Getting Ahead.

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Getting Ahead.

Postby klaatu » Sat Oct 18, 2014 3:56 pm

A long post this one, and certainly NOT a criticism of the contest and its judges.

I’ve done well with my writing over the past 5 years. I’ve made twenty sales, most at Semi-pro to Pro markets. I’ve been nominated for five awards. I’ve received excellent reviews, including Publisher’s Weekly. I’ve had great comments and feedback.

Not bad for an old bloke, huh?

My WotF experience, on the other hand, has been underwhelming. I’ve subbed around twenty times and received two HMs. (Yup, 18 Rs.) I’ve found this very frustrating at times. These rejections have all sold later, including one at Pro level. I know all the reasons why I could be receiving Rs, but it puzzles me as to why only two stories have made it as high as HMs. I know taste comes into it, as well as long lists of elements DF is looking for, and I know we’re often not the best judges of our work, but I also know I can write. I’m a member of a small writers’ group that monthly meets in person. Our membership contains a couple of well known and established writers. They give me great, and generally positive feedback. I am also an experienced and very qualified English teacher. I have a track record (outside the contest) that speaks for itself. So what is this element my writing is apparently lacking, this ‘X’ factor that will cause DF to press the ‘hold’ button on my story rather than the ‘exterminate’ one? Is it simply that my phrasing and writing style doesn’t appeal to the judge? Is it simply that my writing is missing one or two of those little things DF likes to checklist?

Or is there something else?

I’ve read every volume of WoTF (some twice). I’ve read many stories by winners and others. Yesterday, I read Brad’s Lights in the Deep collection again, trying to learn, analysing his work to see what I’m missing. (Great stuff, by the way) Brad writes of the time he wrote Outbound, and how he suddenly realised he’d crossed some boundary, some line. He’d stepped up and from then on he sold regularly, made finalist then won the contest.

Am I still on the wrong side of that line? Am I unable to see my own writing objectively enough to truly recognise my own limitations? That moment Brad had? I’ve had it twice now – only to be disappointed with the ‘your entry has been judged and did not place’ email from Joni.

In the real world it’s been a busy year for me.

Among a number of other factors, I changed jobs. My new role is much busier, more time consuming, and entails longer hours. Expectations are higher, from management and clients, and I’ve had a steep learning curve. My commute has increased by an hour a day. I work with words all day, and there have been many, many times when I haven’t felt like writing much after getting home.

About four weeks ago I realised I hadn’t written very much in the past year at all. I enjoy writing, but I can procrastinate and get distracted by the internet, and I can feel intimidated by the (virtual) blank page.

I decided this had to change.

I sat down with my wife and had the conversation. We talked about my goals and dreams, talked about how that could/would impact us, both positives and negatives. We discussed what I needed to do in order to achieve those goals. And my wife told me that she gave me her full support and to go ahead and do what needed to be done.

So I did.

I usually write in my study in my house. In my backyard I have a self-contained unit, similar to a one bedroom apartment. The previous owner had a family member live there. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years, installing bookcases and such and making the space something I could use. I’d always planned to make it my writing space.

I bought a decent sized table and a comfortable chair, I bought a used PC (with no software on it except Word, and certainly no internet connections) and started using it.


I set up a spreadsheet and kept daily tallies. I’d always been against the idea of tracking wordcounts, I’d always seen it along the lines of the fake badge of honour of counting rejections. I’m not concerned with how many rejections I’ve amassed, I’m more concerned with my sales, and to which markets. But now I see the wordcount as a motivational tool. I want no blanks on there. I want to maintain a 1000 word per day average.

In the past four weeks I have averaged 1700 words daily. I have completed five first drafts. I have rewritten and subbed three stories. And I look forward to going to my room and writing.

I’m ready to sub to the pro markets again, something I haven’t actively done for a year.

Mostly though, I’m writing. A lot. Daily.

Will I improve my track record with WotF? I have no idea. But if I don’t, I’m confident I’ll pro out sooner rather than later.


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Re: Getting Ahead.

Postby Elen Tel'Ithil » Sat Oct 18, 2014 7:17 pm

Kudos, Steve! Sounds like your new strategy is working well! I was half-expecting for the "story ending" to be that you were considering giving up the writing. So glad that's not the case!

Very inspiring post, and best wishes to you!
"You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you." - Ray Bradbury
"Write until it becomes as natural as breathing. Write until not writing makes you anxious." - Christina Katz

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R x 2

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Re: Getting Ahead.

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Sat Oct 18, 2014 7:37 pm

Nice work! Control the things you can control. wotf007
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SFx2, SHMx1, HMx12 (Pro'd Out - Q4 2016)
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Re: Getting Ahead.

Postby AlistairKimble » Sat Oct 18, 2014 7:44 pm

What a wonderful post, Steve! :)

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Re: Getting Ahead.

Postby bobsandiego » Sun Oct 19, 2014 9:29 am

Hey brother you are singing my song. (except I have no pro-level sales yet but I am starting top get feedback at the pro-level on my rejections.)
As you can see in my sig line I have 3 SF and 3 HM, 5 were under KD and 1 under Dave. Clearly I can't find this man's strike zone and you sound to be a better writer with the same issue.
Writing every day, having an achievable goal these are great things to do. I try to do the same. (though I count editing as writing. It counts as long as I am working on my fiction and not just pondering it.)
I have come around to the position that I am no longer going to try to work out what Dave wants,. I suggest you do the same. write what you like, submit it, and move on.
Clearly you have the talent and the skills, don't let any one market crash burn your spirit.
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F X 1
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Re: Getting Ahead.

Postby Ishmael » Sun Oct 19, 2014 10:18 am

Old bloke? Old bloke? My friend have you any idea from how many careers I have already retired?

I have 2 HMs from an awful lot of entries too. What I seem to be lacking is the awards and stuff that you've got. Hmm, I tell you what we need to do. Into our next entries we must introduce the magic words. What are the magic words? Well now, you do know how to whistle, don't you Steve?

1 x SF, 2 x SHM, 11 x HM, WotF batting average .583
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