amyhg wrote:Just curious. What happens when WOTF just gets too big for Dave to handle the load? Will they get a second "gate keeper"? Does he actually have slush readers or does he really glance at every single story? I can imagine that working in the past, but with the competition gaining popularity at such an incredible rate, I can't imagine it can continue.
Yeah, I've wondered about this, but if you read David's writing kicks, he has answered how he handles this load. We know that there are "several thousand" submissions per quarter. To me, several thousand is at least 4000, which is close to what pro-magazines receive over a 3 month period. WIth 4000 submissions per quarter, David would have to read about 43 stories each and every day. Obviously, that's not possible, so how does he do it? The answer: he doesn't! He does not read every story all the way through. He starts with the first page or two. If there is no speculative element apparent, the story gets a reject. He has said that he gets many entries that are not speculative, and in fact, many are lists, recipes, poems or mainstream stories. He hasn't given the actual percentages (that I recall), but I'm guessing it's at least 1000, probably more. So now we're down to 3000 submissions. Another winnowing process is prose. Dave has said that if the story has too many obvious errors in prose, the story will get a quick reject. I'm guessing that another 1000 entries contain poor prose. So now we're down to 2000. I think this is where he starts to dig into the actual stories, reading more than the first page or two. At this point, many stories get rejected because the trope is not original or interesting or unique. Dave has said that he favors originality more than any other factor, meaning a well-executed unoriginal story will get a reject, whereas an original story, poorly executed, might earn an HM. Either way, we're now down to 1000 entries, or perhaps much less, which would only be about 10 or 11 stories a day, which is totally do-able. At this point, if he enjoys your story and reads it the whole way through, he'll put it in the HM or higher pile. He's looking for stories with an original trope, professional prose, a strong hook, a vivid setting, fully-realized and engaging characters, a plot with a story arc (try-fail cycles), a satisfying ending, and of course a theme and emotions and all that jazz. Not a lot of stories have all that, and I'm guessing that as a contest judge and professional reader, he's gotten pretty good at sifting the wheat from the chaffe. Only a 100-200 stories each quarter reach this level. HMs are flawed in one or more of the above areas, but are considered sellable stories. SHMs were great stories that were edged out by the best stories, which earn Semi's or become a finalist and win! So, don't be discouraged by the numbers, as in some ways, they are deceiving. Just right your best story, polish it up and try to get into that pool of stories that Dave has to choose from each quarter.
So, that's my understanding of how it all works. I still wonder, though, if slush readers might be a good idea as each quarter, some pretty heavy hitters report rejections, and I wonder if their stories got a fair chance or not. I'm guessing, they probably did. Dave is the most experienced judge this contest has had. There've only been three: Algis Budrys, KD Wentwork, and David Farland, and Dave's done it longer than the other two.