What are the best ways for a finalist to start their career?

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dstein
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What are the best ways for a finalist to start their career?

Postby dstein » Mon Jul 11, 2016 8:01 pm

[Advice from previous finalists and published authors particularly wanted]

After hearing that I was the first-place finalist for Q1, my main thought was: "Well, guess I'd better finish that novel."

But there's more to that, isn't there? With three more quarters to go until Volume 33 comes out, I'm in the unique position of knowing that I've got nine or ten months until my name actually has a little clout behind it. Time to make sure that my name actually earns up to that clout, and that I've got the resources to get what I've got to offer out there into the commercial space and hopefully take advantage of that momentum.

So, to anybody who's been published or pursued a career in connection with the contest, I've got to ask: any tips? Once I've finished this first draft I'll be looking for an agent, but is there anything else (from creating a personal website/social media presence, to making early inroads with industry gatekeepers) that I, or any other finalist anticipating publication, ought to keep in mind?
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby Nick_T » Mon Jul 11, 2016 10:31 pm

My perspective might be coloured by trying to crack the American market while being a non-American author (and my own focus on work rather than writing), but my opinion is that becoming a finalist or winning makes little to no difference by itselfto your post-WOTF career.

The workshop puts you in contact with past winners and judges, but that's networking. If you have limited opportunities to do so, it's a fantastic opportunity, but it's ancillary to writing stuff the gatekeepers want to read.

As far as a credit goes, it's about as useful (but not more so) a credit as any other SFWA pro-market. Which is, once again, ancillary to writing well and putting good stuff out there. Industry gatekeepers remember good people who write the stuff they want to read. Look for ways you can help other people and maybe it will come back to you. The workshop is a good start on that, but once again, it comes down to writing the stuff the gatekeepers want to read.

What does make a difference is doing the same things as you did before. Write, write well and be a positive force in the life of other writers. Get that novel out there, help other people and do the things you enjoy.
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Tue Jul 12, 2016 3:03 am

I'm due to pro out in a couple of quarters (whenever my story publishes at Galaxy's Edge). In my early years, I thought this contest would give me a "leg up" if I ever won. Now, I have a completely different view.

In general, I think it's a good sale that comes with a lot of extra benefits, mostly the cash, the workshop, and meeting other writers. The rest, I could do without. But I don't have any illusions that the contest, if I won, would suddenly propel me into another level of my career. I think the contest is a good marker of where you are in your career, but it doesn't actually mean much in the long term.

This view comes from knowing and watching the people who've been successful after the contest, both the winners and the people that pro'd out. They're successful, not because they won, but because they developed good writing habits and have continually pushed themselves to get better and consistently produce salable fiction. I think it's a question of cause and effect. It's the habits and craft that got people to win the contest, therefore, they're a good enough writer to continue on.

That being said, with only a few quarters left, I want to win the contest. I've been submitting for thirty-something quarters in a row, and I'd like to have that sense of accomplishment. On the other hand, if I don't, and pro out soon, I won't feel bad either. I'm a member of SFWA, I make good money each year, and getting better as a writer with each new book. While the contest didn't get me any of that, it provided a helping hand along the way (by giving me a goal each quarter).

Anyway, I think my basic message is don't assume that it gets easier if you want a career in writing. Be working on new stories and novels right now. Keep working on your craft, getting better each day, with each new sentence and paragraph. Good luck. :)
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Tue Jul 12, 2016 3:08 am

On big addendum: I think the biggest benefit to the contest has been meeting the other aspirant writers. Writing is a lonely business, and meeting new friends to strive with you on the long slog is more valuable than anything else. I count many writers from this contest as good friends that I can't wait to see at the next workshop or convention. Yeah, sure, there's the occasional networking benefit you get from it, but more importantly, there's the comradery and friendship that carry you through the long years.
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby MattDovey » Tue Jul 12, 2016 3:50 am

This thread is relevant to my interests. /cough

I agree that winning the contest is not a magic ticket to success. There have not been 384 best-selling authors from WotF. WotF is a symptom of success, not a cause.

I also didn't unlock any particular great secrets from the workshop. Don't get me wrong, I learnt a lot, but I also heard a lot I'd already had to learn to get there. There was no sudden "OH MY GOD so that's how you do it" moment.

Anyway: the main things I did in the six months I had between winning & attending were sorting a website and social media bits out, and polishing up all the stories I had languishing and getting them submitted. WotF was my first sale. I managed three more pro sales before the workshop (and four more since). It's getting my name out there as best I can right now, because I don't have a novel manuscript ready to go.

I think the best thing WotF can do for someone with a novel manuscript--as worked for Pat Rothfuss--is simply meeting the people there. It was Kevin J Anderson that got Pat Rothfuss's manuscript circulating after meeting him at the workshop. Make sure your manuscript is in the best state it can be so you can take advantage of those connections; if nothing else, you'll have plenty of opportunity to ask business questions about querying and submitting to agents and publishers.

I think the most relevant advice, though, is what we heard from Tim Powers repeatedly (you'll love Tim, he's brilliant) and others: all you can do, as a writer, is write. Someone else (Robert Sawyer? I think) said there are eight factors that go into the success of a book, from marketing to market to competition, and the writer can only control one of them: how good the manuscript is.
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby MattDovey » Tue Jul 12, 2016 3:51 am

On a different note, I love how the board is truncating the title for all of the replies.

It's also a question I feel much more qualified to answer. I put the key in the ignition, put my foot on the brake, turn the key, then take the handbrake off and shift from Park to Drive. Easy wotf001
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby LaurieG » Tue Jul 12, 2016 5:15 am

MattDovey wrote:On a different note, I love how the board is truncating the title for all of the replies.

It's also a question I feel much more qualified to answer. I put the key in the ignition, put my foot on the brake, turn the key, then take the handbrake off and shift from Park to Drive. Easy wotf001


Very funny, Matt.

And the others have said pretty much what I would have said.
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 12, 2016 6:00 am

Well, guys, you just inspired me to submit my best piece to the Mag of SF&F instead of submitting it to 4th QTR WOTF. I've come to realize I only want a few pro credits so agents will read my manuscripts.

WOTF is positioned as the contest that will launch your career, but after reading the real story behind Rothfuss's success here in this thread, I realize it's all just like everything else -- networking, networking, networking, relationships, relationships, relationships. Isn't it always the key in every discipline?

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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby LaurieG » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:10 am

Jason Parker wrote:Well, guys, you just inspired me to submit my best piece to the Mag of SF&F instead of submitting it to 4th QTR WOTF. I've come to realize I only want a few pro credits so agents will read my manuscripts.

WOTF is positioned as the contest that will launch your career, but after reading the real story behind Rothfuss's success here in this thread, I realize it's all just like everything else -- networking, networking, networking, relationships, relationships, relationships. Isn't it always the key in every discipline?



Since we're months away from the Q4 deadline, write another 'best piece' for WOTF. It's street cred may be comparable to other pro markets, but the connections you make with the pros at the workshop and awards ceremony is incomparable. Also, Author Services provides more PR backup for new Writers than any publisher I know of.

The year Brad Torgersen won, he wrote a blog post about the monetary value of winning. Adding up the prize and pub money, plus the intangibles and costs to get the same level of exposure, he put the value around $10,000. He fully credits WOTF for launching his career, mostly due to the connections he made with the big guns of SF.

So yes, send your best piece to F&SF. Then another to WOTF.
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:18 am

LaurieG wrote:
Jason Parker wrote:Well, guys, you just inspired me to submit my best piece to the Mag of SF&F instead of submitting it to 4th QTR WOTF. I've come to realize I only want a few pro credits so agents will read my manuscripts.

WOTF is positioned as the contest that will launch your career, but after reading the real story behind Rothfuss's success here in this thread, I realize it's all just like everything else -- networking, networking, networking, relationships, relationships, relationships. Isn't it always the key in every discipline?



Since we're months away from the Q4 deadline, write another 'best piece' for WOTF. It's street cred may be comparable to other pro markets, but the connections you make with the pros at the workshop and awards ceremony is incomparable. Also, Author Services provides more PR backup for new Writers than any publisher I know of.

The year Brad Torgersen won, he wrote a blog post about the monetary value of winning. Adding up the prize and pub money, plus the intangibles and costs to get the same level of exposure, he put the value around $10,000. He fully credits WOTF for launching his career, mostly due to the connections he made with the big guns of SF.

So yes, send your best piece to F&SF. Then another to WOTF.


Planning in it, Laurie wotf008

I keep topping myself story to story, though, and I don't know if I can keep it up.

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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby J'nae Rae » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:31 am

F&SF is pretty quick on response time for electronic subs, so you may be able to still submit here if they don't take it.
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:39 am

J'nae Rae wrote:F&SF is pretty quick on response time for electronic subs, so you may be able to still submit here if they don't take it.


Thanks for the heads up. I believe it said I was 246th in the que.

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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby amoskalik » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:42 am

In three months you could likely submit to 4 or 5 pro level publications and still make Q4 (unless of course you get an acceptance). Just keep in mind that at pro pubs you are up against pros, so even a high quality story can rack up dozens of rejections before a sale. Just keep sending it out until it sticks.
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 12, 2016 7:54 am

I appreciate it.

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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby LaurieG » Tue Jul 12, 2016 8:28 am

Jason, yes, you can keep it up. You'll keep getting better the more you read and write, even if sometimes you write garbage. You know, learning from mistakes and all that.

I consider my BIGGEST mistake as a newbie writer, even bigger than quitting for a few years, was coasting. After my first Finalist, I figured I just needed to keep rolling along. Not stretch and try new things. That arrogance led to continued rejections from all markets, and led to me quitting. Once I started back up, it was stretching my ideas and skills until I burst into new levels of creativity that led to my second Finalist. I hope 3 times is the charm!

I hope to see you at next year's workshop!
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 12, 2016 8:46 am

LaurieG wrote:Jason, yes, you can keep it up. You'll keep getting better the more you read and write, even if sometimes you write garbage. You know, learning from mistakes and all that.

I consider my BIGGEST mistake as a newbie writer, even bigger than quitting for a few years, was coasting. After my first Finalist, I figured I just needed to keep rolling along. Not stretch and try new things. That arrogance led to continued rejections from all markets, and led to me quitting. Once I started back up, it was stretching my ideas and skills until I burst into new levels of creativity that led to my second Finalist. I hope 3 times is the charm!

I hope to see you at next year's workshop!


You know what? That's one of my biggest fears, having coasted in other disciplines. I'll keep everything you said in mind. I actually just wrote a story that stretched me to my limits, because it was in another time and place I'd never written about and a more serious hero than I normally write about and a more serious ending.

Hope to see you at the workshop too!

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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby ThomasKCarpenter » Tue Jul 12, 2016 9:29 am

Jason Parker wrote:WOTF is positioned as the contest that will launch your career, but after reading the real story behind Rothfuss's success here in this thread, I realize it's all just like everything else -- networking, networking, networking, relationships, relationships, relationships. Isn't it always the key in every discipline?


The real story behind Rothfuss's success is that his writing is immaculate. Pat sold that novel because it's a classic. All the networking in the world, all the marketing, all the luck doesn't matter unless you have a good story to tell. Don't ever forget the craft. In some ways, it's the only thing that matters.

Truthfully, you don't even need a single publishing credit for short fiction to sell a novel. There are thousands of writers that sell novels that have never sold a short story. If you have an opening three chapters that hooks the agent, they'll agree to represent you, regardless of publishing credits.

Don't forget the craft. Don't EVER forget the craft. :)
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 12, 2016 10:25 am

ThomasKCarpenter wrote:
Jason Parker wrote:WOTF is positioned as the contest that will launch your career, but after reading the real story behind Rothfuss's success here in this thread, I realize it's all just like everything else -- networking, networking, networking, relationships, relationships, relationships. Isn't it always the key in every discipline?


The real story behind Rothfuss's success is that his writing is immaculate. Pat sold that novel because it's a classic. All the networking in the world, all the marketing, all the luck doesn't matter unless you have a good story to tell. Don't ever forget the craft. In some ways, it's the only thing that matters.

Truthfully, you don't even need a single publishing credit for short fiction to sell a novel. There are thousands of writers that sell novels that have never sold a short story. If you have an opening three chapters that hooks the agent, they'll agree to represent you, regardless of publishing credits.

Don't forget the craft. Don't EVER forget the craft. :)


Of course wotf007

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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby dstein » Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:20 pm

Thanks, everybody! Definitely a lot of food for thought. Looking over previous winners already tempered my expectations for the contest, driving me to consider it equivalent to a sale (which after reading the responses here seems to be the right approach).

So to sum up the responses:

- Continue to write and submit stories that gatekeepers want to read (whether short-form or novel-length)

- Meet and network with other writers and gatekeepers (both to be in a position to offer and benefit from opportunities, and to maintain personal motivation)

- Get a website and social media presence going

- Write!

So basically the same advice you'd expect any other budding author to follow--makes sense.

Matt, thanks for the feedback in particular regarding manuscript strategy. I hit 100k last week in my first novel, and the first 20k or so words I stand behind as an example of my best work. I'm hoping to resolve some major story issues and have a weird and wonderful 90k-110k final draft by autumn. I'll what I can with that, try to find an agent in the meantime, and get what I can out of the workshops.
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby LaurieG » Tue Jul 12, 2016 5:15 pm

Jason Parker wrote:
LaurieG wrote:Jason, yes, you can keep it up. You'll keep getting better the more you read and write, even if sometimes you write garbage. You know, learning from mistakes and all that.

I consider my BIGGEST mistake as a newbie writer, even bigger than quitting for a few years, was coasting. After my first Finalist, I figured I just needed to keep rolling along. Not stretch and try new things. That arrogance led to continued rejections from all markets, and led to me quitting. Once I started back up, it was stretching my ideas and skills until I burst into new levels of creativity that led to my second Finalist. I hope 3 times is the charm!

I hope to see you at next year's workshop!


You know what? That's one of my biggest fears, having coasted in other disciplines. I'll keep everything you said in mind. I actually just wrote a story that stretched me to my limits, because it was in another time and place I'd never written about and a more serious hero than I normally write about and a more serious ending.

Hope to see you at the workshop too!


Glad I could say something useful wotf008
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Re: What are the best ways for a finalist to start their car

Postby Jason Parker » Tue Jul 12, 2016 5:26 pm

dstein wrote:Thanks, everybody! Definitely a lot of food for thought. Looking over previous winners already tempered my expectations for the contest, driving me to consider it equivalent to a sale (which after reading the responses here seems to be the right approach).

So to sum up the responses:

- Continue to write and submit stories that gatekeepers want to read (whether short-form or novel-length)

- Meet and network with other writers and gatekeepers (both to be in a position to offer and benefit from opportunities, and to maintain personal motivation)

- Get a website and social media presence going

- Write!

So basically the same advice you'd expect any other budding author to follow--makes sense.

Matt, thanks for the feedback in particular regarding manuscript strategy. I hit 100k last week in my first novel, and the first 20k or so words I stand behind as an example of my best work. I'm hoping to resolve some major story issues and have a weird and wonderful 90k-110k final draft by autumn. I'll what I can with that, try to find an agent in the meantime, and get what I can out of the workshops.


When you put it that way, it sounds hohum, but we all know it is the truth, even if everyone else thinks there has to be some secret shortcut out there.


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