WotF: Helping the Next Generation Develop Thick Skin

Well, it’s that time again, when Writers of the Future hopefuls wait patiently for the Q4 results to be officially announced while polishing up their entries for Q1.  It’s the wrap-up of another volume and the beginning of a new one.

Good by volume #28, hello #29.

I can’t wait to see the list of HMs and aboves for Q4.  I love scanning it and finding all the names I know.  It’s a lot of fun.

WotF is a unique venue.  It’s designed to encourage and find novice writers.  Almost all of writing is purely business–and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Everyone has to eat and make a living.  And business is tough, man.  There’s little room for patting strangers on the back–especially strangers who aren’t yet proficient at the job.

In business no one cares if you’re trying: either you can produce or you can’t.  Either you are capable or you are not.  And it is your job to rise above the rest of the amateurs (on your own) and become proficient enough to be called a professional.

Business doesn’t play nice with fragile egos.  And, unfortunately, a lot of novice writers have delicate sensibilities.

The good thing about ego is it’s fluid.  Everyone can learn to be more self aware, to better understand their abilities and capacity for improvement.  Everyone has the chance to learn how to take criticism well, and how to tell the difference between arrogance and confidence.

But, some learning curves are steeper than others.  And the publishing industry doesn’t have much room for those writers who take a long time to mature.

There are lots of people out there who love to write, who want to write.  Only a small portion of those people get up the courage to submit a story.  They slip their pristine manuscripts into manila envelopes, slap on a few stamps, send it off, then wait patiently for a reply.  When it comes they open that first SASE to find–of course–a rejection.

This happens to everyone.

But not everyone understands that.

Lost of new writers get discouraged easily and early.  To be honest, those who let the first rejection knock them out of the running forever don’t belong in the industry.  If one rejection keeps you from writing, it’s not your calling.  But some don’t quit all together–instead they become closet writers.  They love it, but they hide it.  Still others might make it through the first few rejections, but as they move into double or triple digits they give up.

Because most rejections are pretty simple, and tell you nada.  All they tell you is, we won’t publish this story.

And that’s how most of it should be.  Because editors don’t owe anyone an explanation.  They don’t owe you a sympathy card, or a pat on the back, or even a better luck next time note.  Did they ask you for your manuscript?  No.  What do you owe the telemarketer whose phone call you didn’t ask for, eh?

But the Writers of the Future contest is different.  They’ve made encouraging new writers their priority.  They want to keep those who would drop out in the running.  Why?  Because they believe in the learning curve–that even the frailest of egos can develop thick skin.  That new writers, like children, are our future and need nurturing.

If you show promise, they have lots of ways to let you know.  Be it a hand written note on a rejection, or an honorable mention, a silver HM, a semi-finalist, or a finalist.  If you don’t win, you’ve been rejected, but your rejection from WotF (form or otherwise) can tell you more than most other rejections: You might not be proficient yet, but someone’s rooting for you.

And that’s a wonderful thing. 

So, what’s your standing for Q4?  Are you already entered in Q1?  Let me know!



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4 thoughts on “WotF: Helping the Next Generation Develop Thick Skin

  1. I was knocked out of Q4 quite a while ago. Already in Q1 though.

    It’s funny when I think back to my high school self, and how emotional I would get about critiques (even on school papers.) I remember one college essay in particular just about sent me up the wall (although I think it was for a scholarship, so my parents had a perfectly rational reason for trying to polish it as much as they could.) Now I think about all the critiques and rejections I get and I just shrug. If only I could teach my younger self a few lessons–but then, I had to journey to this point somehow.

    • Yep, it’s the journey that makes us who we are–but oh, if only we’d known certain things sooner, right? I’m a big procrastinator, and I cringe thinking about how much more I could have accomplished up to this point if only I’d tried to tackle that trait sooner (it’s still a work in progress).

  2. D.M. Bonanno says:

    My Q4 was rejected (but strangely sitting at a pro market for a looong time, fingers crossed). My Q1 is in. I like it, but don’t have a ton of faith in it as a WOTF story. My gen is in revision now, so hopefully I’ll get that in early for Q2. 🙂

    I love this contest. You’re dead on about its priority – it’s one of the markets that keeps me submitting new material. Because what I wrote 5 years ago won’t win – I need to write new stories and get them out.

    How’re you doing with your submissions?

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