A little over a year ago, I was very proud to reveal that my novelette-length short story, here code-named “PFTETD”, had earned an Honorable Mention in the Writers of the Future contest.
Then sometime in April of last year I started on my next short story idea, what would eventually become the code-named “Story of G” (the final, actual title: “Resurrection Spell”). My goal was to try to one-up my performance on “PFTETD”, and maybe make a Silver Honorable Mention, or maybe even a Semi-Finalist.
I worked hard on “Story of G”, I got some really good feedback, I did some deep revision with a few significant structural changes and quite a bit of polishing. By the end, I was very proud of it. The overlap of people who had read both “PFTETD” and “Story of G” is quite small – I believe it consists almost entirely of myself and Dear Wife and maybe one other person – but Dear Wife and I both agreed: “Story of G” was a better story than “PFTETD”. Not that “PFTETD” is a bad story – far from it, in my humble opinion – but the characters in “Story of G” are more engaging, and the ending more satisfying.
So it was not without a strong sense of hope that I submitted “Story of G” to the Writers of the Future contest.
I learned the true fate of “Story of G” around the middle of November, but contest results for the 4th Quarter – in which I entered “Story of G”, have only now been made public. If you click that link, you will notice the curious omission of my name anywhere on the page. Actually, it’s not all that curious, because “Story of G” did not place nor earn an Honorable Mention in the quarter in which it was submitted.
Needless to say, I was disappointed when I learned that the story had not been well-received by the WotF judges. My first thought: was I wrong about the comparative quality of “Story of G”?
The answer, I think, is no. I wasn’t wrong. “PFTETD” was a good story, one that no few people would enjoy reading, but “Story of G” was better by almost every measure.
But I came to this realization: the quality of my own submission is not the only relevant factor in determining how well my story performs in the competition. Indeed, the tastes of the judges are an even more significant factor. And the quality of the competition is also relevant. And while I am the one most responsible for the quality of my own stories, I have absolutely no influence on these other two factors which, collectively, are more significant in influencing my story’s performance.
And so, yes: it is disappointing to have not at least earned another HM. But that disappointment is ameliorated somewhat by my firm conviction that the latter story was better – and further that this is indicative of an increased level of skill on my part. That means that even if I don’t see external markers of success, I still feel I’m on the right trajectory.
Anyway, there’s next time, right? Or maybe the time after that? Or…