Well, for a first-time entry, I’ll take it — especially as I only submitted on a whim, to try and shake away my nerves about the idea of submitting to this contest! But more than that, I take it as a sign to move forwards. While the contest results were still up in the air, I was thinking a lot about my writing — both about where it is, and where I want it to be. The Honourable Mention was a nice reminder that I’m not wasting my time on this, but it’s also a reminder of something else — that I can do better.
I’ve written more fiction over the last couple of years or so than I have in the rest of my entire life. And part of that has been a learning process. Every now and then, after I’ve pushed myself forwards, I’ll find the next step to improving my fiction. And after I find it, and apply it, my craft will jump forwards. There’s nothing smooth or even about it. There’s something to be said for the writing itself, of course — practice makes perfect, and the prose does improve with time. There’s no substitute for work, and without writing often, I don’t think I would find my way to these jumps. But at the same time, there comes a point where effort alone won’t move you much further forward. There’s a point where you need to look at what you’re doing, and know what you’re doing wrong, or what you’re missing.
And I’m starting to get an idea of what that might be.
I’m starting to use new tools, and to think about what I’m writing in a different way. I’m not just flinging myself directly into the writing. Instead, I’m looking at what I’m writing before I write it, and I’m breaking it down objectively. I’m considering it. I’m reshaping the story before I write it. I’m working out where it’s weak, I’m throwing out the ideas that are weak, and I’m getting rid of bits that are too obvious. And that latter bit can be a few steps. The thing that’s obvious, gets twisted, and is still obvious, because it’s probably the obvious twist. Then it gets twisted again, or discarded altogether. And whatever comes next is probably obvious too, and gets twisted, bent, discarded, until I find what I’m looking for. And maybe, sometimes, some of that obvious part will make it in — but in an altered form, so that it’s not so obvious. It’s a bit more interesting. It’s a bit more thought-provoking. All in all, it’s just better.
I owe some people in particular for some pointers that nudged my thinking in the right direction, but entering WOTF was the gateway. Not winning it isn’t really all that important to me right now. Instead, what was important was that my story cleared the first pass — that made me take an interest, made me start reading, and made me start thinking. And now, after I’ve received my response, I’m happy with it. I think the story was good enough to deserve an honourable mention, but I can see reasons why, perhaps, that’s as far as it could go.
Once, it was the best story I’d ever written. And I still like it a lot. But I can do better.