Playing the odds

Writers of the Future: Playing the Odds

A friend recently asked me about ways to improve your chances in the Writers of the Future contest.

I thought it was a good question, and I thought my answers were a nice summary of lessons learned. So I decided to share them here as a simple set of “rules”—in quotes, because they can be broken, and they’re no guarantee, but they’re good guidelines.

But before I get to the rules, I must remind you of the most reliable way to win the contest: write an excellent science fiction or fantasy story, 17,000 words or less, and send it in. Honestly, that’s the best thing you can do. Keep working on that!

Now for the rules…

  1. You should know that for pretty much every fiction market out there – and remember, Writers of the Future isn’t just a contest, it’s a pro-paying market—any rule that you hear, even from the editor directly, can usually be circumvented by a really brilliant story. That’s what every editor wants: a really brilliant story that’s close enough to their genre to give them an excuse to buy it. If you can pass Rule 1, you can ignore the rest of these rules. You’re covered. But you still might want to read them, just in case they give you ideas.
  2. David Farland is the coordinating judge for the contest. Out of the thousands of entries they receive every quarter, Dave selects 8 as Finalists. Then a panel of quarterly judges, all pro writers themselves, select 3 winners for the quarter. But Dave is more than the coordinating judge, more than a bestselling author: he is also a writing mentor through his site My Story Doctor. He also writes a series of writing tips on his blog. Every so often, he blogs specifically about what he’s looking for in the contest, or why some stories don’t make the cut. So Rule 2 is: Read Dave’s Tips.
  3. Rule 3 is: Don’t argue with Dave’s Tips! I can’t believe it, but some people do! They say he’s wrong. Now it might be argued that…
    “There are nine-and-sixty ways of constructing tribal lays, and every single one of them is right!” —Rudyard Kipling
    And Dave would not disagree! There are many ways to write a story. If you can tell a great story that ignores Dave’s Tips, more power to you! But that doesn’t make Dave wrong about what he looks for in the contest! He might be wrong about what readers want. He’s not wrong about what he looks for.
  4. Except… In at least one case, Dave was wrong. He’s on record as saying he hates werewolf stories. He never even finishes them. But… Last year Julie Frost won with a werewolf story. How did she do it? Simple: she wrote a story so good that Dave could not ignore it. Rule 4 is: See Rule 1.
  5. They get thousands of entries every quarter. Many are by people who just enter contests without looking into the details. A good number aren’t even science fiction or fantasy. So if Dave doesn’t see an SF/F element by the end of page 2—or at least a hint—he’ll probably stop reading. If it looks promising otherwise, he might skip to the end to see if it’s there.
  6. Dave does a lot of skipping to the end. He has seen a lot of plots. If he figures out your plot on page 2, he skips to the end to see if he’s right. If he is, you’re probably out. But if he’s surprised, he may go back to see how you got there.
  7. They get a lot of stories inspired by the latest big movie. They all blur together and most likely none of them get through. As excited as you may be by the latest blockbuster, put that idea aside. Let it simmer. Come back to it later, and give it a fresh twist.
  8. Dave likes to see three things as early as possible: A character, in a setting, with a problem. It might not be THE problem, but A problem. Struggling with that reveals character and setting.
  9. Dave really likes good description. That held me back for a long time. I’m weak on description.
  10. As for story structure, unless you’ve got a brilliant alternative (Scott Parkin did in Volume 31 – see Rule 1), Dave prefers a traditional Freytag triangle with three Try/Fail Cycles. Two is too easy, four is dragging it out. Three is best. You might have some of the structure happen before the story, or off screen, but try to have it all there somewhere.
  11. Dave likes a story to mean something on an emotional level. Cool plots are great. Cool plots that mean something are memorable.
  12. If your story is set in a modern or historical setting, Dave is a stickler for research and for voice. And he has been a lot of places, he knows a lot of things, and he has met a lot of people. If you’re faking your research, he’ll probably know.
  13. If, on the other hand, you make up your own universe to avoid that whole research trap, Dave likes it logical and consistent.
  14. The contest never gets enough good humor, but they get way too much bad.
  15. Talk to winners. Ask what worked for them. Ask what they learned. My “rules” are just from my one experience. Get multiple perspectives.

That’s a good start. Nothing guarantees a win, of course, but these “rules” will move the odds in your favor.


Martin L. Shoemaker

Martin L. Shoemaker

Martin L. Shoemaker is a programmer who writes on the side… or maybe it’s the other way around. Programming pays the bills, but a second place story in the Jim Baen Memorial Writing Contest earned him lunch with Buzz Aldrin. Programming never did that!

Martin’s work has appeared in Clarkesworld, Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, Galaxy’s Edge, Digital Science Fiction, Forever Magazine, Humanity 2.0, The Year’s Top Short SF Novels 4, Writers of the Future Volume 31, Time Travel Tales, Trajectories, Little Green Men: Attack!, The Glass Parachute, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-First Annual Collection.

Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle at a book signing

Building Plausible Futures by Jerry Pournelle

The first thing you must do is decide whether you want to build a plausible future. Many writers don’t. Some write fantasy and have no interest in building futures with sharp edges and rivets. Some, like Harlan Ellison, don’t exactly write fantasy but are successful largely because what they write is implausible. Others aren’t interested in futures at all.

Then there are writers like Frank Herbert. Dune convinces you that the implausible is real. Frank simply evaded most of the tough questions: computer and space science are dismissed with handwaving and religious mumbo-jumbo. He made a fortune with Dune and if you can write like Frank Herbert you don’t need advice from me.

This essay is about classical science fiction stories, the kind that built and even defined the genre during the Golden Age when John W. Campbell, Jr. was editor of Astounding. Those stories generally presented a future that seemed real and plausible; a future in which science, engineering, technology, and the social structures were self-consistent; a future the reader could believe in, at least until he had finished the story. The best of these stories taught the reader something about science and technology, and held up under real-world scrutiny.

Building those futures was never easy, but it was a lot easier in the old days than it is now.

Things were a lot simpler then, and more predictable. Space travel was inevitable even if most people didn’t believe it. All you needed was the courage to accept your own analyses.

For example, Robert Heinlein’s “Requiem” and “The Man Who Sold The Moon” are about a businessman whose ambition is to go to the Moon, and who uses business techniques to get a Moon colony started. Today those stories may be dated, but we can still read them. In their time, they were the epitome of hard-science science fiction,

Heinlein used a simple technique: he took everyday familiar objects and events, projected them into the future, and subtly modified them. One of the most famous lines in science fiction: “The door dilated.” In this one line from Beyond This Horizon, Heinlein takes us into the future.

A dilating door would still be the future to us. “Requiem,” though, begins at a county fair. In Heinlein’s time the barnstormer pilot, or the aeronaut, really did go to county fairs and offer to take passengers for short rides for a fee. Most readers would be familiar with that. In “Requiem,” fair-goers have the opportunity to fly in a privately owned, obsolete, and nearly unsafe rocket ship.

“Requiem” was written in 1939, long before the real space program became a government monopoly. More importantly, though, it was written before the skies were crowded with aircraft; before lawyers dominated the world; before the Environmental Protection Agency; before OSHA and Medicare and the busybody government put a stop to risky entertainment like barnstorming, whether in biplanes or rocket ships—and before TV put an end to county fairs as a standard medium of entertainment. The central theme of “Requiem” could make a good story today, but every one of the details, both technical and social, would be different. In its day, though, “Requiem” was as fine an example of projecting a plausible future as we have. Those who want to learn how to build plausible futures could do a lot worse than study early Heinlein’s ability to link technological and social changes and weave them into a seamless whole.

Technological Projection

Technology projection isn’t particularly easy, but the science fiction writer doesn’t have to do it. We don’t need to predict the real future; we’re only interested in a plausible future.

Even in the real world of professional technology projections, some things are easier than others. For example, you can have a lot more confidence that some development will happen sometime in the next thirty years than you have in predicting when. It’s usually easier to project twenty to thirty years ahead than it is five.

Before you can project technology, you need some understanding of what technology is. You needn’t be a scientist or engineer, and in fact, scientists and engineers often don’t understand the nature of technological development. Technology as a phenomenon is easier to understand than most of its components.

The first principle is that technology goes by “S” curves. When a new scientific or engineering principle is discovered, things go pretty slow for a while. It takes a lot of effort to make small changes. An example would be aircraft speeds and ranges from the time of the Wright brothers until after World War I.

Then a breakthrough is made. The curve shoots upward. Aircraft speed and performance made astonishing gains just before and during World War II. After that we reached the “sound barrier” and the gains came much more slowly. We had reached the top of the “S.” That, in turn, became the base of a new “S.”

Computer power went the same way. Early science fiction had a dismal record of predicting what computers would be like and what they could do. The best SF writers based their future computers on things they knew: fire control computers for warships, and primitive IBM machines. Real world computer technology crawled along so slowly that it was plausible to have stories in which humans could take the place of a damaged or destroyed computer, or even out-perform one.

Then came the breakthroughs, and most of those stories were made instantly obsolete. Even after the breakthrough, when writers were frantically trying to revise their thinking, the sheer speed of real-world advances made most of their stories obsolete within a year of publication.

We are now in the sharp upward slope of the computer technology “S curve: computing power doubles every year while component prices fall. Eventually, we will reach the top of that curve. Meanwhile, plausible stories require that future societies not only have advanced computer technology but that the technology be widespread through the culture. The notion of the computer as hulking giant hidden in a basement and attended by high priests simply can’t hold any longer: everyone has computers now, and will in any plausible future.

The second principle is that technology is interdependent. Advances in one sector influence all the others. New molecular chemistry techniques led to micro-miniaturization which led to the computer revolution. New computer techniques led to new developments in chemistry—and in nearly everything else. It is now possible to do computer simulations of medical and dental problems; economic systems; aircraft. Little remains unaffected.

In the military field miniaturization made possible onboard computers for missile guidance. This brought ICBM miss-distances down from miles to hundreds of feet in a decade. That led to increased research in silo-hardening, which led to hard-rock silo designs, and that development made it possible to conduct certain mining operations that were previously not financially feasible.

Examples of interdependence can be given without limit, and you can’t know too many of them. Burke’s Connections is worth a lot of study.

The important thing to note is that you can’t change just one thing; if you’re constructing plausible societies, you must not only project technologies but think through what effects those technologies will have on other fields—and also what they will do to the social order.

After all, the sexual revolution owes more to cheap motor cars than anything else. Before the motor car it was very difficult for young people of opposite sex to be together without adults; after the motor car, adult supervision became nearly impossible. (And for that matter, the adults had new opportunities.)

We’re now in an era of bifurcated morality: high tech people generally aren’t perceived to be motivated by religion and haven’t found another philosophical basis for faith in law and justice. Meanwhile, we have the new rise of fundamentalism, both Christian and Moslem, at precisely the moment when all knowledge is available to just about everyone. It makes for interesting times.

Tools of the Trade

In order to keep the present from overtaking your future before you have finished your story, you have to keep up with current trends. This isn’t easy. After all, I live in a world that was science fiction when I was in college. I sit at a computer console that connects me to tens of thousands of highly educated technologists; I can get the answer to nearly any question in minutes to hours. The Soviets have built the space station the US would have built in the 70’s if it weren’t for Proxmire and his ilk. Terawatt lasers of high efficiency have been developed for strategic defense. Technology pours out, and if you’re not careful you can write a story about a future invention that’s already available in your DAK mail order catalog.

The indispensable tools of the trade are High Technology magazine and the weekly Science News. These aren’t enough, but you can’t do without them. A magazine that used to be useful and isn’t now is Technology Review. Scientific American used to be indispensable; now it’s useful, but just barely. Both these magazines succumbed to the notion that politics was more important than science.

Perhaps the best of the science magazines is the British publication New Scientist. It isn’t cheap. Because of its political slant, and its British origin, it cannot and should not be the only science magazine you get.

From there you will need some specialty publications. Business trends are best tracked in The Wall Street Journal, which also follows commercially important technology trends. Fortune will do a good job of condensing and summarizing business developments. Aviation Week and Space Technology is valuable to most science fiction writers, but it’s expensive. BYTE summarizes the latest trends in consumer-available computer technology. All of these are available in the libraries.

There are also books. Writing and Selling Science Fiction by the Science Fiction Writers of America, available from Writer’s Digest Books, is one of the best. It contains my longer work on this subject, as well as essays by many other writers. Science Fiction Today and Tomorrow, edited by Reginald Bretnor, (Harper 1974) is I think out of print but well worth the trouble of finding it.

Once a writer becomes established by publishing a few stories and books, he will find ways to get on various mailing lists, such as NASA’s news briefs, and the technology announcements that pour forth from university and commercial laboratories. Indeed, the problem may be to avoid getting too many of these publications; but they’re indispensable for finding out what’s happening at the cutting edge.

A Sense of Structure

The most important prerequisite to inventing a plausible future is to have an understanding of the way the world works. That’s not easy since no one knows how the world works. On the other hand, if you don’t think you have a fairly good idea, you’ll have no framework to build your future on.

It used to be that the whole purpose of education was to give students a working knowledge of how the world works. We have since opted for “educating the whole child,” meaning that we teach people nothing. Unless you had an atypical modern education, you’ll have no choice but to teach yourself.

You learn by getting around and doing things, asking questions, and watching other people do things. Writing is never a full-time job. You’ll also have to read books. Arthur C. Clarke used to counsel writers to read at least one book and one newspaper each day. If that’s too much, make it a book a week; but you must read and read a lot.

The books needn’t be on technology. The only way I know to project the future is to know a lot about the past. To see what impacts new technologies will have, look at what the old ones have done. It also helps to read biographies and especially autobiographies: of scientists, to be sure, but also of people like Albert Sloan and Henry Ford, movers and shakers who have turned technology into social change.

How I Got This Way

I’m told I do a reasonable job of creating plausible worlds. I like to think so, and people I respect confirm it. What I am not an expert on is teaching anyone else how to do it.

In my case I spent a lot of time in universities studying nearly everything except English literature; then more years in space science, working at the edge of technology and sometimes making technological forecasts. I also wrote research proposals for aerospace firms. The experience was invaluable; I used to tease my SF writer friends by saying that I wrote science fiction without characters or plot and got paid more per word than they did.

When I got out of the aerospace business to write full time I ended up writing a weekly column for a national newspaper. I’d answer questions like “what is a laser?”, and “what caused the Ice Ages?”, in exactly 700 words. I guarantee that three years’ experience at that will give you a broad base in the sciences, and teach you not to waste many words.

In other words, I had a fair amount of education and training, and experience, in understanding this world before I started building new ones; and I don’t know of any easy substitute for that.

Nobody ever promised it would be easy.

This article by Dr. Jerry Pournelle was originally published in Writers of the Future Volume III. Timeless advice then and now.


Dr. Jerry Pournelle

Dr. Jerry Pournelle

Jeffy Pournelle was that legendary figure, the Renaissance Man. It included his mastery of the épée as well as other deadly weapons, but it also covered his two Ph. D.’s, his master’s degree in statistics and systems engineering, his bachelor’s degree in mathematics, and his chairmanship of the Citizen’s Advisory Council on National Space Policy. Then, of course, there were his definitive regular columns on computers for Byte and InfoWorld. And all of that wasn’t even the half of it.

In the world of SF, his contributions included editorship of many anthologies, any number of nonfiction pieces for the SF media, the presidency of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and, of course, his stories and novels. Those he wrote alone and in collaboration with others, notably fellow Writers of the Future Contest judge Larry Niven. He was a fixture on the New York Times bestseller list, with such blockbusters as The Mote in God’s Eye, Lucifer’s Hammer, Footfall and Oath of Fealty.

Agent man

Your First Five Pages

A writer pointed out today that when you send a novel to an agent or publisher, they normally ask for the first five or ten pages, just so that they can gauge your writing skill. If those pages don’t grab the reader, it won’t sell. So, he wondered, what do I look for in those first five pages?

As an editor, I read thousands of stories a year, and it would be difficult to tell you all of the ways that you can go wrong, or all of the things that you can do right. But let’s hit some main points:

1) From the very first sentence, I want to see that you’re not just a competent writer, but a skillful one. I want to see that you “have a way with words,” so that I feel as if I’m in the hands of a professional storyteller. That means that I won’t feel confused, and I won’t get tripped up by typos or beginner’s mistakes. Indeed, I want to see that you’re talented right from the first sentence. Half of the editors and agents say that they look for a “great voice” right out the gate, whether it be the voice of the narrating character or of the author.

2) I want to know (or at least have some great hints) where and when the story is taking place. It helps if the setting is intriguing and beautifully drawn. Of course, when you bring that setting to life, you should appeal to most of the senses quickly—sight, sound, smell, touch, taste.

3) I want to know who the protagonist is and I want to see you handling the viewpoint properly. This means that the protagonist moves, has an emotional state, and thinks, so that we aren’t seeing the tale from a camera’s point of view, but from a real person’s. More than that, it is often helpful if the character is likable or interesting or even both.

4) In the opening five pages, I must see a hint of an intriguing conflict, one that is already building toward a climax. To get that in quickly, this means that you almost need to start the story in media res.*

5) In my business as a science fiction and fantasy editor, I want to see some novelty—something that tells me that your work is original, that you’re capable of coming up with something new.

Now, that’s my short list. I could go on and suggest that I want to see that you know how to construct a scene, that you can dazzle the reader in subtle ways that most pros know, that you know how to construct a plot, that you tastefully insert the emotional draws your audience is hoping for, that you are a pro at constructing believable dialog—and a dozen other little things.

But as you can see, for the first five pages, I can only hope for so much. All that I really want is to be convinced that you’re one of the greatest discoveries that I’ve ever made. If you think that an agent or editor wants anything less, you’re mistaken. The truth is that every editor and every agent who reads your manuscript is hoping that your tale demands to be published.

*A narrative work beginning in medias res (Classical Latin: [ɪn mɛdiaːs reːs], lit. “into the middle things”) opens in the midst of action. Often, exposition is bypassed and filled in gradually, either through dialogue, flashbacks or description of past events.


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Jeremy TeG

Meet the Winners – Jeremy TeGrotenhuis – 1st Q 2017

Hello there! A couple of years ago I decided to stop blogging in order to focus on improving my fiction, and, well, I just won Writers of the Future, so that seems to have worked. Given that, I figure its time to dust off the old blog and start posting weekly (or biweekly…or monthly…we’ll see…) updates again.

For now I’ve created a page listing all of my published short fiction, which you can visit here: I have also uploaded “Her Silver Chains,” the flash fiction piece which was published in Lilac City Fairy Tales, an anthology series of Spokane area writers. There is a link on the “stories” page, for those of you who haven’t read that yet, along with a link to the Scablands Books store where you can buy a copy of that anthology, if you’d like. I finally picked up my contributor’s copy and there’s some great stuff in there!

Carlton dancing On to the big news! I WON WRITERS OF THE FUTURE Q1 2017!

This is a really big deal for me, not just because of the publication, the prize, and the workshop I’ll get to attend next April, but because it represents something of a book-end to the last four years of my writing life.

I first entered the Writers of the Future contest in 2013, during my junior year of college, full of the confidence and arrogance of a young man at the top of his class (I was also convinced, at the time, that I could get into an Ivy League PhD program straight out of undergrad at a regional liberal arts college…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA). I had read the most recent volume of the anthology, and thought my work stacked up. Of course, my taste at the time was not well developed enough to clearly discern the differences between the work I was doing and the significantly better written, tightly plotted, and well thought-out stories in the anthology.

Nevertheless, I got an Honorable Mention.

Rather than being disappointed, I was thrilled. Since submitting the story, I had learned just what the scope of the contest was. Thousands of writers submitted their work every quarter. Only the top 10-15% received Honorable Mentions. While I was not yet good enough to win the contest, clearly I was on the right track. That HM buoyed me through a hair-rendingly difficult final semester, through a dozen graduate school application rejections, and a dozen more rejected short story submissions. No, everything in my life was not going as well as I had thought, but I was on the right track with my writing, goddmmit!

I did not submit to Writers of the Future again until early 2015. Hannah and I had moved to Taiwan to teach English and were part of a great expat Writing Group. I decided to try sending one of my more recent stories off to Writers of the Future instead of condemning it to inevitable rejection from the slurry of magazines to which I had been making submissions.

It got a rejection. Which was a bit of a blow.

So did the next story I submitted.

How could I have gotten worse at writing over the course of a year and a half? I was in a writing group now! I was getting feedback!

I was pissed off, and determined to keep submitting until I won.

Thus began two years of submitting to WotF every single quarter, eight quarters in a row. It became something of a white whale for me. It also motivated an insane amount of productivity.

The first story I submitted after my two rejections got a Silver Honorable Mention, which, as I understand things, is essentially David Farland patting you on the back and saying “Soooooo close! But nooooooooot quite!” This threw a bucketful of lighter fluid on my already burning desire to win the damn contest. For the next few quarters I would write two or three short stories between quarterly deadlines, choosing my favorite and sending it off to the contest. I earned HMs and SHMs, never breaking into the hallowed ranks of the Semi-Finalists and Finalists, but always confident that I was right on the edge, that I was getting better.

I made my first professional short story sale to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, one of my favorite short fiction venues, in March. My first thought–after jumping up and down and squawking from excitement–was “Oh man, I better win Writers of the Future soon. It would be really annoying to pro-out without winning.” Not that I wouldn’t have been grateful to be disqualified from the contest by losing my amateur status, but winning the contest had become such a defining goal that losing the opportunity to achieve it would have left this whole endeavor feeling incomplete.

And then I won.

I can’t tell you anything about the winning story, though I personally think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written, and the story of its development is an interesting window into my process. Once the anthology comes out next April maybe I will write about that. Until then, you’ll just have to jitter and twitch in anticipation along with me.

For any aspiring SF/F writers out there, I cannot recommend Writers of the Future strongly enough. Not necessarily as a contest to win, at least not yet–I haven’t really experienced winning yet, in terms of the workshop, the networking opportunities, the publication, etc.–but certainly as a goal to strive for while developing your talents. Committing to entering a new story every quarter, or even every other quarter, will force you to produce, and that really is the most important thing you can do to develop your skills. It certainly helped me.


PS: the people over at the Writers of the Future forums, where I lurked for a year and a half while their registration system was defunct, are some of the kindest, most helpful, most supportive writers I have had the pleasure of interacting with–though most of that interaction has been sort of one-sided until recently. I highly recommend paying them a visit if you do decide to try your hand at the contest.


Jeremy A. TeGrotenhuis is a writer from Washington State and the First Place winner for Quarter 1 of Writers of the Future 2017. A student of History and Philosophy and a lifelong fan of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Jeremy writes at the intersection of these things. He aspires to someday create a novel as masterful as Ursula K. LeGuin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea.”

Other curious facts of note: Jeremy was home-schooled until the ninth grade, taught English for a year in Taiwan, and ruined his 4.0 college GPA with an A- in a freshman level class which he procrastinated taking until his last semester. He blogs at and tweets at To contact Jeremy, please send an email to


Parts to a Story – From the inciting incident to the denouement

I earlier talked about the first four parts of a story—setting, character, conflict, and theme. These are all parts that you often think about in brainstorming. Often, before starting a short story, I don’t even sketch out my characters, for example. So you might only give them minimal attention.

But once you begin putting words on paper, you need to bring these things alive. You put them all into motion. I’ll be talking about the parts of a story in much more depth over the coming weeks. But for my “nine parts” to a story, after setting, character, conflict, and theme, I typically list the next five things:

The Inciting Incident

As you begin writing a story, you have to introduce your setting and characters right away. In fact, my mentor Algis Budrys used to say that if you didn’t get them at least partly introduced in two pages, he’d throw your story into the round file. He figured that you were taking too long. For me, depending upon your style and tone, I might give you a little more time, but his sense of pacing is pretty spot-on.

As you introduce your setting and character, you might even give us the main conflict right out the gate, or introduce the theme. You don’t have to. You might use minor conflicts as a stepping stone as you build up toward that main conflict. For example, let’s say that you have a character who hears a sound in his house at night. He reaches over to wake his wife, but she’s gone. He gets up, afraid of an intruder, and grabs a baseball bat that he keeps by his bed. He creeps into the living room and spots an intruder in the dark, then chases the intruder from the house. As he does so, the trips over something—the body of his wife. She’s bloody, battered—and dead. In a blind panic he flips on the light and calls 911. He rushed outside with his bat, looking for the intruder in the darkness. It is not until the police arrive that he looks at his bat—and sees that it, too, is bloody. He’s holding the murder weapon!

So here is a story where my character faces several conflicts right in a row—strange sounds, an intruder, his wife’s murder—all before he discovers that he has been framed, and is now facing the fight of his life, which will be to defend himself.

Sometime within the first 10% of a story, normally, you reach a point where the audience learns about the main conflict—the biggest thing that your character is likely to face. Even for a short story, the rule is that “this should be the most important conflict that this character will ever face in his or her life.” That moment when the audience learns about the conflict is a turning point. From that point on, whatever other course in life your character was following, his path will change for good.

The First Try/Fail Cycle

A Try/Fail cycle occurs when a character struggles to overcome some opposition. It might be a very minor attempt, or it might be huge. In the first try/fail cycle, the character usually begins to grasp the enormity of the situation. He learns what he is up against. So, for example, one early try/fail cycle often involves diplomacy.

Your protagonist just got handed a pink-slip, and security escorts him from his office where he works at the New York Stock Exchange. Astonished, he calls his boss. He apologizes for slacking off this last week, and points out that with his wife’s cancer, he hasn’t been too focused. He begs for another chance. That’s when the bombshells start hitting. The boss refuses to tell him why he is being fired, but lets him know that it isn’t for “lack of performance.” He says, “There’s a criminal investigation. The SEC is involved, and the FBI. I can’t talk anymore about it.” The protagonist pleads innocence, begs for his job. “But, I haven’t stolen anything. I haven’t broken any rules!” The boss comes back, “I’m sorry. I can’t talk to you. Go find another career, if you can. You have no future in this one. You may not have a future at all….”

Normally, a first try/fail cycle will take up about 10% of your story.

The Second Try/Fail Cycle

As your character grapples with his problem, he must find that it is larger than he first imagined. We’ll talk later about ways to expand upon problems, make them bigger than they first appear, but let it suffice to say that your protagonist must now try to resolve his problem. He does some legwork. He meets his old secretary at a cheap restaurant. He discovers that someone else in the office has been bad-mouthing him. A man named Moses Siregar seems to be behind the firing. So your protagonist does a little digging. Moses worked with him on a major account, one for an oil company. The company has been accused of rigging bids for rights for offshore oil reserves, and it looks like Moses is somehow trying to place the blame on our protagonist. This is the big SEC violation. So our character breaks into Moses’s home and tries to steal files from Moses’s computer, hoping to exonerate himself. But just as he is downloading the information, a stranger breaks into the home and tries to kill the protagonist. It soon becomes apparent that the man isn’t just a burglar—he’s some sort of assassin. Our protagonist is thrown out a four-story window—and has his fall slowed by an awning. Limping and wounded, he flees into the night.

In an adventure novel, the protagonist might go through several more try/fail cycles, each time getting closer to his goal, confronting different enemies, perhaps learning new revelations.

However, you should note that a second try/fail cycle is all that is absolutely needed. It often takes up about 30% of your tale.

The Climax

At the climax to a story, the hero must marshal all of his resources to resolve the major conflict. In doing so, he might call upon his courage, test his intellectual resources to the limit, and endure physical or emotional torment.

Those resources will almost always include the help of close friends. In our case, our hero might call upon his girlfriend for help, his old secretary, a mentor, investors that he has served well in the past, and so on.

During the climax, the hero will most likely come face-to-face with his problem. In our story above, he will discover who is framing him—and he’ll learn what he is being framed for, and how. He’ll try to figure out how to prove his innocence and reclaim his life. But not all problems have external sources. His problem might be an internal one—say a character flaw. Or he might be confronting society.

The climax is typically the most emotionally charged part of the story.

Very often, the climax will have one or more “reversals” in it, a scene where one party seems to have the upper hand, yet the other party suddenly gains it. Reversals don’t have to happen just in the climax, they can easily happen in any scene, but they’re so integral to a good climax that I’m tempted to list the reversal as a “part” of the story, a necessary element. Yet some fine stories don’t have reversals to them at all. So they aren’t really necessary.

In the climax, the main problem in your story is resolved one way or another. Either the hero wins the day, or loses his conflict.

The climax to your story is something that you build up to. The protagonist often must gather clues and allies, confront inner demons, consider the themes of the piece, prepare a battle plan, and then confront the enemy. It often takes up more than 40% of a novel or movie to get through a climax

The Denouement

The denouement of your story is everything that happens in the end. It assures the audience that the end that you’ve reached really is the end. If the villain is killed, a coroner will ensure us that he is dead. If my protagonist falls in love with his secretary, we might see him propose to her. If he clears his name, newspaper reporters might be shouting for details. If he has learned a great lesson in life, the lesson is reinforced—even voiced.

In short, the purpose of a denouement is to reinforce the ending. It can sometimes have interesting twists, unexpected revelations, and so on, but doesn’t need to do so.

Since evincing certain key emotions is important, an author often spends a great deal of time trying to hit an emotional high, give the payoff for the tale. For example, if you’re writing a heart-warming tale, you might look for opportunities to make your reader cry in the end. If you’re trying to evince wonder, then a wondrous conclusion is called for.

Normally, the denouement takes about 10% of the total length of your story.


David Farland

David Farland

Guest Blogger, David Farland, Coordinating Judge of the Writers of the Future Contest.

David Farland is an award-winning, international bestselling author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and many more awards for his work. He is best known for his New York Times bestselling fantasy series The Runelords.

Jake Marley on stage with Erika Christensen and Dave Farland

Jake Marley, author of “Acquisition”

To meet Jake Marley is to encounter joy in its purest form. First there is the smile that comes to his face, and then the fact that the first thing you’re likely to hear from him is something like “I’m so happy!”

So, yeah, Jake fills a room.

After a while, you discover that within the various genres of speculative fiction, he’s also one of the most well-read new writers you’ll find. This comes from a combination of his basic passion for the field and the fact that he’s got hours on the road as he drives through Southern California as his employment, hours that he fills with listening to audio books. Regardless of where it comes from, he’s the kind of guy who can drop names of writers and stories into conversation like they’re salt or oregano. The recipe is always enticing.

“It’s all a show,” he says. “The fact is that I’m terribly introverted, but I’m always pressing myself to be more out there.”

I suppose it’s not too surprising to find any writer is fundamentally introverted, but when I find that every person who meets Jake has the same response—that Jake is a remarkable person to be around, and that he makes people happy without saying a word—well, let’s just say that there is more to him than he seems to want to let on.

Bottom line: some of the other contest winners began calling him “Jake the Great.”

Given this, you might be surprised to find his fiction can carry an edgy, darker tone—as is the case with “Acquisition,” his Golden Pen award-winning story that is currently published in the 33rd Annual Writers of the Future anthology. The events of the story start with a jolt, but the story of the story slides into your mind like a silent shiv, then he incessantly turns the knife in ways that … well … that aren’t like the Jake you meet and hug.

He’s just an impressive guy doing impressive art.

I hope to be reading it for many years to come.

Jake will be signing books at the Barnes & Noble Orange, CA on April 15, from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. Stop by and meet him and get a copy of his story, “Acquisition” in the latest edition of Writers of the Future Volume 33. For information about author book signings, visit the Writers of the Future facebook page.


Ron Collins

Ron Collins

Guest blogger, Ron Collins.
Ron Collins was a Writers of the Future published finalist in 1998 and a prize winner in 1999. He has gone on to publish about 100 short stories in prominent magazines and anthologies. Each volume in his fantasy serial Saga of the God-Touched Mage, hit the top 10 on Amazon’s bestselling Dark Fantasy list in the US, UK, and Australia. His short story, “The White Game” was nominated for the Short Mystery Fiction Society’s 2016 Derringer Award. The first four books of his current SF series, Stealing the Sun, are available now. Find out more about Ron at

Image of a knight facing off with a dragon

Why Is It Not an Adventure Worth Telling If There Aren’t Any Dragons?

This heading, of course, is referring to the famous J.R.R. Tolkien quote: “It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.”

Dragons have been with us in myths tracing back as far as 4000 BC. Not only have stories, both verbal and written, been passed down through history about these scaly winged creatures but they’ve also been sculpted, drawn, painted and incorporated into legends in almost every culture on earth. Our fascination with the fire-breathing beasts continues to grow in the 21st century thanks to films, video games and entire websites dedicated to these iconic creatures.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33For this reason, the theme of our upcoming Writers and Illustrators of the Future annual awards event is around “Dragons and Dreamers.” It just happened that way when we chose Larry Elmore’s dragon art, Crimson Dawn, for the cover of the latest edition of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33. (For more about the cover art, see our blog Dragon Art Inspiration for New Story.)

Naturally, it was appropriate to include in this year’s anthology an article on writing by Grand Master Anne McCaffrey entitled, “A Thousand or So Words of Wisdom.” Anne is best known for the Dragonriders of Pern fantasy series and her son, Todd McCaffrey, is carrying forward that tradition. Todd is also featured in the book with his original short story, “The Dragon Killer’s Daughter.”

I decided to pull some advice and quotes from our judges and other creative minds, not on writing and not on illustration, but on how to deal with dragons in a world that is full of them. These insightful quotes might also explain why J.R.R. Tolkien said what he did about dragons.

Read on. These quotes are sure to inspire budding writers and artists.

On Dragons ─ from Writers of the Future Judges

“How much can a dragon carry? As much as it thinks it can.” ─Anne McCaffrey

“There are all kinds of dragons, including those of the mind: our own fierce, sometimes untamable thoughts and desires. Even if a story contains no physical dragons, dragons are there. They are always there.” ─Nancy Kress

“Dragons come in many forms. They can be a friendly mysterious beast. They can also be fire breathing terrors. They can come in the smoky cloak of fear and cripple you until you stand up and slay it. And so on. What all dragons have in common is that they breathe the heat that is life. An adventure isn’t an adventure without dragons. Tolkien was correct.” ─Nnedi Okorafor

“Dragons represent the great power and creativity that is inherent in all people. Having them in a story allows us to explore that potential.” ─Todd McCaffrey

“Dragons add magic and power that mere humans lack. A story about humans is a tale. A story with dragons is an epic.” ─Jody Lynn Nye

“Dragons were dangerous in the sky. Of course, they were dangerous on the ground too. Just less dangerous. In the same way that a sword is less dangerous so long as it’s pointed at someone else.” ─Brandon Sanderson from I Hate Dragons

On Dragons ─ from Many More Creative Writers, Poets and Artists

“Focus on the princess, not on the problem. You can’t marry the princess without killing the dragon. So when you see the dragon, just remember: There’s a princess on the other side.” ─Doug Wead

“Always speak politely to an enraged dragon.” ─Steven Brust

“We think, sometimes, there’s not a dragon left. Not one brave knight, not a single princess gliding through secret forests … What a pleasure to be wrong. Princesses, knights, enchantments and dragons, mystery and adventure … not only are they here-and-now, they’re all that ever lived on earth!” ─Richard Bach

“And what lesson can we draw from Volantene history?

“If you want to conquer the world, you best have dragons.” ─George R.R. Martin from A Dance with Dragons

“The objection to fairy stories is that they tell children there are dragons, but children have always known there are dragons. Fairy stories tell children that dragons can be killed.”  ─G.K. Chesterton

“People who deny the existence of dragons are often eaten by dragons. From within.”  ─Ursula K. Le Guin

“Never laugh at live dragons.” ─J.R.R. Tolkien

“Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.” ─Rainer Maria Rilke

“In life, you need courage to fight the dragons. The ones who live inside and the ones who live outside.” ─Ernesto Neto

And finally, I couldn’t resist…

“You know you’ve written a good book when even the people who hate it admit it’s entertaining.” ─Sully Tarnish about The Dragon and the Apprentice: A Wizard’s Wager

For more info about the annual awards event themed “Dragons and Dreamers” on the 2nd of April 2017 and to RSVP, click here.

"Crimson Dawn" by Larry Elmore

Dragon Art Inspiration for New Story

Larry Elmore

Larry Elmore

The cover for the latest volume in the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthology, which features the best new SF & Fantasy short stories of the year, has just been released and it features a stunning dragon by artist and illustrator Larry Elmore. Larry’s list of work includes illustrations for Dungeons & Dragons, Dragonlance, and the comic strip series SnarfQuest. About his dragons illustrations, British game designer Graeme Davis commented that Elmore “should get some kind of award for drawing so many dragons and making them all different.”

Unlike all of the other stories in volume 33 of the bestselling Writers of the Future anthology where the art was created for each story, in this case it was the art that inspired the story.

Dragon's Kin book cover

Naturally, New York Times bestselling author and Writers of the Future judge Todd McCaffrey was asked to write that story. As one of the few people allowed to write in the marvelous Dragonriders of Pern universe, with three solo books (Dragonsblood, Dragonheart, Dragongirl) and five collaborations with his Nebula Grandmaster mother, the late Anne McCaffrey (Dragon’s Kin, Dragon’s Fire, Dragon Harper, Dragon’s Time, Sky Dragons), Todd is used to dealing with dragons—although not those generally chased by knights in armor intent on their destruction. Todd, however, stated he was thrilled to be asked, particularly after he saw Elmore’s painting.

The outcome of this unique collaboration between iconic dragon artist and author is entitled “The Dragon Killer’s Daughter” by Todd McCaffrey.

With “The Dragon Killer’s Daughter,” McCaffrey took an interesting spin on the old fantastical notion of knights in shining armor and fire-breathing dragons in scales. Set in the same universe as his talking-dragon stories “Golden” and “The Dragon’s Child,” Todd explores an earlier time on a fantastic world and shows why, sometimes, killing the dragon is only the start of the story.

Todd McCaffrey

Todd McCaffrey

As a bestselling author and a judge for the Writers of the Future Contest, Todd gave us his insight into both the Contest and the anthology: “In Writers of the Future and Illustrators of the Future, we have a chance to look at the best and the brightest people coming up in the ranks and acknowledge them and propel them forward. Paying it forward is, at some level, really enlightened self-interest because every writer I know is also a reader. So, by finding and recognizing more talent we’re basically giving ourselves more stuff to read and we love that.”

“The Dragon Killer’s Daughter” is one of the sci-fi and fantasy short stories in the latest release of Writers of the Future which features 14 talented and diverse new authors who are selected out of thousands of Contest entries by renown authors in the field, such as, Orson Scott Card, Brandon Sanderson, Tim Powers, David Farland, Kevin J. Anderson, Robert J. Sawyer, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.

L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 33 releases April 4, and is now available for pre-order.

Writers of the Future Contest 3rd Quarter Winners 2016

3rd Quarter Writers of the Future Winners


Writers of the Future 3rd Quarter
Winners, Finalists, Semi-Finalists and Honorable Mentions


Congratulations to you all!


First Place – Jake Marley from California
Second Place – Ville Merilainen from Finland
Third Place – C.L. Kagmi from Michigan



Scott Coon from California
David Kavanaugh from New Mexico
Deborah MacArthur from Florida
Caleb Thomas Rostedt from New South Wales, Australia
K.L. Schwengel from Wisconsin


David Cleden from Hampshire, United Kingdom
Brian Hodges from Washington State
Laura Lamoreaux from Utah
Scott Limekiller from Utah
Shawn McKee from Texas
Amy McLane from Arizona
Django Mathijsen from the Netherlands
Jillian R. Wahlquist from California

Silver Honorable Mentions:

Dustin Adams from New York
Mike Adamson from South Australia, Australia
B. Morris Allen from Oregon
Van Alrik from Utah
Jared Austin from Alabama
Anthony Bell from Washington State
Blaze Bernstein from California
Bret A. Booher from Indiana
Alicia Cay from Colorado
Justin Chasteen from Ohio
Vida Cruz from New York
Paulo da Silva from Germany
Frank Dutkiewicz from Michigan
Anthony W. Eichenlaub from Minnesota
Kristy Evangelista from Australia
Timothy A. Fenner from Wisconsin
Tania Fordwalker from Australia
Venus Fultz from Alaska
David Grubb from Maine
Nancy Hatch from New Mexico
Louise Herring-Jones from Alabama
Mel Howard from Alabama
Michael Kingswood from California
Benjamin C. Kinney from Missouri
Elliot LeGrange from Illinois
D.C. Lozar from California
Samuel Marzioli from Oregon
Brandon McNulty from Pennsylvania
Sean Monaghan from New Zealand
Wulf Moon from Washington State
Zan Oliver from Louisiana
Al Onia from Alberta, Canada
Francesco Radicati from California
Julie Reeser from Montana
Andrew L. Roberts from California
Steve Rodgers from California
ME Smith from South Carolina
J.M. Tanenbaum from California
M. Elizabeth Ticknor from Connecticut
Filip Wiltgren from Sweden
Nemma Wollenfang from Cheshire, United Kingdom
Tannara Young from California

Honorable Mentions:

Jeffrey Steven Abrams from Washington State
Timothy Adams from California
Ori Adriel from New York
E.J. Alexander from Arizona
Julia V. Ashley from Mississippi
Molly Elizabeth Atkins from Missouri
Jesse Barben from New Mexico
Chris Barili from Colorado
Francis Bass from Idaho
Ella Beaumont from Alberta, Canada
Rick Bennett from Utah
Ian Best from Jakarta, Indonesia
Rebecca Birch from Washington State
P.D. Blake from E. Yorks, United Kingdom
Dawn Bonanno from Illinois
Marty Bonus from California
Ezekiel James Boston from Nevada
Kris Bowser from Massachusetts
LR Braden from Colorado
Rebecca Brinker from California
Kathryn Burlew from Kentucky
James Caldwell from South Carolina
Steven T. Capps from Georgia
M.J. Carlson from Florida
Thomas K. Carpenter from Missouri
Rachel Carter from New York
Kyla K. Chapek from Oregon
Charles Chapman from Texas
Carleton Chinner from Australia
Thokozani Amanda Chiwandira from Central Africa
Joseph Colando from Oregon
Amber Colbert from Maryland
Brigid Collins from Michigan
Jareb Collins from California
Jacob Corey from Montana
John Cornell from Colorado
Ken Courtenay from Georgia
Marc A. Criley from Alabama
Adrian Croft from Ontario, Canada
Garrett Croker from California
Matthew Cropley from Australia
K.A. Cummins from Minnesota
Christina De La Rocha from Germany
Richard M. Dell’Orfano from California
Eliana Dianda from California
W.H.N. Dunham from Ontario, Canada
Em Dupre from New York
Heather Lee Dyer from Idaho
Michael Greenlese from Ohio
Nikolai Ellison from South Carolina
Lori Erickson from Indiana
Jonathan Ficke from Wisconsin
O.E. Fine from Massachusetts
Margaret McGaffey Fisk from Nevada
Ron S. Friedman from Alberta, Canada
Brandon Frye from Michigan
Katharina Gerlach from Germany
Yaara Gilan from New York
Barbara Giorgieri from Italy
Audrey Goates from Utah
Jeannette Gonzalez from California
Simon Graeme from Ohio
Glenn K. Graham from Idaho
Jake Guthrie from Mississippi
Philip Brian Hall from United Kingdom
Rachelle Harp from Texas
Mary-Jean Harris from Ontario, Canada
Darren L. Hawbrook from Lincoln, United Kingdom
Jacob Haynes from Ohio
Gillian Herrin from South Carolina
Daria Hoang from California
Ariana Hoelscher from Texas
Chip Houser from Missouri
Cathy Humble from Oregon
Marc Humphrey from Vienna, Austria
Xinging Jiang from Maryland
Flint F. Johnson from Minnesota
Toni Jones from Florida
Seth W. Kennedy from California
David Kernot from South Australia, Australia
Ezra Josiah Kohn from New York
Kiya Krier from California
Petra Kuppers from Michigan
Michelle Kurrle from Victoria, Australia
Cam Rhys Lay from Kansas
J. Lyon Layden from Georgia
Kate Lechler from Mississippi
R.J.K. Lee from Japan
Brandon M. Lindsay from Washington State
Cory Loughmiller from Utah
Sanjna Manoj from Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Phil Margolies from Maryland
M. Leigh Marrott from Texas
L.B. Martin from Missouri
Samantha Martin from California
Robert J. McCarter from Arizona
Lisbeth L. McCarty from Oklahoma
Patrick McCully from Texas
Aracely Briana Medina from Florida
Angelica Medlin from California
R.A. Meenan from California
Devin Miller from North Carolina
Will Morton from California
Aaron Moskalik from Michigan
Rob Munns from Cheshire, England
R.S. Naifeh from Missouri
Nina Niskanen from Finland
Gwendolyn Nix from Montana
N.E. Oliver from Arizona
John M. Olsen from Utah
Andrei Rafael Padilla from California
Mark Painter from Pennsylvania
Johan Persson from Sweden
Chris Phillips from Ohio
Beth Powers from Indiana
Ross Raith from Victoria, Canada
B.M. Riley from Connecticut
Emmie Rogers from Tennessee
Daniel Roy from Quebec, Canada
Jason E. Royle from Pennsylvania
Allie Rugolo from Texas
Katarina Russo from Colorado
Jacob Marc Schafer from California
Sean C. Sexton from North Carolina
Patricia L. Shelton from Arizona
Austin Shirey from Virginia
A.E. Sjoquist from Washington State
Stephanie Sorth from California
J’nae Rae Spano from California
P.L. Smith from Washington State
Robert Anthony Smith from New Jersey
L.B. Spillers from Colorado
Robert N. Stephenson from South Australia, Australia
Eric C. Stever from Wyoming
Alexander Strijewski from Florida
Travis Sullivan from Japan
Niraja Surendran from Texas
Carrie Swain from Florida
Jeremy Szal from New South Wales, Australia
Gabriele Teich from New Mexico
Andrew Thomson from Oregon
Katherine Toran from Kentucky
Stephanie Vance from Washington, D.C.
David Van Houten from Texas
N. Immanuel Velez from Virginia
Kyle de Waal from Kansas
Ralph Walker from New Jersey
R.W. Warwick from Japan
J.D. Wiley from Colorado
Katrina Winters from Illinois
Michael Worrell from Florida
James M. Wright from Utah
Ramez Yoakeim from California
Neil Young from California
Tyler A. Young from Minnesota
Robert Zoltan from California


Writers judge Dr. Doug Beason.

Day 6 – Writers of the Future Volume 32 Workshop

Day six began bright and early with an excellent talk by Dr. Doug Beason about handling science in fiction. He provided extensive resources for the writers to use for story research. He stressed that, no matter what you do, you’re going to get something wrong, and that’s okay, as long as you’re consistent with the world you’ve created.

Nancy Kress then stepped up to share her knowledge. She’s a lover of stories wherein a character changes, and said that, “If all of these goings on don’t affect your characters, why should they affect me?” She also restated the importance of doing one’s research, and said, “If you want us to believe in your stories, you need to check your science.” Nancy shared her “swimming pool” method of pacing. She says that the harder you kick off, the longer you can glide. She recommended working with your biological rhythm as much as possible – make time to write when you’re at your freshest.

Todd McCaffrey was up next. He addressed the importance of finding true, diehard fans, and gave overall advice on how to interact with your fans once you have them. He also advised the writers to find the writing time that works best for them.

Then Mike Resnick and Eric Flint took the stage. Mike talked movie deals and what was worth negotiating hard for, and had the writers laughing the whole time. Julie Frost asked Mike to talk a little bit about his magazine, Galaxy’s Edge, and he happily obliged. Eric told the writers that the best promotion they can do is to write the next book, because you never know which one will be a hit.

Eric James Stone and James C. Glass spoke to the class as veteran returning winners, and gave heaps of advice on handling book signings and your career post-contest.

Larry Niven then addressed the winners, and told many rich stories of his experiences collaborating with Jerry Pournelle. When asked how he approaches research, he said, “Everything we do is research.” He also gave the writers permission to bend a law of physics if they have to.

Then yours truly, Megan E. O’Keefe, and Laurie Tom were up to discuss our experiences post-win. We shared stories about dealing with editors, selecting an agent, and maintaining momentum after the win. Kary English, Steve Pantazis, and Martin L. Shoemaker then stepped up to offer their own advice on handling imposter syndrome, and being careful about which opportunities to accept post-win.

The judges were then whisked away for rehearsal, and the winners went downstairs to get some last-minute advice on their speeches before the big award ceremony tomorrow.

Day 5 – Illustrators of the Future Workshop

Echo Chernik was the first presenter for Saturday’s illustrator workshop. Echo works mainly in an Art Nouveau decorative illustration style for advertising agencies, poster designs, book covers and interior book artwork. Some of her clients include Celestial Tea, Angry Orchard, Dos Equis, Branding for Publix, Twisted Tea, High 5 Games, Miller Lite and Camel Cigarettes.

The workshop instructors held a portfolio review for the illustrators. The instructors covered topics from composition, scale, devices for effective storytelling, value hierarchy, edge variation and color. This group critique is a key part of the workshops that help to prepare the illustrators before they head out into the market place.

Olivia Wise was the last presenter for the day. She graduated from the illustration program at California College of the Arts. She has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration and is represented by Private View Illustration agency in the UK. Olivia has mainly worked in the editorial illustration market doing numerous assignments that include spot illustrations, posters, covers and magazine spreads. She also covered topics like invoicing, project deadlines and her illustration process. Olivia also does a great deal of personal paintings, she finds that it’s a great opportunity for her to experiment and make new discoveries in her work.

Guest bloggers Megan O’Keefe on the Writers blog was Writers of the Future winner in Volume 30 and Irvin Rodriguez on the Illustrators blog was Illustrators of the Future grand prize winner for Volume 27