Please remind me to take a break from the touchy-feely stuff and write more stories where people chase each other and fight and blow shit up.

I have two other stories that are this close to being finished, if I could just get past these two I’ve been sort of deadline-chasing on this month.

Today’s blog was going to be the “degrees of rejection” blog but this whole weekend was a washout anyway, so I’m just doing a hard reset, and we’ll move on to better things tomorrow.