Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to Win the Writers of the Future Contest!


Prologue:

I just got back from attending the weeklong workshop and awards ceremony for the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future event.  I was presented with a trophy for my story, "Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya," which appears in Volume 29.  I am happy, but exhausted.

I will be writing more about this important week in upcoming posts.  But for now, I thought I'd 'pay it forward' by providing advice to aspiring contestants.  I know that thousands of people from all over the world enter it every year, hoping to win one of the generous quarterly cash prizes.
 
So, with a winner's inside knowledge, I would like to present to you the secret formula for winning!


HOW TO WIN THE L. RON HUBBARD WRITERS OF THE FUTURE COMPETITION

 

Try to lose.
 

The End

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Please see my blog another time when I will share some of the pictures from that unforgettable --

Huh?

You want more?

Oh, all right.

#

HOW TO WIN THE L. RON HUBBARD WRITERS OF THE FUTURE COMPETITION (2.0)


Try to lose.

By writing a lot.
 

The End

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I hope you'll join me at my next post as I discuss…

Wha….?

You don't think that's useful advice?

You want me to expand?

OK:

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HOW TO WIN THE L. RON HUBBARD WRITERS OF THE FUTURE COMPETITION (3.0)


Try to lose.

By writing a lot.

You'll eventually get so good at it that you'll either win the contest, or have a successful career even without winning. 


The End

# 

Don't thank me.  I just wanted to give back.  I….

Damn you.  You want me to expand on this some more?  You still don't get it.

Well brace yourselves, wannabes.  You're about to see how cruel Cruel Cline can be!

#

HOW TO WIN THE L. RON HUBBARD WRITERS OF THE FUTURE COMPETITION (4.0)


Try to lose.

By writing a lot.

You'll eventually get so good at it that you'll either win the contest, or have a successful career even without winning.
 
Try to write so much, and so well, that you risk losing your amateur status.
 
I sold two stories to Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine before I won.  You get disqualified if you have three professional sales.  If I'd sold one more story at .05 cents a word, I would have been disqualified.  I would not have submitted "Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya," and would have lost out on $750 in prize money, $500 for anthology rights, and the most valuable part of it, the weeklong seminar.

It would have been a lot to lose.

And yet, I still would have been just fine.  Because I have the habit of writing now.  And I still would have had a career.  (Oh, don't get me wrong.  The seminar week has been invaluable.  I learned things that it would have taken me years to bumble around and discover on my own.  But even before that, I was still heading in the right direction, albeit slowly.)

I push myself to write at least 500 words a day, which is not a lot.  But it's what I can manage on a subway train during my daily commute.  Some days, I have written far more than that, but I always demand that 500 words of myself.

Further, I have a quota to finish a new story once every two weeks.  Two a month.  And if I finish four stories in a month, I just 'reset the clock' you might say, and demand two more stories of myself the next month. 

Now, let's look at the contest.

If you Googled, "how to win writers of the future" and got to this page, you are already familiar with the rules. 

You may enter only once per quarter (beginning of October to end of December, and three more quarters just like that).

You therefore, can only submit four stories to the contest in a single contest year (October 1 through September 30).

If you have written only  stories for the contest -- that is, if you only write one story every three months -- then buddy, you are never going to be a professional writer.

If you have a full-time job and responsibilities at home, you should be able to squeeze out one story a month -- 12 per year, or three per contest quarter.

You should therefore, have more stories than you can submit to the contest.  Exactly two more, right?

You should then submit those two stories elsewhere.

And if you don't, tough.  Move aside.  Plenty of other people want to do this.

Let me rephrase that with better emphasis.

Plenty of other people want to do this.  They want to write and sell stories.

If you don't practice your craft, you won't get good enough to sell.

If you only write four short stories in a single year, you haven't done enough practicing.

You know that wonderful week (actually eight days -- I was there from April 8th through the 16th)?  The one I'm saying was so valuable?

Two of the other winners in volume 29 had to leave a day early because they had to get back to their jobs.  They simply couldn't take even one more day off.  (I maxed out my own leave time as well).

One more had to leave early to be at the bedside of a very ill friend.

All three of them loved the seminar.  We all did.  But they were short on time and other things needed attending to.

And these busy adults still found enough time to practice their writing well enough to win the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest!

You be too.


The End
 

The.
 
End.

4 comments:

  1. I need to tell you that you're my new hero. "Gonna Reach Out and Grab Ya" is my favorite story in what is arguably the strongest WOTF anthology I've read so far.

    It's MAGIC, man.

    It was great to meet you (however briefly) on Sunday, and I'm looking forward to reading more from you... y'know, in the FUTURE.

    Thanks for the advice, too. I'm hoping to be signing there next year.

    -- Jake

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jake: Thanks! Very flattering. Coincidentally, my original title was "There Will Be Magic."

      By all means, keep trying to win the contest. The most concrete complaints I heard from the judges were (1) stories that start too slowly and (2) no real plot (i.e., does the main character have a problem to solve or a goal to attain?).

      The more you write (by which I mean, finishing a story, starting another, and then finishing that story) the more those things seem to take care of themselves. You develop an in-your-bones understanding of where the heart of the story is.

      Delete
  2. This advice is absolutely right on!! For many new writers, the contest deadlines start setting 'writing deadlines' that they didn't have before, which then becomes a habit ... a very good habit. Love your work!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This is, in my opinion, the perfect writing advice. The only sure-fire guarantee at success is through perseverance. I feel like Mr. Miyagi when I tell people things like this. Want to win Writers of the Future? Do this. Even if you don't win, you still win.

    ReplyDelete