I discovered the contest and earned an Honorable Mention. Then I submitted something in hurry and got rejected. Now, with a whole quarter to work on a story, I had high hopes (absurdly, Greek-Tragic-Hamartia-Style, high hopes). And they were due to be dashed on the rocks below. Hard.
So armed with fresh lessons about making a complete story, I set out to tell a piece of ancillary backstory to a novel I’ve been working on. Kind of the Han Solo Story prequel type of thing that the Star Wars folks are up to now. I had existing characters, world building, a magic system, in other words, a lot of grunt work was in place.
So I wrote it. I thought it was good. I had an arc. I had foreshadowing. I tried to make the ending bookend the beginning. I reached the end of the quarter, gave the story a last once-over, and submitted. I was awful proud of myself too. Time to sit back and await the inevitable… REJECTION?
Well that was unexpected.
Round about now something completely unrelated happened. The WotF forums that had been broken such that no new users could register were fixed. Amy Henrie Gillet (who would go on to win one of the quarters and whom I look forward to meeting in April) graciously offered to review stories. Her feedback was useful and dead on:
Lack of imagery. I’ve already kind of hit on this while talking about adding creative settings to your scenes. Even though your story is good, I found it very difficult to get immersed because the imagery was so sparse. I had no idea what kind of culture it was, what kind of clothes they wore, what the city looked or sounded like, what the rooms looked or smelled like… I never found out if this was your own fantastical world or if it was a Western medieval fantasy or an Arabian Nights setting. I couldn’t get engrossed because there was too little for my imagination to feed on.
It’s not good enough to have a good plot, not for WotF and not for the publishing world beyond. I wasn’t descriptive enough. I focused so much on plot, I wrote sparse, bland, shallow prose. The competition both in the contest and in other markets requires all the elements to be exceptional.
The prose I submitted wasn’t good enough, and that lesson in humility was exactly what I needed at the time.