Dragonchef, to answer your question, I've been entering for 25 years. Like disgruntledpeony, there were times I'd get so frustrated by rejections, I'd take a break for awhile, but I always came back. Over those years, and they go back to Algis Budrys as coordinating judge, I'd get signs in the form of HMs and Semifinalists that I was on the path. When the awards gala traveled to Seattle one year in the early 2000s, I sat next to Kevin J. Anderson. He asked about my writing, and I told him about some of the contests I had won, and about the certificates from WotF I'd earned. I've told the story before, but I'll tell it again for the sake of new members. Kevin said, "That's really something. To get even ONE honor certificate is a big deal with this contest--they don't give those out lightly. That you have several is a really big deal. That says a lot about your writing. Keep at it." And then I had a semifinalist that I had thought for sure would have won, and was decimated, because it was obviously close by the critique I got from KD Wentworth. A year later, I met Kathy (KD) at a con, told her who I was, and asked her if she remembered a story titled, "Driftweave." Her eyes goggled, her jaw dropped. "That was YOUR story?" She pinched her thumb and forefinger together. "You were THIS close to winning. If you hadn't written a 17,000 word story, you would have won. I've been trying to get the contest word count lowered, and I just couldn't justify sending on a 17K story after being so adamant about it. But it was a GREAT story, keep entering."
Yeah, those moments lift you up, and dash you down. They make you feel great you came so close. They make you feel sick you came so close and lost. You have to keep finding a way to deal with that, because every successful writer today, if they're honest, will tell you they went through the same thing. To continue the story, about four years ago, amidst losing our business after being eaten alive by trying to keep it open through the recession, after losing our home, and after helping my wife through a couple cancer surgeries and treatments, I figured life is never going to be perfect, I'll never have that perfect time to write that I had been working to achieve for years. So I made myself an achievable goal. Come what may, no matter how bad it got, I'd submit one story to WotF every quarter. I think I only missed submitting once. Of the fifteen times I submitted, I only got one rejection. I knew I was close with David Farland as coordinating judge--one of those honors was a semi-finalist, and he told me he thought it would have been a winner, and on the level of worldbuilding alone was probably better than all the finalists he had chosen. And yet, I had written too long, had included a bit too much, and was told to "kill my darlings." You rise to the heights with a critique like that. You also crash to the depths, knowing you were so close after trying so hard for all those years.
But this time, I fell but didn't crash. I kept believing. I kept submitting. For three more years, every quarter I received HMs and Silvers. And on my 15th quarter, with only 36 hours before close on the last quarter of the year, I made a mad dash to make the deadline, and at 11:56 pm pushed submit with what was a first draft, barely proofed. And it made Finalist, and then was chosen by Tim Powers, David Farland, Jody Lynne Nye, and Mike Resnick as the second place winner for Q4. Joni said they were unanimous about it being a winner, and said twice that *never* happens. Which shows you that once you're in that top eight, usually it's just a matter of personal taste. Unless they're unanimous. : )
So fourteen out of the fifteen times during that period that I made the commitment to never quit, to submit every quarter . . . I got a sign in the form of a certificate that I was on the path. It tests you. You will wonder why you're doing this, because the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and yet expecting different results. But the truth is, you're not insane. With every fresh story you write, you are learning. You are gaining experience. You are getting better.
And thus, my fresh story challenge in the Moon's SUPER SECRET topic. I'm showing you guys what I did to finally win.
You can do this. If you keep believing, keep writing, keep submitting every quarter, and keep honing your craft.
Fortune favor the industrious.