Normally I don’t participate in pay-to-enter writing contests, but I decided last month to go in on the Friends of the Merrill short story contest, where those entry fees support the Friends of the Merrill, “a volunteer organization to support and promote the Merril Collection of Science Fiction, Speculation, and Fantasy, a public access collection consisting of science fiction, fantasy, gaming materials, graphic novels, and other related items. The Collection is named after acclaimed SF author Judith Merril, who’s original donation of material formed its nucleus.”
2015 drew to a close last week, the end of a year stacked with writing. What did I do, and what did I learn?
First, some statistics and numbers:
- 76 stories submitted: 63 rejected, 1 accepted, 12 under consideration.
- I wrote 7 new stories this year. Of those, 6 are out on submission, while the last is still in second-draft state. I also gave major top-to-bottom overhauls to 6 older stories.
- My first story came out!
- I sold a second story!
- I attended my first convention of any kind in about 10 years, and then I attended my first convention as a guest. Two very different cons: Fourth Street a small writing con, Archon a big all-media con, both with a lot to love!
- I participated in 3 Codex writing contests; I won one of them, came in 2nd in another.
- Hey wait, this was also the year I joined Codex. That place has been an amazing source of community, feedback, and advice!
Some deeper thoughts and lessons:
- I appear to be an “idea writer.” So many times this year I got feedback from editors or critiquers that began, “This is incredibly clever, but…”
- I’ve learned that if I’m spending hours agonizing over how to phrase a sentence, 75% odds the solution is “delete it entirely.”
- I got a lot more shortlist spots and personal rejections, but I’m still struggling to make my first pro sale.
- I miss so many faraway writing friends! Classmates, mentors, Codexians, and other awesome folks of all kinds. Twitter is nice, but St. Louis is pretty remote from the SFF scene.
- I am definitely getting better at this. Four of my last five finished stories (Jewish Sorcery, Scientist Ghost, Posthuman Romance, and Fairy Gentrification) are all massively, qualitatively better than anything else I’ve done. Now I just have to convince someone to buy one of them…
Plans for next year include:
- Write the first draft of a novel
- Keep producing short stories: at least 6 new ones, and two overhauls
- Attend my first WorldCon
- Run a 38-person historical fantasy live action roleplaying game
- Be more diligent about reviewing/annotating the books I read
- Engage in interplanetary warfare to get my wife back from Mars
May the new year be better than the last, for all of us!