My WotF journey thus far had basically consisted of falling backwards into an Honorable Mention, getting headstrong, and being dosed back to reality by rejections. It wasn’t exactly like I was covering myself in glory at this point, but I was armed with blind enthusiasm and a newfound weapon: the forum, and specifically, the critiques of fellow writers.
For a variety of reasons, I’ve played this whole “Jon writes stuff” thing pretty close to the vest my entire life. Setting aside larger discussion for the time being, the practical effect of that is that I didn’t develop a network of fellow writers, or a writing group. The forum allowed me to connect with other people in roughly the same spot I was. I dove head long into the forum to find people to exchange stories with, and wonder-of-wonders, it was super helpful.
For the next submission I worked it through [checks folder] 43 [dang] revisions. I made a list of all the lessons my rejections had taught me. I made a list of all the things that I knew were important to the contest. I focused on making my prose tight, concise, impactful, beautiful. I poured a lot of metaphorical blood, sweat, and tears into it.
It netted another Honorable Mention.
My first reaction was disappointment. I’d worked so dang hard, maybe that’s my ceiling, I thought.
My second, much more rational, reaction was that was what this story had earned. I didn’t stick the landing. There’s no way that 95% of a great story wins. Maybe it would have placed higher with a killer ending, maybe it wouldn’t have.
Each submission was a lesson, and this one was clear: Stick the ending!