Absolute Write has opened up a Speculative Fiction contest to members only. So far, it looks like a great success as the slush readers are swamped and the deadline is closing. In one of the forum threads, there has been a lot of discussion on how many people have never submitted before. One of the mods has been truly surprised of this but I can understand.
After a story is written, there is an instant response of “Oh My God, someone is going to READ this!”
Well that is the point of writing isn’t it? Sharing your ideas in a way that others might enjoy? What fun is it to write and not let someone read it? I find a great deal of joy when someone reads my stuff. I may not always enjoy the comments or the critique, but I like the thought that someone has invested a little bit of time reading what I wrote.
It is then sometimes followed with “This sucks, and no one is going to want to read it.”
This isn’t always true.
Younger more inexperienced writers will often compare themselves to big names and feel they fall short of the mark. Now in my opinion, no one else can write like Stephen King, so if you can’t that is okay. It is great in fact. Readers want a variety of stories in different styles and voices. If everyone wrote like SK, or Neil Gamien, or (insert favorite genre author here), the readers would get bored. Go ahead and write your story in your style. That is what you are supposed to do!
That being said, there is a big difference between writing like one of the big market authors and not writing a good story.
Does the story have grammar issues? Is it formatted correctly (as in paragraphs, indents, punctuation)? Does it have a good story arc? Did you try to avoid as many plot holes as possible? Are your characters well rounded or flat? How is the action?
I’ll admit that I still have work to do with some stories in these areas, even the best authors do. But, if you have consistent problems with your stories in these areas, then grab some writing instruction books and do some homework. This is going to do a few things for you. First, it is going to refresh some of those grammar rules that have been rusting in your head since high school English. Secondly, after you know those rules, you are going to be more confident about your writing.
Yes, I did say more confident.
Another thing you can do, is make friends. Through Twitter, FB, and G+ I have gotten to know quite a few editors, writers, owners of magazines and slush readers. Go to their blogs, read what they have to say about writing. Follow them on the social media sites and pay attention. (Just don’t get creepy and stalk them okay?) These people give out a LOT of useful advice regularly. FOR FREE!
They really do want you to succeed. And even better they want to be the person who finds that next great author. No one is out to get you or hold you back. It may just be a fact that the story you submit, isn’t quite ready. And that is okay too. You get to make corrections and make that story better!
It is also much easier to submit to someone you have at least had a brief conversation with. They may not know who you are when you submit, but somehow just knowing that an editor is not a chain saw wielding maniac is at least comforting.
But my all time favorite way of knowing how your work stacks up to other people’s is:
There isn’t any way around this one. If you write, you MUST read. Sure, it might be between edits, at night before bed or even on the bus or train, but make time to read. Read everything. Not just inside your genre but outside it too. Learn how different element round out a story. Figure out how a writer puts in elements of suspense into a Science Fiction story or romance into an action story.
Volunteer time in a slush pile or two. I don’t know of any other way to hone those fingers into a true writer better than slush pile work. You get all sorts of examples of great, to good, to okay stories. Learn to pick the best ones out, and better yet learn what the writer did to make it so. Learn to pick out your mistakes. Learn to make your own corrections.
Now if you excuse me I have to go sharpen my collection of chain saws. You never know when the slush pile is going to get too tall. 😉