Thursday, 15 March 2012

Ten-Four: The Results are In

Just a quick post to summarise the results of the Ten-Four Challenge. (If you're new to the blog, Ten-Four was a self-imposed challenge to force myself to enter more competitions and submit more work 'to market', essentially by making ten submissions in the final four months of 2011).

Now the fate of all the submissions is known, as all the competitions have announced their results and the places that aren't competitions have responded. Sadly the Challenge came to a bit of an abrupt and disappointing end at the start of this week, as the last few outstanding stories were either rejected, or failed to place in their respective competitions. I'm usually fine with rejections but these came in a cluster that knocked the wind out of my sails a bit. After a couple of days of moping I have dusted myself off and taken stock of what the results of the Challenge actually were.

Let's get the unpleasant bit out of the way first. I got stories rejected by (1) the BBC and (2) Smokelong Quarterly. Both of these are places that I would really like to place my work, so although I'm disappointed I will definitely be trying again when I next have something suitable to send (or, in the BBC's case, when their "Opening Lines" feature comes around again).

Next, I failed to place in (3) the Autumn 2011 Flash500 competition, (4) the Spilling Ink Short Story competition, (5) The New Writer short fiction competition, and (6) The Willesden Herald short story competition. It's never fun having a story sink without trace in a competition. Although it's not quite as much of a slap in the face as an outright rejection, it still stings. The difference here, I think, is that I start to wonder about the mechanics of the competition. What goes on behind the scenes? Who actually reads the entries and chooses the shortlist to send to the judge? What if my entry got lost somewhere along the way? Generally, it's best not to dwell on such thoughts, if you can help it.

Things pick up a bit with a shortlisting for (7) the Winter 2011 Flash500 competition, and a Highly Commended mention in (8) the NAWG Open Short Story Competition. Neither of these involved any kind of prize or publication, but I'm taking them as a positive sign.

The good news, at last, begins with publication at (9), for my historical crime story, Anatomy of a Crime. I have been fond of this story for a while, and I was pleased to find somewhere for it online - I nearly didn't put it into my anthology as it was unpublished at the time.

And finally, perhaps the best result of the whole endeavour, was one of my favourite stories, (10) Just Jeff, getting published at Every Day Fiction. It's had, generally, a pretty good response from the readers, and I'm very happy to know it's "out there" at last.

So, 2 stories out of ten published, £23 spent on competition entries versus a couple of dollars received in return for publication at EDF. It doesn't sound terribly impressive, I know, but actually a 20% hit rate isn't too bad from what my fellow writers tell me, and getting shortlisted and a Highly Commended both helped to boost my confidence during an otherwise fairly stark period for my writing.

The Challenge helped me focus on getting stuff sent out, gave me a bit of practice in terms of editing and trying to select the right stories to send to each competition. I discovered new markets and, as part of my research, read plenty of both good and bad stories. I feel like I've learned something from it all, even if I'm not 100% sure what it is yet, or how to use the new knowledge. Plus, I've now got a handful of stories that are nicely 'mature', ready to be tweaked and polished and sent out again.

And that's exactly what I'm going to do. Watch this space.


Patsy said...

A 20% hit rate is pretty good, I think.

Chloe said...

Loads of writers would love to have a 20% hit rate! And it's not like you've never had other successes either. If you hadn't set yourself this challenge then the rejections would have been spread over many more months and seemed a lot less brutal! You're a good writer - I feel for you, but do not fear for you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan. Congratulations on the two that got in. As you wrote in your post, you've still got the other stories, and that can't be a bad thing - rejections are disappoitning but you've not lost anything. And based on the rest of your work which I have read, they'll be good ones.

I should say thanks as well, because your four-ten challenge prompted me to set my own twelve-one challenge, which was to send off one piece of work during 2012 (a 100% increase on 2011). I am proud to report that I have sent off three pieces already. I await the rejections with enthusiasm.

Ric (digestivepress)

Dan Purdue said...

Thanks, Patsy, Chloe, and Ric.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that stories don't get "used up" by rejections. Some of the appeal can get chipped away as the No Thank Yous start to come through, but I try to use that as part of the editing process. Sometimes it's only after a story's been turned down that you can properly see the flaws.

Great to hear you're submitting your work, Ric. Let me know when it gets snapped up (I'm sure it will be).