Post #45 – Award Winning Author

11/1/18

I received a call last month informing me I won third place in the Virginia Writers Club‘s Golden Nib contest. The club will officially announce the winners tomorrow night at its annual meeting, which I already planned to attend. Shhh, don’t tell anyone that I spilled the beans early.

I’ve written about this contest before in Posts 8 & 29. Submitting a short story to last year’s contest was one of the reasons I joined the Northern Virginia chapter of the Club.

This year I skipped submitting a piece in the fiction category but submitted pieces in the nonfiction and poetry categories. The nonfiction work is the one that placed third.

I chose not to submit a fiction piece because I considered that a waste. For one, I didn’t want a story tied up for three months while I awaited the results. I also didn’t want to give up first publication rights to anything I have available. I’d rather retain those rights in the hope a pro or semi-pro market wants to buy the story. Lastly, I didn’t really have anything available to submit.

If I remember correctly, at the deadline, all of my fiction stories were out at other markets. I pretty much chose not to withhold anything earlier in the year in anticipation of submitting to the Golden Nib, and instead kept sending out stories to new markets immediately after each rejection.

But I didn’t feel the same way about my nonfiction and poetry. I’ve only written two in the former category and one in the latter. I didn’t have markets in mind for either the nonfiction piece or poem, so submitting them to the Golden Nib contest seemed appropriate.

Now I’m an award winning author! But is that a thing? Third place in the VWC Golden Nib contest isn’t quite on par with the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust. Win those and you truly are an award winning author.

I know other authors tout their award winning status, but I’m not sure I feel the need to do so in this context. I’m not sure it gets me anywhere. It doesn’t help me reach my goal of three pro sales for SFWA membership.

Maybe I’ll feel differently when I win first place next year. Or maybe when I win the Nebula, Hugo, or Locust.

Let me know in the comments when you think it’s worth trumpeting an award as an author.

Photo credit: 3dman_eu via Pixabay

Post #29 – Do I or Don’t I?

7/12/18

The 2018 Golden Nib contest of the Virginia Writers Club is upon us. Chapter level entries were due by June 30. The winners from each chapter are judged and sent on to the state level by August 13, with the winners announced at the annual meeting in November.

As mentioned in Post #8, I question the rationale for submitting to this contest. On the one hand, there is the chance of being dubbed an “award winning author.” On the other hand, winning means I can’t submit that story to another market, unless the market accepts reprints, because the Virginia Writers Club asks for first publication rights. The problem is the Club hasn’t published the winning stories in years, not even as a PDF on the Club’s website.

One of the reasons I joined the Club last year when I did was to submit to this contest. I feel I’ve gained so much more by joining the Club while the contest has diminished in importance. I’m reluctant to give up first publication rights when there is no guarantee of publication.

When I addressed this issue previously, I noted becoming an award winning author doesn’t get me closer to my goal of being a member of the SFWA. If that truly is my goal, then other possible accolades are irrelevant.

An additional factor to weigh when submitting is the story length. The limit for the Golden Nib contest is 3500 words. That’s fairly short for the stories I write. One thought I had was to write the story I mentioned in Post #22 that fit a specific call for submissions, the deadline for which was the end of June. If I could have hammered that out in June, I expected it to be 3500 or less. That story likely is too specific to the call for submissions to submit to other markets. While I had the story idea, unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to write it. I focused on my novella instead.

The contest has three categories: fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. A Club member may submit one work in each. So what did I do?

First, I submitted a poem. It’s the only poem I’ve written since high school, and I’ve never submitted it anywhere.

Next, I submitted a nonfiction piece, again, my only one to this point. I’ve submitted this piece a couple of times and received the corresponding rejections. It’s currently out at a market that accepts simultaneous submission, so I decided to submit it to the contest as well. If it’s selected by either venue, I’ll withdraw from the other.

What about the fiction category? I decided not to submit. The choice was made easy for two reasons. I either didn’t have a story short enough to fit, or for those that were short enough, they currently are under consideration at markets that do not accept simultaneous submission. As I mentioned in Post #24, read and reread the submission guidelines.

Let me know in the comments if you think I should have tried harder to submit a fiction piece (i.e. write a specific story for the contest), publication rights be damned.

Photo credit: qimono via Pixabay

Post #27 – Collaboration

6/28/18

Last Sunday, I organized a workshop for the Northern Virginia chapter of the Virginia Writers Club. The topic was collaboration. My friend, and established author, Bria Burton graciously agreed to be the speaker. She has collaborated on four themed anthologies with The Alvarium Experiment. The fourth, titled The Prometheus Saga 2, will be released July 27.

I took the idea for a workshop on collaboration from Collaborators by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. As a sci-fi author, I first encountered Anderson’s work writing in the Star Wars universe. In addition to his own novels, he’s since dived into the Dune universe and written at least 13 books (and probably more) with Frank Herbert’s son, Brian Herbert, finishing Frank’s original series and providing the backstory to that universe. He additional has collaborated with his wife, Rebecca Moesta, as well as Doug Beason and Dean Koontz.

Anderson postulates there are five main types of author collaboration. These are:

1) The Full Monty where both authors contribute the same amount of effort and develop every step of the project together.

2) Round-Robin Method where Author A writes the first section or chapter. Then Author B writes the next section or chapter, and so on back-and-forth.

3) First Draft, Last Draft where the authors discuss the project initially and agree on the basic story line, characters, setting, etc. Author A writes the first draft, and Author B edits, fleshes out, and does a final polish of the manuscript. In The Science Fiction Professional, sci-fi author Mike Resnick confirms he uses this technique frequently when collaborating. Of course, at this point in his career, Resnick is Author B.

4) Master and Apprentice which is similar to First Draft, Last Draft. Here the two authors consist of an established writer and a new writer. The two authors develop the story’s outline together, which the Master approves. Then the Apprentice writes the first draft. However, instead of conducting a full edit, the Master offers comments on the draft and gives suggestions and brainstorms solutions to address weak spots. This method is designed as more of a mentoring experience and a way to give the Apprentice a leg up in the industry by contributing the Master’s name to the work.

5) Ghostwriting where one author usually is silent and yet does all the work. The ghostwriter’s name may or may not appear on the work. This is seen often when celebrities decide to write. It’s also seen when an established writer no longer desires to continue a series he/she created or is no longer able to continue the series due to death. V.C. Andrews is a prime example.

Anderson also points out the numerous reasons for collaborating. These include gaining additional expertise, splitting the workload, having a new learning experience, for fun, and to build your carrier. He also cautions there are pitfalls to collaborating. If collaborators do not choose each other wisely, they may never speak, let alone work, together again.

Having never collaborated on a fictional piece (I collaborate almost every day on nonfiction pieces for work), I enjoyed hearing about Bria’s experiences. I’ve mentioned before I’d like to collaborate with one of my beta readers. I believe our strengths and weaknesses are complementary. I write dialogue well, while she’ll be the first to tell you that’s not her strong suit. She is better at establishing the settling, which I struggle with. I’m hoping together we can pull our strengths and develop a great story.

I have just such a story in mind. It’s my next project after hammering out the novella I mentioned last week, the submission window for which will close August 13. I’m hoping once I commit to this project here, it’ll be a done deal. I’ve already worked out the plot points. I just need to get them on the screen.

Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever collaborated with another author and what the result was. Are you still speaking to each other?

Photo credit: diannehope14 via Pixabay

Post #8 – Writing Contests

2/15/18

In Post #6, I mentioned how I submitted a short story to the Virginia Writers Club‘s 2017 Golden Nib Writing Contest.  I didn’t mention the results.  Each chapter sends one entry in the three categories (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry) on to the state level.  The judges reviewing the Northern Virginia chapter entries could not decide between my story “May Science Be With You” and an entry by Michelle McBeth, so the chapter sent both our stories on to the state level in the fiction category.  Co-representative!  Unfortunately, neither of our stories placed.

The president of the Northern Virginia chapter announced the selection of my story to co-represent the chapter at the very first meeting I attended last year.  That was a huge ego boost.  To have even that little amount of validation so early in my writing career also was a great motivator.  I attribute at least part of my productivity last year to that achievement.

Then I got to thinking about what it would have meant to win the Golden Nib, and I didn’t like it.  Placing in the top three, first, means a small cash prize, but I’m not in this for the money.  And we’re essentially talking about a couple of dollars.

Winning also means possibly having your story “published” by the Virginia Writers Club.  That sounds great!  But… it isn’t.  At most that means having your story put in a “Virtual Anthology” (i.e. a PDF with the other winners) that the club posts on its website.  Maybe not even that.  The last Virtual Anthology on the club’s website is from 2015.  The website doesn’t even list the 2017 winners.

What winning actually means is you no longer can submit your winning entry to markets for publication, unless those markets accept reprints.  Most markets want the rights to your story’s first publication.  By winning this contest, you’ve ruined what might be a good chance of getting a story published in a professional market.

This may not be true for all writing contests.  Some may pay more, making it more worthwhile.  Some may produce an actual anthology available for sale or download.  Maybe you only want (or need!) the validation that goes with having your work selected as a winner.  If that is the case, go for it.  But my goal is to make three sales to SFWA-qualifying markets.  If the Virginia Writers Club had selected my story as a winner, that would be one less work I have available to achieve my goal.

Will I submit to future Golden Nib Writing Contests?  Probably.  But they will not be stories hot off the presses.  The works I submit likely will have been rejected by most or all of the SFWA-qualifying markets.  (That’s not a depressing thought at all.)  In other words, it’s a strong candidate to be a trunk story. And maybe I would sound less jaded if the Virginia Writers Club actually published the winning stories even if only on their website. If I won, then I could say I was both a published and award winning author. It just wouldn’t be a notch towards my writing goal.

To give the Virginia Writers Club some credit, it is producing a 100th Anniversary Anthology that actually will be in print.  Unfortunately, the selection process was in 2016, about a year before I joined.