Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest 2014

jbmwc2014finalistsI’m thrilled to be joining a group of esteemed writers as a finalist in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest 2014. Amazing to see my name on that list.

There are a few names I know there, and some dark horses. Some have been finalists in the Writers of the Future contest and others have been place getters in the Jim Baen contest previously (including myself in both of those categories). I do feel humbled being among such luminaries as Brad R. Torgersen (Writers of the Future winner, Hugo, Nebula and Campbell award nominee), Martin L. Shoemaker (stories in Analog and Galaxy’s Edge, and forthcoming in Gardner Dozios’s Year’s Best Science Fiction), Marina J. Lostetter (Writers of the Future winner [in the same quarter when I was a finalist, grrr], stories in Galaxy’s Edge, Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show). Sheesh, I need to stop now, after all there are only three podium places.

Best of luck to everyone.

Writing fast


So it’s the end of March and I’m looking at where I am with my writing. My goal is to write 300,000 words during the course of the year. Publishable words, that is. Certainly the goal is changing as I go, and feedback on the rejections, the hold-requests and acceptances is helping with my focus (I did add into the goal that I also want to publish 300,000 words during the year – not counting reprints).

One thing I hadn’t figured on, however, was a big change in the structure of tutoring: much more online, more hours and more deadlines spread through the year. I had been looking at having big blocks of time between the portfolios to really focus on writing, and those blocks have turned out to be very small. This spread has, at the moment, meant that I’m writing alongside the tutoring and so, somehow, still maintaining my minimum of 1000 words a day (I do have a day job as well as the part-time tutoring in case you think I’m just goofing off).

I have written a complete novel, seven stories of various lengths (from 665 words up to 13,000) and I’m currently half-way through the next novel. The first novel has been (self) published, as have four of the stories (two under pen names) – one of those on MicroHorror, rather than self-published (that’s the 665 word flash fiction piece). The other stories are on submission with publishers, or still being tinkered with (I might be writing pulp, but I’m going to fine-tune the literary story for the national competition).

So, a quarter of the way through the year and I’m just a little ahead of a quarter of my publishing target (80,000 words published) and more than halfway towards my total goal: more than 150,000 words written so far. I’m surprised, stunned and stoked that it’s going this well this early. I don’t know if I’ll manage another 150,000 in the next quarter (tutoring does hot-up a little), but the momentum is there. And I still have more ideas than I have time to write.

Whether to have a crisis of confidence, or just get on and write better…

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Last year I entered a writing contest. I didn’t win, but I placed pretty highly (top twenty). Yay for me. I entered again (this particular contest has four rounds a year), with a story I knew wouldn’t win – just to reassure myself that placing wasn’t easy. Sure enough that story didn’t even make the list of around 100 named as making it to the long list. So placing highly was some kind of achievement. Yay for me, again (not to sound too self-congratulatory…)

Good. So then I wrote my best damn story ever and entered that for the current round, feeling pretty smug and sure of myself that I would, if not win, at least get into that top 20 again. The results have just been posted, and guess what. Not a win. Not top 20. Not even on that freaking long list of around 100. Nada.

WTHeck? That was the best I could do. And it didn’t even place. Maybe I didn’t even send it right (nope, I got an acknowledgment). Maybe the reader was having a bad day. Maybe I really do suck as a writer. Maybe I should just pack it in and buy a PSVita and spend the rest of the year playing Uncharted.

Right. That would be a solution.

Actually, I’ve got a better solution. Write a better story. Yep. Gotta keep improving as a writer. If I want to win this competition then I need to write my even better best damn story ever. In fact, I’ve got the idea down already. And I’ll start writing it tomorrow.

And, on another note. I’ve got to remind myself that contests and submissions are all something of a lottery. You’ve got to buy a ticket to win. Sure, it’s important to write well, but it’s still a whole lot to do with what’s going through a particular editor’s or judge’s head on that particular day.

That story? I’ll be send it to a pro market soon. Actually – tomorrow. You’ve got to buy a ticket to win.