Remember my progress report from last month? Short Story #2’s contest results came in sooner than I expected, so let’s talk about that today. I entered the story in Writers of the Future, which is kind of a big deal for sci-fi and fantasy writers.
You already know the result if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, but let’s talk about the process a little bit.
Unfortunately, I can’t give away the plot details because I might revise this and resubmit it someday. Sharing too much could get me disqualified because entries have to be completely anonymous. It was loosely based on some things that have happened to me, but I gave them a sort of speculative/urban fantasy twist.
I will say that it struck a chord with readers on Scribophile. People were leaving me critiques even after it left the spotlight, which (in my limited experience) doesn’t happen often. I didn’t leave any notes or anything to indicate that it was partly based on real events, but a few of my readers figured it out anyway. The fact that it felt real to people told me I was on the right track, and I decided I should submit it somewhere after I gave it a little polish.
Where do you submit a weird speculative/creative nonfiction short story? I thought about sending it to magazines, but I had a Writers of the Future anthology (volume 36, if you’re curious) on my nightstand, and I felt like my story would fit right in.
L. Ron Hubbard (yes, THAT L. Ron Hubbard) established Writers of the Future Contest in 1983. It is a reputable contest, and it’s helped a number of bestselling authors launch their careers. The contest is judged quarterly; the top three stories from each quarter, plus a few of the finalists, are combined into an anthology that’s released annually. They don’t charge entry fees, and they also have a free online workshop and forums where writers can compare notes and just hang out. There’s also an annual awards ceremony/writing workshop/banquet thing that sounds super fun.
There is some criticism about the contest, mainly due to its association with L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology. However, the judges are not Scientologists, and there’s sort of a firewall in place that’s supposed to keep things separate. Like, they’re not allowed to talk about it at the awards workshop or try and talk writers into becoming Scientologists or anything like that. I’ve not seen anything from a reputable source that makes the contest itself look shady. Anyone who’s considering entering the contest should do their own research and decide for themselves what they’re comfortable with.
I went back and forth about submitting for a while before I finally made a decision. It’s not a bad story, but the stakes are kind of low and it’s a little silly. But I finally decided I didn’t have anything to lose and just went for it.
Entering Writers of the Future only took a few minutes; all I had to do was make an account on their website and upload my document. No problem. After that, it was just a waiting game.
Since this is a quarterly contest with regular deadlines, I looked at information from previous contests and assumed I’d hear something back around the end of November, or sometime early in December. I submitted the story on August 27, if you’re wondering; the deadline for that quarter was September 30. I got an email with my results on November 4th.
The story was low-stakes and apparently the judges don’t like first person narration, so I assumed they’d just reject it. But I had a killer opening, and I was hoping maybe that would be enough to land me an honorable mention–the very lowest “place.” I actually got a silver honorable mention, which is a step up from that. There’s no prize, and I’m not getting published, but I think I’m getting a certificate in the mail.
I’m definitely going to try again
All in all, it was a fine experience and I can’t complain. I’m working on a new story to enter this quarter, and I need to wrap it up soon so I can get some critiques and have time to revise before the deadline. I feel a little pressure now–I’d like to exceed my silver honorable mention if I can.
As far as this story goes, I’m trying to figure out where to take it next. I might revise it; I struggled with a few things in the original draft that I think I might be able to fix now. But then I wonder if it’s fine like it is, and I should try submitting it to lit magazines. I could also save it for the short story anthology I’m planning on putting together. I have a lot of options, and I don’t feel like I need to stress myself out on a decision right now.
Do you have any experience with writing contests? Feel free to share in a comment if you do. I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about how to find places to submit your short stories, and I hope you’ll be back for that. I’ve got some good information for you.