Tag Archive: writing contests

I got the news today.  My story, “PFTETD”, has earned an Honorable Mention in the 4th Quarter 2010 Writers of the Future Contest.

So, wow.  This leaves me feeling a lot of emotions.  On one hand, of course, I’m happy. 

I consider it this way: this story started as a silly idea I had back in late 2006/early 2007.  I wrote it then, and it was awful (though I didn’t know it then).  The story then sat in my hard drive, untouched, for several years.  Shortly after a short productive period where I wrote a small handful of stories and started a couple others through mid-2007, I subsequently entered a fallow period.  I didn’t write anything, and I didn’t submit what I had written.  It’s not that I didn’t want to write.  But those were difficult days, for me*.

And then life happened in a flurry.  I met this wonderful woman.  I got married.  I got accepted into grad school to study my MBA in the evening program at a well-ranked institution.  I found a great new job.  There was a lot going on in 2008 and 2009.  But, as the end of 2009 approached, I was truly feeling… like something was missing, and I knew it was writing.  My Dear Wife encouraged me to may do a little revision on a story I had already written and try to send it out to a publisher. 

So starting around Christmas of 2009, I picked up “PFTETD”, dusted it off, and started revising.  Only revising turned into a full-scale rewrite, as I soon discovered how truly awful my original draft of the story was.  About a quarter of the original wordcount was saved, and the rest was brand-new writing.  I got some feedback from a couple readers, and revised it further, and summer of 2010, I was ready to send it out.  It wasn’t well-received (or rather, it wasn’t accepted), but I knew it was my strongest piece, so I had to find it a home.  So, onward.

Now, I come to the end of that long tale.  And, my take-away is this: after a two-year hiatus… nay, after a two-year drought of writing, I was able to jump back into it and be at the top of my game.  Perhaps this story isn’t great writing, which is where I need to be if I want a career in writing… but it’s unequivocably good writing, and good enough to get an Honorable Mention in the most widely respected and widely participated-in contest in the industry.  My story, out of what I understand to be thousands of submissions, was one of the few to earn this honor.

So, naturally, I’m pleased.  But on the other hand, I’m not overflowing with joy, because I feel other, conflicting emotions.  I have a goal.  I want to be a published author.  I want to make a steady, respectable income from my writing – even if it won’t be my primary income source.  And I want to be a really, really, really good writer.  And, I know that winning this contest can be a significant step toward those goals.  So, naturally, I want to win.

But I didn’t win.  Not this round.  I didn’t quite expect to – this was my first time ever participating in this contest.  But I’m looking forward to the future.  What do I need to do, now?  How can I improve my writing ability?  How can I take the next great leap forward in my skill?  What will it take to win?  What will it take to be great?

I don’t have answers to these questions, yet, except to say the obvious: that I need to write more.  But getting this far… it only fans the flames of my hunger.  Now I know where I stand.  This isn’t just a rejection – polite or otherwise.  It’s a mile-marker, a sign-post, an indicator of my potential.  I’m good, but I’m not there yet.  But, I believe I can get there, because I’m clearly heading in the right direction.

As for “PFTETD”, the question is more complicated.  At 12,100-ish words, it’s too long for pretty much every available outlet left for me to submit to that’s worth submitting it to.  Few publishers are interested in stories that are just slightly too long to be called “short stories” and far, far too short to be called “novels” or even “novelas”.

So, in the short term, I’m going to sit on “PFTETD” – not trunk it, per se, but I’m not going to be actively marketing it.  I won’t publish it on my blog – in part because I think it deserves a wider readership than that, and in part because doing so would make it impossible for me to do any further marketing of it in the future.  I may make it available to another round of beta readers (gamma readers?) to help me polish it just a little further, but as is I’m not sure how much better I can make it, or if further tinkering will actually harm it.  And without a viable market for it, as yet, my writing efforts are likely better spent elsewhere.

What’s next, then?  Well, to start, finishing my MBA.  This is the last semester.  And there is a lot that I need to do between now and the end of my time – for school and for my daytime career.  Unfortunately, this means that I effectively will not have any writing time over the next four to six months.  So, I won’t be re-entering Writers of the Future during the next few quarters.  But I have some pretty good story ideas, and when I walk across that stage, snagged that diploma and have properly taken steps to advance my day-job career, then I should find that my writing time opens up.  And when it does… watch out world, because here I come!

But first, according to my wife: it’s time to celebrate my success!


*I believe I’ve told the story, before, of those “dark days”, probably somewhere on my main blog at Undiscovered Author.  But if not, well… that’s a story for another day, as this post will be long enough without.

The Long Wait

So here we are, the last day of November, and it’s been nearly four months since I submitted my story to the previously-mentioned contest.

In any ordinary situation, I’d be getting pretty nervous right about now.  Oh, wait.  I already am getting pretty nervous.  But it’s not an ordinary situation, per se.

For one, although I submitted this story near the beginning of August, the contest didn’t close until the end of September.  I was almost two months early.  But it’s not been two months since the contest closed.

Well, I have heard from several people who’ve submitted to this contest in the past that this is not a bad thing.  As a matter-of-fact, they tell me, the people who do not do so well in the contests are typically the first to hear back.  The longer the wait, they tell me, the more likely the result is a good one.  For values of “good”, at least, that include making it past the first round, it seems.

So, I’m in an interesting place.  On one hand, I feel very proud of my story, and very strongly that it’s a very good story.  (If you’ve been over to my Undiscovered Author blog and seen the short stories and flash pieces I’ve posted there, you may be familiar with my self-grading mechanism.  Most of the stories there grade a B or lower.  This story that I submitted, on my own, personal scale, ranks an A.  So far, it’s the only story I’ve completed that warrants that grade.)  And there’s this part of me that keeps trying to say: “See, no news is good news; this story is a really good one.  Every day you don’t hear back is a day closer to getting a really positive response.  Heck, this one could go all the way!”

But then there’s the cautiously optimistic side of me.  It tells me to be more humble and  more circumspect about my chances, not to get my hopes to far up.  “What if they lost your contact info, or you entered it wrong, and you’re already out but they can’t contact you to say so?” it asks.  “Yes,” it says, “This is a good story.  But is it great? You’ll probably make it to the semi-final round, and that’s it.  And hey, what more can you ask?  That’ll be a success in my book.”

Sigh.  And there’s  nothing for it but to wait.  And see.  And sometimes to hope.  Hey, each day that goes by is a day closer, right?  In the meantime, I’d love to say I was working on the next one.  But the present pressures of education and employment make that a difficult proposition.  I’ve got the ideas, and a general outline in place.  But I’ve done no substantive amount writing in the last month, and very little before that.  I see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it still seems so very far off, yet.

Submission 2.0

So, I finally did it.  I resubmitted my current story to a new market.

I don’t know why I took so long to submit the story.  Initially, it was for lack of a 9 x 12 envelope to stuff the thing in.  But then, Dear Wife and I bought a package of 9 x 12 envelopes.  Why didn’t I send it in, then?  I had all the parts: a printed copy of my story in the appropriate format, a cover page, everything was ready but to address and stamp the envelope.  Then, more than a week ago, I discovered that the market I was planning to submit to had decided to allow electronic submissions!  So, I almost immediately started filling out the online submission form.  And yet, I stalled at the last stage: uploading the story and clicking submit.

Chalk it up to fear, I guess.  What if my story’s not good enough?  What if it gets rejected (a second time)?  What if, what if, what if… Well… What if it does?

I’ve ruminated on that, before.  At twelve thousand words, this isn’t just a “short” short story.  It’s a novelette.  And the market for novelettes, no matter what the genre, is very small.  There just aren’t many places I can try to sell this tale.

So, if it does fail in this market, I’ll keep looking.  There may be some place left out there that I’m not yet aware of.  In the mean time, I keep writing.  (And hopefully, as I keep writing, I manage to keep it a bit shorter so I can target more markets.)

So, I finally uploaded the story, and I clicked submit.

The good thing about the market to which I just submitted is that it’s actually a prestigious contest (again, I won’t name names) that is only open to authors who are unpublished at professional levels.  That means that my story is going up against not established authors with name recognition and selling power – a hurdle I cannot hope to overcome – but against other authors who are my real peers: new, unpublished authors.  This will allow my story to rise or fall on its own merits.

And the feedback I’ll get here – even if I get no personal feedback – will tell me whether the story is really any good after all.  If I don’t get far in the contest, I’ll know it’s because my story failed to appeal.   If it does well, even if it doesn’t win, I’ll know I’m on the right track.  And, frankly, that gives me a clue as to whether I need to go back to the drawing board and continue honing my skills, or whether I’m actually a half-decent writer.

Now, only time will tell.  Lots of time.  I don’t expect to hear a response from this market for several months, since the contest doesn’t even close for several months.