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.
I nominated you for the Liebster Award. I’m kind of, slightly breaking the limit on the followers rule, but hey, that’s the point in a lot of aways.
Here’s the rules for this awesome honor:
1. Each nominee must link back the person who nominated them.
2. Answer the 10 questions which are given to you by the nominator.
3. Nominate 10 other bloggers for this award who have less than 200 followers.
4. Create 10 questions for your nominees to answer.
5. Let the nominees know that they have been nominated by going to their blog and notifying them.
Thank you! It has been a while since I have been nominated for anything :-). I will take some time to do this over the next week.
It’s interesting because I do try to conform my submissions to what the site or publications publish…but it is often surprising that the ones I think are most appropriate in that context are often the ones rejected! Not sure if this riddle can be figured out!
It IS something of a riddle. The best we can do is keep trying!
Well you have the right attitude and the right approach. I do believe you are correct in that you did not have the right audience. You’ll find it. Write what you want, not to a market.
w/a Jansen Schmidt
Thanks for the support! That’s what I keep telling myself. Having been involved in corporate marketing for many years, I can tell you there is nothing worse than something written by committee! If a writer doesn’t have vision and integrity, what’s the point?
It will be interesting to see what happens when you enter a more conventional piece. I agree–writers are not a homogeneous lot. Neither are readers. I enjoy scanning the reviews of best-selling literary novels. It’s always amusing to see the wide range of ratings. What’s one person’s 5-star is another’s 1-star. I recently read a novel called “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.” Not my typical read, but a blogger I follow strongly recommended it. It took a bit for me to get used to the author’s style (there’s not a quotation mark to be found), but I found her writing to be wonderful. One of the best examples of show-don’t-tell I’ve read in a long time. It was a magical read (I thought), and I happily gave it five stars. But there are others who skewered it completely; they absolutely hated it. Guess that just goes to show we have to find our target audience. But even that won’t guarantee success, because oftentimes, our non-target audience finds us, too!
Ha! If only we could keep those readers away who will pillory us and rate our work one star… but then life wouldn’t really be interesting, would it?
I’m adding “The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake” to my to-read list!
I think you’ll enjoy it. I could see you easily creating a gem like that. It’s a quick read, too, unlike ‘The Valley of Amazement’ which I’m reading now (by Amy Tan). I like it, but it’s a long one!
Quick is good. I am so far behind on my reading. I just checked out from the library “The Burgess Boys” and “And the Mountains Echoed.” Maybe next year I’ll catch up with this year’s recommended reads :-).
I definitely want to read “And the Mountains Echoed.” After “The Valley of Amazement” I planned on reading John Grisham’s latest, just to get back to my thriller roots. Unfortunately both books came for me the same day (I had them on hold from the library), and I think I’ll have to return the Grisham one since it’s due this Saturday. I’m too good of a girl to incur overdue fees…