The results of the Sixfold writer-judged contest came in a few weeks ago. My name was not among the winners. In fact, I had to jump to page two and scroll down to find my story, solidly in the middle of the pack.
I’ve received hundreds of rejections over my writing career, so I’m used to the slight sting that accompanies each. But I wondered what the winning stories have that mine doesn’t. I concluded it’s more about what they don’t have.
The winning stories—and many of the ones that topped mine on the list—are good, solid short fiction. They spark enough interest to carry the reader through ten or fifteen pages. They have sympathetic characters and economical language that advances plot.
What they don’t have, for the most part, is language that takes your breath away. They don’t make me uncomfortable or stick with me long after I’ve read them. They don’t make me say, “Wow, I wish I had written that.” (The exceptions, for me, were Chris Belden’s third-place winner, “The Woodpecker Problem,” and
I’m not claiming my writing is so masterful it does all those things. But my submission aimed outside the box, to use business-speak. I played with form and went for a style that was more magical realism than realism.
Maybe the story really is a bomb.
Or maybe I just chose the wrong audience.
I read previous winning stories from Sixfold, so I had some idea of what rose to the top in the past. The problem is that there’s no way to know the predilections of the current readers generally, or, more particularly, the few who read your story each round.
It turns out writers are not as homogeneous a bunch as you might think. I can only guess that the six who initially read my story—and didn’t rank it highly enough to promote it to the next round—were not after unconventional form or a piece that asks a lot of the reader.
Still, I’m planning a revision to take into account some of the comments I got. And I plan to enter Sixfold again. But, just to be safe, I’ll enter something a bit more… conventional.
Because Sixfold contest entries are available only to other entrants, I’m unable to provide a public link to my story. But I’m happy to give special access to anyone who’d like to read it (pre-editing). Just join my e-mail list and check “Stories submitted to Sixfold” in your preferences and I’ll send you a link.
Some other bloggers’ thoughts about Sixfold.
- SixFold Writing Experience, part one (sypherhawq.wordpress.com)
- Sixfold–Thoughts and reflections sypherhawq.wordpress.com)
- Above the Sixfold (michaelmartineck.blogspot.com)
I’d love to hear from other writers who entered… or who may plan to.