Phew! What a week. If I was to bet on what amateur writers envy most about the lives of pro writers, it’d be simply this — that they don’t end up getting sidetracked by their work or job. I work freelance, which means that my job can, at times, grow to consume almost all of my day when there are immovable deadlines involved. But fortunately, that’s out of the way now — at least for a little while, anyway. And so, I’m going to take a moment to write about…
…the Writers of the Future contest.
Within the FSF genre, at least, most people know about this one. Even people who’ve never considered submitting to it have picked up and leafed through one of the volumes, and the books themselves have a history of including some very strong fiction. Winners of the contest have gone on to be winners of the Hugo and Nebula awards, and to spend a little time dancing on that darling of every fiction writer, the NYT best-seller list.
I’d looked at the list of winners in the past, as well as the judges — and quite frankly, I’d been intimidated by the idea of submitting to it. But more recently, I’d looked at it, and given it a little more thought. The purpose of the contest is to try and find, nurture and promote new talent in the genre, and it’s helped more than one amateur writer get their career as a pro moving. So after holding off, I picked out what I thought was one of my best stories, polished it as much as I could, and submitted it.
I didn’t expect much — but I actually made it through the first reading pass.
Now, from what I’m given to understand, that puts my story in the company of perhaps three hundred others — in other words, still a very long way from being a winner of this contest. However, it means I’m still in the mix — and even that is an encouraging sign, to see my story being accepted past the first-reading stage of what is, after all, a very prestigious contest. Just look at the picture! It’s like the Oscars of writing, only with more of a Steampunk vibe.
(I want to see the Steampunk Oscars, now that the idea comes to me. Someone really should do that.)
But the point is, whether I now get rejected before making the honourable-mentions list, or whether I go further, this minor little success has seriously whetted my appetite for this contest, and boosted my desire to write really good fiction. That’s not to say that I didn’t want to before — I did, and I’ve really been trying to learn. But I have always been well motivated by definite, specific goals and targets, ever since I was young, and the Writers of the Future contest is a great one to add to that little crowd. And the wonderful thing about WOTF is that there’s one contest each quarter. So every three months, you get to try again to write the best story you can, and then send it in. You’re not stuck waiting a year between your efforts. If you’re determined, you can just keep on trying, and keep on getting better. Even if you NEVER win, it’s all to the good.
And now, having cleared this first hurdle, I’m very much looking forward to writing and trying again. (All of this, of course, assumes I won’t be one of the winners — as past winners are ineligible for future contests. But hey, there are only three winners out of perhaps three hundred stories; that means, even having cleared the first hurdle, my odds would be roughly one percent. And I’m not arrogant enough to think that my story is going to be better than the other three hundred it’s in the company of.)
But even though I’m planning for that, I’m still waiting with bated breath, anticipating any email that could come through, or — god forbid — an actual phone-call. My expectations really are low, but I still can’t help myself. I didn’t expect to be this invested in the contest. But then, I didn’t expect to clear that first hurdle, either…