September 30th and October 1st seem to be very popular deadlines. I have
one nonfiction article due on each day, which makes it hard for me to think about
the fiction deadlines coming up on the same days.

October first is the receipt deadline for
New Worlds VI
, the annual Trek amateur mediafic contest. Note that I
don’t say fanfic contest. Since the majority of fanfic themes are
either banned outright or heavily frowned upon, it can hardly
be called a fanfic contest.
Almost all the don’t mess with the characters rules of the
Paramount pay-per-fic media franchise are in effect at SNW. (For more about
SNW as pay-per-fic, see my review of

I don’t have enough time to write fanfic, never mind pay-per-fic, and the
only think I have approaching a complete, unpublished story is a chapter of
the ever-to-appear Seven Saga which just wouldn’t gel into a real fic. Should
I give it an emergency plot transfusion, just to sell it into slavery to Paramount?

The other fiction contest coming up is much better about leaving story
rights in the hands of the writer.
The quarterly and annual postmark deadline for
Writers of the Future,
the biggest speculative-fiction contest I know of, is
September 30th. Winners get dough along with a week-long writing workshop.
On the downside, it’s run by the L. Ron Hubbard people and, no surprise, doesn’t
allow fanfic. I’ve been reading Writers of the Future XVI, and
finding the fiction a little too speculative for my tastes. I’m hoping for a nice,
juicy space opera before I hit the back cover.

Another upside of WotF is the writing essays scattered throughout the
contest anthology. The best one so far was about…writing. A good story,
Algis Budrys says, should have a beginning, a middle and an end. In the
beginning, you introduce the character, the context and the problem. In
the middle the character attempts to solve the problem and fails - three
attempts, three failures. That’s the rule of three - two is too little, four too much.
Next comes victory, still
in the middle. The end is devoted to “validation”, some sort of external
evidence that the story is really over. The example he gives is “Who was that
masked man?” The character, by the way, doesn’t change - he is only revealed
by the action, not transformed.

Yes, it’s simple, yes, it’s formulaic, and yes, it’s a little odd, but I thought if
I went back to my UFO folder and applied these rules, I might actually come
out with at least one finished story. If I only had more free time…

3 Responses to “Contests”

  1. Seema Says:

    Contests have a way of making my muse go absolutely bonkers, curling up from the pressure and hoping it will all go away. The ASC Awards are better because 8 months of the year, we’re not thinking about them and heck, even during voting I wasn’t even thinking of them. But SNW… it’s scaring the heck out of me and I’m still debating whether to do it or not. Advice?

  2. Jemima Says:

    My advice is go read some bad professional fiction, or bad yet award-winning fan fiction, just to prove to yourself that the bar isn’t really that high. Then allot yourself a certain amount of time - you have barely three or four days left, since the deadline is for arrival, not the postmark - and make what improvements you can in your story. Then send it in.

    If it wins, it’s because you’re wonderful. If it loses, it’s because you didn’t have enough time to work on it. No worries, either way. It never hurts to try.

  3. Seema Says:

    You’re a wise woman, Jemima. I’m going for it.