Frederik Pohl was the first editor to publish Niven, back before there was a Writers of the Future. One imagines Larry would have won WOTF, had it existed. As it is, Larry broke in with short fiction, and Fred was the man who opened the gate.
He has this to say:
Frederik Pohl wrote:...Very few good writers need to be discovered. They discover themselves. They write. They keep on writing. They do their best to get better at writing with everything they write, and they send out what they have written to people who may want to publish it; and they keep on doing those things, no matter what.
Sound familiar? It's basically Heinlein's rules, yet again. Write. Write a lot. Finish what you write. Send it to editors.
Frederik Pohl wrote:They may have to endure periods of accumulating rejection slips and unrewarded effort, but if they are any good at all somebody or other, sooner or later, will notice, and publish, and then [the writer] is on their way."
Fred's spot-on with this. I can vouch for it. In my case I was lucky to have K.D. Wentworth, and then my judges, give me good enough marks to win last year. Then, the visibility I got from the win allowed me to step up a bit in the slush, enough so that Stanley Schmidt noticed and liked me, and now I've sold a few things to him, and this has turned into an additional re-sale to a prestigious oversease market, and....
And this is how it seems to be for virtually all of the pros worth paying attention to. When you all win and go to Los Angeles and talk to people like Kevin Anderson, they're going to repeat practically verbatim the same kind of wisdom Fred Pohl dished when discussing Niven's success.
So I hope that everyone gets their latest entries in before the 31st. A week is still a lot of time. I've sold stories that cumulatively only took me 6 hours to write, with no critiquing. It can be done, eventually, if you put in the hours as a new writer and work up your writing muscles to the point where you don't need critiques -- at least not to sell. You might still want them as second opinions, but you won't feel compelled to rely on them as many aspirant writers do.
Well, like I said, this was about pointers from Fred. Food for thought, as we approach 2011.