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2019 Writer Winners Group Shot

Writers & Illustrators of the Future Workshop – Day 2

Writer Workshop: Day 2, Story Ideas and Outlines

While Sunday was arrival day for the illustrators, it was the first full workshop day for our twelve writer winners. The day began at 9 am with a tour of Author Services, Inc. including the magnificent Writers of the Future library which features books, magazines, and graphic novels written or illustrated by contest winners past and present.

On their return to the workshop space, Orson Scott Card (Ender’s Game) kicked off the day of writing tips with a history and overview of tense and point of view in fiction. The writers learned the nuances and limitations of everything from first person present to third person omniscient. Card even discussed second person future (which you will appreciate soon).

Tim Powers (On Stranger Tides) gave each writer the random items they’ll be using as story prompts when they begin their 24-hour stories on Day 2. The writers pondered their items, brainstorming what they might do with things like a blank 3×5 card, a tea bag or a tiny book of whale pictures.

David Farland (The Runelords) discussed story structure, teaching writers about the importance of try/fail cycles when writing short stories. Card supplemented the lesson with highlights from his popular MICE quotient theory (detailed in his book Characters & Viewpoint for those following along at home).

After their lunch break, the writers returned for talks on how to get the most out of writing workshops, different approaches to sensory details, and how to transport the reader into your story physically, emotionally and intellectually.

Our trio of famous authors wrapped up the day by talking about where story ideas come from and how to get more than a thousand story ideas in an hour by asking yourself just four questions.

Day 1 of the writer workshop ended with homework assignments designed to keep readers in suspense. Will the writers take the lessons to heart? Will they ever write in second person future POV? Will they ever be able to get the words “beaver water” out of their heads?

Tune in tomorrow to find out!

Reporting by Kary English, Writers of the Future Contest First Reader and winner from Volume 31.

Illustrators of the Future Art Workshop: Day 1, Arrival

Illustrators of the Future Contest winners arrived today from across the US including Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Vermont, 3 from the Seattle area, 2 from California, as well as 2 from England. It turns out that Josh Pemberton, Allen Morris, and Christine Rhee were all introduced to the Contest by Volume 34 Illustrators of the Future winner, Bruce Brenneise. Looks like Bruce knows how to pick ’em! Thank you, Bruce!

Their art styles and aspirations range from sci-fi art to fantasy art, character design, concept art, and story illustration.

Upon arrival, the illustrator winners were whisked off to do video interviews and podcasts for social media promotion for themselves, the Contest, and the book. Sharing their sources of inspiration and their hopeful plans for the future. These talented artists are definitely people to watch for.

"One of Our Robots Is Missing" painted by Bob Eggleton

How Bob Eggleton Created the Cover Art for Writers of the Future Volume 35

The cover for L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 35 is not one, but two paintings by world-renowned artist Bob Eggleton.

We found a piece of art that Bob had painted years ago which had never been on a book cover. The painting itself is a perfect example of the power of illustration and one we really wanted to use for the book cover. But, there wasn’t enough art to be able to wrap around a book.

Super 7 Robot by Bob Eggleton

Original artwork “Super 7 Robot” painted by Bob Eggleton.

WOTF 35 cover sketch

Working together with Bob, we sketched out how his art could be transformed into a cover for Writers of the Future.

Detail of sky and clouds

Based on this sketch, Bob painted a second piece of art to be combined with the original.


Detail of water and waves

Detail had to be given to match the waves and sky to the original art while expanding the dimension of the overall painting.

The two paintings are merged

The two paintings combined provided sufficient art to wrap around the entire Writers of the Future book.

"One of Our Robots Is Missing" painted by Bob Eggleton

Finally, we matched the colors to make it a seamless combining of the two images. The result is the painting “One of Our Robots Is Missing” by Bob Eggleton.


Bob said, “It was fun to revisit a painting I did 12 years ago and expand on it. It was a wonderful job melding two paintings together to make a wholly new one.”

And with this final art, we are able to reveal the cover for L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 35.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 35


Bob Eggleton

Bob Eggleton was born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1960 and became interested in science fiction art at an early age. Today he is a successful science fiction, fantasy, and landscape artist.

Winner of seven Hugo Awards and eleven Chesley Awards, his art can be seen on the covers of numerous magazines, professional publications, and books in the world of science fiction, fantasy, and horror across the world including several volumes of his own work. He has also worked as a conceptual illustrator for movies and thrill rides.

Of late, Eggleton has focused more on private commissions and self-commissioned work. He is an elected Fellow of the International Association of Astronomical Artists and is a Fellow of the New England Science Fiction Association.

He has been an Illustrators of the Future judge since 1988 when the Contest first started.

Another article you may be interested in: Sci-Fi Robots

Illustrators of the Future 4th Quarter Winners

Illustrators of the Future 4th Quarter Winners Announced for Volume 35

This illustration contest list is the place to be!

 

And the winners are:

Aliya Chen from California
Qianjiao Ma from California
Alice Wang from Washington

 


Finalists:

Ivan Garcia from Mexico
Gillian Griffiths from Colorado
Ashly Lovett from Louisiana
Yo Mutsu from Japan
Richard Romare from the Philippines

Semi-Finalists:

Victoria Campbell from Minnesota
Allison Chen from California
Consuelo Higdon from California
Sang Eun Lee from California
Bojan Milojevic from Serbia
Crystal Modeste from Florida
Sarah Moore from Tennessee
Melissa Posner from New York
Aaron Radney from Missouri
April Robinson from Arkansas
Andy Rogers from Alaska
Michelle Vigeant from Massachusetts
Jabari Weathers from Maryland

Honorable Mentions:

Lorena Campes from Florida
Ben Coombs from Utah
Kayla Fox from Pennsylvania
Caroline Griffith from Florida
Ryan Hamm from California
Eliana Harrison from New Jersey
Doug Hoppes from North Carolina
Ravi Kumeriya from India
Phillip Mandipira from Zimbabwe
Rose Moran from the United Kingdom
Jason Notter from Alaska
Annabelle Pullen from Florida
Emily Schallock from Alabama

Illustrators of the Future 3rd Quarter Winners

Illustrators of the Future 3rd Quarter Winners Announced for Volume 35

This illustration contest list is the place to be!

 

And the winners are:

Allen Morris from Washington
Jennifer Ober from New Mexico
Josh Pemberton from Washington

 


Finalists:

Nicole Annunziata from New York
Chase Henson from Utah
Linda Thai from California
Erika Torres from Georgia
Brandon Whelan from Kentucky

Semi-Finalists:

Adam Carsons from Colorado
Kristelle Dirks from Arizona
Bianca Dortch from California
Adam Mekies from Colorado
Evangelia Psoma from Greece
Daniel Santiago from Florida
Julia Talbot from Massachusetts
Joel Tokarczyk from Indiana
April Wei from California

Honorable Mentions:

Sean Bedrosian from Michigan
Anthony DiBattista from New York
Jackson Fojut from Colorado
Camila Frater from Canada
Mayralejandra Guevara from Tennessee
Alexandra May from California
Mary Margaret McKay from Massachusetts
Leah McKay from Texas
Andrea Palmer from Virginia
Chau Pham from Washington
Miriam Presas from California
Christina Rodriguez-Unalt from New Jersey
Nava Saad from New York
Erin Sheehan from Maine
Mariah Stewart from Missouri
David Unthank from Ohio
Cassandra Vincent from Florida

"Slurp" by Lucas Durham

Showcase: Lucas Durham, Illustrators of the Future Winner

During my first week of college, I was gifted with one of Frank Frazetta’s published sketchbooks. I was amazed and inspired by the raw ideas and energetic gesture lines that leapt off every page. Since then, I’ve continued to be intrigued by other artists’ sketchbooks, because they’re a glimpse into someone else’s thought process. You can see how they study the world around them; how they muddle through a problem; how they take seeds of an idea all the way through to a final painting. There’s a vulnerability shared in the pages that you don’t normally find in finished work.

With that in mind, this year I’m releasing my first published sketchbook. Throughout recent years, I’ve built up a portfolio of visual artifacts: images originating from a variety of planned projects, studies, and art challenges. It includes some of my favorite drawing series, including a series of drawings pulled from abstract graphite blots, and portraits of women with fey traits. There’s also whimsical doodles, portrait studies, and of course, fan art from various media. The sketchbook demonstrates my artistic process as well as a glimpse into my everyday life—an intimate collection of who I am.

His book was recently launched on his Etsy Storefront and is available for purchase there as well as at conventions where he is showcased, including GenCon in Indianapolis, August 2-5, 2018.


Lucas Durham

Lucas is an Illustrators of the Future winner published in Writers of the Future Volume 29. Find out more about him at www.LucasDurham.com

Illustrators of the Future 2nd Quarter Winners

Illustrators of the Future 2nd Quarter Winners Announced for Volume 35

 

Here are the 2nd Quarter Illustrators of the Future Contest Winners for Volume 35

 

Congratulations to you all!


Winners:

Alexander Gustafson from Washington
Sam Kemp from the United Kingdom
Christine Rhee from California

 


Finalists:

Katie Boozer from Florida
Victoria Campbell from Minnesota
Grace Fong from Canada
Ashley Hankins from California
Jeremy Zheng from California

Semi-Finalists:

Joymae Capps from Washington
Sam Greene from North Carolina
Amara Klemann from Texas
Adam Kohn from Georgia
Sarah Beth Moore from Tennessee

Honorable Mentions:

Kathryn Bertram from North Carolina
Becca Gowdy from Virginia
Gabrielle Isabella Hojilla from California
Avery Istwan from Missouri
Courtney Kilmak from Connecticut

Bob Eggleton

Art Is a Journey by Bob Eggleton

“Art? So you want to do art for a living? Do you know what the chances of success are?”

Those words echo in my head, some twenty-seven years later after my last year in high school. They were the words of a provincial and so-called “guidance counselor.” Whenever anyone suggests they’d like to have a career in the arts, specifically art and illustration, it is often met with such sarcasm and negativity that one can only feel sorry for the lack of wonder and vision in these people. After all, haven’t all manner of people been bombarded with some form of advertising art over the last one hundred years or so?

Perhaps, had I listened to this person, had I followed his suggestions, I would be in some highly “safe” but dismally predictable job. I might never have found out the extent of my reach or potential if I had taken his advice to heart. I don’t know, and frankly, I can’t picture myself any other way than I am now.

Quality of Communication

Encouragement in the arts is an uphill battle. Putting it simply, to some, art—writing, music, and also entertainment—is seen as some kind of marginal and dispensable need: something that is not necessary for day-to-day living. Those people do not know how wrong they are, because without it, they are not living. Art enriches lives with understanding and communication on a very basic level. As L. Ron Hubbard once said: “ART is a word which summarizes THE QUALITY OF COMMUNICATION. It therefore follows the laws of communication.” And truly, being an illustrator is being a communicator in a visual language all can understand.

There are many ways for someone to recommend “tips” and suggestions on success in this chosen field. Some are general ideas that will work, and still, for others, it is a case of what works for another may not work for you. A lot of it is a combination of drive, talent, and most of all, luck. But then I believe in creating luck—by being determined to succeed.

A suggestion that I found worked for me early on (and I still stand by it), after I found it led to essentially dead ends was: never work for free. Even in this book that you hold in your hands, the writers were paid for their stories and illustrators for their illustrations. But that’s all beside the point in this case, as in both instances, winners and finalists got a wealth of suggestions and critiques worth far more than money, and, well, the thrill of winning a wonderful accolade. So, that said, they can’t now retreat and do something for nothing; this is, unfortunately, a world where there are unscrupulous people who will surely take advantage of an illustrator/writer/creator inexperienced in business. I’m not saying don’t give of yourself to your favorite good cause or charity—something where the reward is in the helping. I am saying: don’t do a fantastic piece of artwork and then simply sign away your rights as having created the work, and someone else goes on and makes money off your labors. Donating your talent and time to a good cause is just being a nicer human being—and that comes back to you, I have found. However, being taken advantage of is another thing. There is nothing more discouraging than that.

Camembert Cheese?

Achieving fame is another issue. What’s important is not whether you are famous, but rather do you love what you do? And, if you do achieve a kind of fame, I warn you, never ever believe your own press. That is to say, let nothing go to your head too much, positive or negative. Salvadore Dali did his epic painting Persistence of Memory (the one with the melting clock) and critics praised this as some life-changing, almost existential, self-defining work of inner truth. In reality his entire inspiration was from … Camembert cheese. That was it. It does not detract at all from this fine work, but some people who wanted to read something more into it felt betrayed.

This also means avoiding being “lofty” or “high and mighty.” How can you be in the business of communication, as Mr. Hubbard reminds us, if you don’t communicate in a way people can understand? To some it seems to be the way to more wealth and power, but, in the end, it’s a losing game to pursue. And I also warn you, should you reach the heady heights of success and/or popularity … there are those few in the shadows who delight in trying to destroy that. It’s called “Tall Poppy Syndrome” and is usually practiced by those who are in opposition to what you do, are trying to make themselves feel superior by belittling your creation, or are jealous, or just petty. There are still others, in all ignorance, who, no matter how much money you make or how happy you are, will never see “art” as a “credible living.” They’ll forever see it as a hobby and possibly ask when you are going to get a “real job.”

The “up” factor is that the majority of people will find something that “speaks” to them in your work. And it’s always exhilarating, no matter how much you achieve in your life, to see an image or written piece you’ve created in print form. Hold it in your hands and say, “I did that.” It’s also nice to get paid for it.

What About Technique?

I’m often asked about techniques and ways I work with materials. My reply to that is: each to his, or her, own. There is no instruction manual; learning what is right (or wrong) for you is just trial and error—experimentation. However, I will add that art is a journey—an ongoing learning experience—one that will probably consume the rest of your life. My usual answer to “What is your best piece?” is “My next one!” because for me, it’s a quest to see what I can do next. I try to use different media—pencils, pastels, oils, collage, acrylics, gouache, watercolors and markers—simply because it motivates me to explore. Finding ideas in the paint and the paper itself. At least that’s what I tell myself, and it keeps me going. It is always the next piece that will be better than this one. You hope, anyway.

The idea of “the next piece” suits me well in meeting deadlines. I don’t have time to fuss around wondering if this will be the defining piece of my life. It’s due Thursday and that’s what’s more important at that time. Deeper works will come with more time and in perhaps creating something just for oneself.

Computer Generated Vs Traditional Art

Recently, there is another debate raging in science fiction art circles: computer art versus traditional methods of brushes and paint. Advances in technology in the computer seem as though it makes anyone an artist. This is not true. It can give someone the illusion that they are able to be an artist, but to really be a good illustrator—painter or draftsman—it takes many years of practice and observation. A computer and the various programs can be excellent tools if that is what you wish to create with. But, one has to have the basic skills and, I believe, the talent to breathe life into one’s chosen subject. If the talent is there and the skills are honed, the style, expression and communication will show through any media. My personal feeling is that I like a painting—a physical piece of art to show for what I have done. Many publishers have entirely gone to using digital computer art. The idea of doing an original painting seems to be viewed as quaint. In fact people are genuinely struck that I “still work the old way.” Interestingly, I get calls to do illustrations because I can do them “the old way.” We are approaching a time when there will be fewer and fewer original, physical paintings and drawings. Conversely, digital storage is not as permanent as one would like to think it is. Computers, programs and storage media go out of date faster than yesterday’s newspapers.

I do believe that using digital can be a good thing, if used in tandem with creating an original painting. This works especially well in doing concept art for motion pictures. Working for motion pictures is quite an experience, because unlike doing a single illustration for a story or a book cover, the artist is asked to do many pieces of artwork, usually working the same idea over and over again to find the ultimate vision that speaks with its own “voice.” Scripts change, directors and producers change their minds; it is an ongoing process of creation and re-creation. It’s less important to do a finished illustration than it is to come up with a lot of ideas. And usually, it has to be done quickly. More ideas are better, and even ones that are discarded give life to still other ideas. But, it is no different than the basic idea of communicating.

The Chinese Finger Trap

In regard to health, it is important for the artist to get out and exercise. Good health is good for creating. Breathe the air, see the sunset. The more you see “reality” the better your fantastic imagery will be because it is grounded in something people can understand. Quite often when I am stuck on a solution I find just such breaks extremely helpful not only to my state of mind, but in finding the best idea for a given assignment. The danger can be like a Chinese finger trap—keep pulling your fingers and you won’t get much but panic and confusion. Relax, and the trap loosens. However, and I make this solid and beneficial suggestion: try to keep “working hours” within a regular schedule, say nine to five, as it were. And, unless it’s really necessary, don’t work weekends. Try to do something for yourself or with your family then to avoid burnout. Balance is very important: the well-being of the creative spirit as well as the physical body.

Being an artist is like a jester doing the juggling act. While the idea that an artist sits in his or her studio creating illustrations and the world falls at their feet is a romantic one, it is certainly not the reality. The reality is balancing life around that—making sure the bills are paid on time, the laundry is done and the dishes washed; to sleep, eat and breathe. And you still have to make those deadlines.

What Works for Me

I try to suggest to people something that does work for me—be the best artist you can be; don’t worry about being the best there is. You’ll be a lot happier in the long run. Later on, history will judge your work to be the work of some genius—or not. Then again, it could all be the Camembert cheese.


Bob Eggleton

Bob Eggleton

Bob Eggleton is the winner of nine Hugo Awards in the field of Science Fiction and Fantasy. He also won twelve Chesley Awards, two Locus Awards and the New England Science Fiction Association’s Skylark Award. Bob has worked in the film industry, including the Warner Bros. animated film The Ant Bully. He has an asteroid named after him—113562bobeggleton—and is an expert in all things relating to Godzilla and giant monsters and was an extra in a Godzilla film. He is married to artist Marianne Plumridge from Australia. He has been a judge for the L. Ron Hubbard Illustrators of the Future Contest since 1987.

This article was originally published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future volume 22.

Follow him on Facebook.com/bob.eggleton

Writers of the Future Golden Pen Award and books published by the winners

Some Important Facts You Should Know About Writers & Illustrators of the Future

The Writers of the Future Contest began in 1984 and the companion Illustrators of the Future Contest followed 5 years later. Both have grown to become the largest merit competitions of their kind in the world. While we never give the exact number of entries, we can say that there are thousands of entries each year with contestants submitting from 177 countries.

So far, the Contests have honored 404 Writer winners, 80 Writer published finalists and 334 Illustrator winners hailing from 44 nations over the first 34 years. In addition, they have awarded nearly $1 million in prize money to the winners.

Why This Is Important to Your Career

A review of the 34 years has found that of the 484 writer winners and published finalists, 336 went on with their writing career publishing at least one story and 192 are still active with a writing career—that’s 40% still writing!!

Now combine the above with the fact that the number of new books published annually is now over 1 million. The average new book also sells less than 250 copies in the first year. And less than 1% of the new books published have a chance of being stocked in a bookstore.

What Industry Professionals Have to Say

See why established professionals in the business say what they do about the Contest and to its value to the future of science fiction & fantasy.

So, isn’t it time you entered?

For the Writer Contest: www.writersofthefuture.com/enter-writer-contest/

For the Illustrator Contest: www.writersofthefuture.com/enter-the-illustrator-contest/

Another article you may be interested in: Brand New Science Fiction

National Bestseller 4 Consecutive Years

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future a National Bestseller 4 Years in a Row

Nearly 100 aspiring writers and artists have realized a major accomplishment over the past 4 years as winners in the Writers & Illustrators of the Future Contests — when the book they were published in, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, became a national bestseller.

The Hard Facts

The number of new books published annually is now over 1 million (data provided by Bowker) with more than 2/3rds being self-published. Yet the number of book outlets in the US has dropped significantly, from 38,539 in 2004 to 22,586 in 2018. Unfortunately, the average new book will sell less than 250 copies in the first year and less than 1% have a chance of being stocked in a bookstore.

Writers of the Future Provides Hope

At a time when getting a much-needed break as a writer seems next to impossible, having a contest such as Writers & Illustrators of the Future becomes all the more vital. In fact, a review of the previous 33 years found that out of 472 past writer winners and published finalists, 336 have gone on with their writing career, publishing at least one story. And 192 continue to write and be published—that is, over 40% who are still realizing their dreams as a writer.

Publishers Weekly Sci-Fi Bestseller ListWriters of the Future 34 Now a National Bestseller

In keeping with the Contests’ aim to give new writers and artists a leg-up on their careers, this past week L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34, became a national bestseller, hitting the #10 spot on the Publishers Weekly Science Fiction bestseller list. This is the fourth Writers of the Future volume in a row to achieve national bestselling status—a fitting accolade for this year’s winners!

Volume 34, released in April, is a compilation of 12 top sci-fi and fantasy short stories written by 12 winners of the Writers of the Future Contest and illustrated by the 12 Illustrators of the Future Contest winners. While contest entries span over 170 countries, winners this year hailed from 9 different countries and include Belgium, Canada, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, Venezuela, as well as the United States.


 


The winning authors listed alphabetically are Janey Bell, Eneasz Brodski, Erik Bundy, Erin Cairns, Vida Cruz, Jonathan Ficke, Amy Henrie Gillett, Diana Hart, Cole Hehr, N.R.M. Roshak, Darci Stone and Jeremy TeGrotenhuis.

Winning illustrators listed alphabetically are Bruce Brenneise, Adar Darnov, Alana Fletcher, Quintin Gleim, Duncan Halleck, Sydney Lugo, Anthony Moravian, Maksym Polishchuk, Jazmen Richardson, Reyna Rochin, Brenda Rodriguez and Kyna Tek.

Also included in Volume 34 are short stories written by New York Times bestselling authors and Writers of the Future contest judges, Brandon Sanderson and Jody Lynn Nye along with a fantasy short story by contest founder, L. Ron Hubbard. The cover art was created by internationally acclaimed artist and Illustrators of the Future judge, Ciruelo.

Discover why these are the best new voices in speculative fiction by reading their stories and seeing their art in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34.

Writer winner Amy Henrie Gillett

A Little Light in a World of Darkness

Amy Henrie Gillett hopes to kindle people’s hearts and minds by contributing a little light to a world that sometimes seems so dark. And so the story of how “All Light and Darkness”—published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34—came to be as told by Amy.


“All Light and Darkness” began as a final project for my college Creative Writing class. It was not speculative fiction originally and lacked much of the refinement the published version has (hopefully). However, the voice and format were there, as well as the plot.

When I first decided to pursue the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, I recalled this piece, originally titled “Stay” and rewrote it to fit a science fiction world I’d begun building for a potential series. This world was conceived during a six-month period where I wanted to start a novel. I began that novel and soon found myself overwhelmed by my ambition and inability to meet my own expectations. That’s when I decided to turn to short story writing to improve my technique.

Originally, I treated short stories as a means to world-build, develop voice, invent characters and conflicts, and get my name out there in preparation for novel writing. However, to my surprise, I discovered a real passion for short story writing.

Short story writing demands development of plot and depth in a very small word count. It demands precision and eloquence, and I think it allows a flexibility of format and voice that novels don’t. A writer can use a very strange format or voice in a short story that readers would grow tired of in a novel. Not only that, but short stories seem to demand meaning–a reason to be read. I like to write poignant stories with layers of meaning in them, and I like those reflections to be the centerpieces of the stories and not a tangent. I write to inspire and change, and entertaining readers is the means by which I attempt that.

Novel writing requires more subtlety with themes and presents numerous thoughts and ideas throughout the story, and it demands much greater attention to entertainment.

I have fifteen drafts of “All Light and Darkness” saved to my computer and a few other drafts in hard copy. Any time I made a major change to my manuscript, particularly if I removed any content, I made a new file. I submitted to the competition for the first time at around Draft 8. The story was over 16,000 words long, and I expected a win–thought I was the best thing since Bradbury.

I received a flat rejection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the competition, a rejection means that, in all likelihood, the story wasn’t read all the way through. David Farland tried a draft or two then said, nope.

I told myself I must have been rejected because of word count. Anyone could see it was a massive piece, and I thought there was no way it would have been rejected if it’d been read all the way through. So, I cut it down to 14,000 words and submitted again.

Again, a flat rejection.

My ego in shambles, I decided I should probably learn how to do this short story thing correctly. I started stalking the Writers of the Future forum, signed up for David Farland’s “Story Doctor” weekly writing tips, and scoured the internet for short story advice. Then I hitched up my pants and submitted what was then “Stay” to Critters.org.

In the meantime, I wrote a new story and submitted it to the competition. Another rejection.

The Critters Community did a fantastic job on “Stay.” Not only did I get some very positive feedback, I also received respectful, but firm, recommendations on changes. I accepted many of those recommendations, and thus began the heartbreaking process of their execution. They say if you don’t bleed over your words, you’re not doing it right. Well, I bled.
I went through each critique line by line and wrote up a list of the suggestions I agreed with or wanted to try out. The list filled a whole page of college ruled paper. Sometimes you have to swallow your preconceptions, try out the changes, let it sit, and then decide whether they’re a win.

In the end, I changed the entire first scene, beefed up the climax, cut out a middle scene, and deleted the last 1000 words. Oh, and gave my character a new power. And got rid of a cast of minor characters. And toned down my purple prose…. And changed the title.

I didn’t take every recommendation, but man, those people really knew what they were talking about. After I made the edits (the hardest was removing that middle scene and deleting the last 1000 words), I was so excited by the final product that I submitted three days early. It just felt right. It was about 11,000 words long and had a different focus from the previous versions. I expected at least a semi-finalist slot.

Draft seventeen won second place.

What I’ve discovered is that I’m too much of a perfectionist writer. Not that I plan to submit any piece I don’t feel I’ve done my utmost on, but I need to do it more efficiently. I do a first draft then print it and do a second, send it to one or two first readers, do another draft, read it out loud, do another draft, send it in for a group critique, do another draft, read it out loud again, do another draft and then finalize my manuscript for submission. Not only that, but I’m an edit-as-I-write writer too. It’s a long, grueling process. From the time I first retrieved “Stay” from the proverbial trunk, it took me a year to turn it into “All Light and Darkness.”

I’m hoping that in time, I can do a first draft followed by a proofread, send it to a critique group, write a second draft, read it out loud, make hopefully only minor corrections, finalize the manuscript and send it out. I want to take that year and whittle it down to a month. There will hopefully be several other stories written in the world of “All Light and Darkness”–not to mention a few novels–so I don’t have a year to write each one. Regardless, if I learn as much with each new story as I did with “All Light and Darkness,” then maybe someday I will become a Bradbury.

So, onward! Onward to the next draft, the next critique, the next rejection, the next submission… and always, onward to the next story!

Writer and Artist Collaboration

Duncan Halleck and Amy Henrie Gillett

Duncan Halleck is an illustrator and concept artist working in the entertainment industry, specializing in science fiction and fantasy. In the following video, Duncan explains how he painted his image for “All Light and Darkness.”

Read “All Light and Darkness” in Writers of the Future Volume 34 and let a little light into your world.

Another article you may be interested in: Is the world ending?