Posts

Katherine Kurtz with her bestselling Deryni Rising

Writers of the Future Welcomes Bestselling Author Katherine Kurtz as its Newest Judge

It is with considerable enthusiasm that we announce Katherine Kurtz as the newest judge in the Writers of the Future Contest.

Katherine, known for her fantasy writings, is the author of sixteen historical fantasy novels in the Deryni series. She is also known for her alternate history Templar series and urban fantasy Adept series.

I Always Try to Help

We were introduced to Katherine at Dragon Con by Writers of the Future judge Jody Lynn Nye and Bill Fawcett. It rapidly became apparent that Katherine would be perfect as a judge as she brings with her a strong desire to help aspiring writers—stating, “I always try to help up and coming writers and am delighted to be able to judge in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.”

Also discovering that Katherine was great friends with Anne McCaffrey, who had been a Contest judge until her passing in 2011, even living near Anne in Ireland, made her all the more desirous to have on board.

World Fantasy Award-winning author Tim Powers and longtime Writers of the Future judge was enthusiastic about the prospect of Katherine coming on board and stated, “Katherine Kurtz has written some of the finest fantasies of our time.”

When L. Ron Hubbard created the Writers of the Future Contest, he wanted to provide a “means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged.” So it was important to provide the best possible opportunity for writers to pursue their dream however envisioned. We wanted top brand judges who, combined, specialized in all aspects of speculative fiction.

About Katherine

Katherine sold her first novel, Deryni Rising (actually, the first trilogy, The Chronicles of the Deryni) on her first submission attempt! She completed her second two novels, Deryni Checkmate and High Deryni, while completing her MA in medieval English history at UCLA and writing instructional materials for the Los Angeles Police Department. Her early work built on the popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but she soon defined and established her own sub-genre of “historical fantasy” set in close parallels to our own medieval period and featuring “magic” that much resembles what some of us might call extrasensory perception.

Elise Stephens

This Just Happened: A Writer’s Dream Come True

It was late April 2018. James and I were hiking Little Si, a small mountain near North Bend, WA. We navigated wet dripping branches and slick tree roots as we tried to rouse our minds and spirits from a season of mental fog that had engulfed us while my husband studied fervently for his Structural Engineer licensing exam.

Elise with husband in Spain

I just love this guy. Spain vacation.

He’d taken the test a few weeks before and would have to wait several weeks for his results. We’d left the kids with my parents and retreated for a one-night stay at a bed and breakfast to heal, spend time together, and catch up on many neglected conversations.

Amongst discussions of our families, hopes, and dreams, James and I also did some goal setting. James’ goal was to pass this SE test. It boasts a statistical 30% pass rate. It might take him more than one try.

At the beach with the young’uns!

At the beach with the young’uns!

My goal was to place among the winner’s ranks in Writers of the Future–a global Sci-Fi and Fantasy short competition. I thought I should give myself five years, vowing to submit one short story for every quarter. If by the end, I still hadn’t won, I’d at least have honed my writing skills with small, specific projects on which I could focus on while our kids are young.

October 4, 2018. I was standing by my front picture window when I got the call.

I dropped into the black IKEA armchair from my grandfather, shaky with anxiety. The woman on the phone informed me that I was a Writers of the Future finalist. I was shocked. I actually thought I’d made no headway in the contest. Now I was being told I’d made it to the top eight stories.

And then? Hurry up and wait. I waited three weeks.

About to fly internationally for 15 hours…

About to fly internationally for 15 hours…

My first week of waiting I was an anxious, sweaty wreck. I slept 3-4 hours a night. The second week, I started to lock down into tight-fisted anxiety. By the beginning of the third week, I heard God say, “I’ve heard your prayers. I know what you want, Elise. Now let me take care of it.” I taped Exodus 14:14 on my bathroom mirror. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. I transitioned into a place of precarious peace, but it was infinitely better than the sleepless wreck of the first week.

As I waited for the news of whether or not I’d win the contest that I’d made into my all-encompassing writing goal, I imagined myself as Schrodinger’s cat. Both alive with joy and dead with despair. (Yes, I’m dramatic with my analogies. That should come as no surprise by now).

Finally, on the morning of October 26th, I received another call. Poetically, I was standing beside that same, sun-streaming window. And no, I hadn’t been rooted there for three weeks, you smart-ass. It was poetic like I said.

I took this pic the day I got the call!

I took this pic the day I got the call!

She told me I’d won first place for the quarter. My little story, read by kind critics and harsh critics, read on my laptop screen till my eyes burned, read out loud to my husband until my throat was dry…that little story had turned heads enough to be awarded a prize in an international contest. It didn’t feel real, but there it was, my name displayed for the world to see as if to say:

This girl can write.

A new chapter is opening. You guys, I’m going to be published in a sci-fi and fantasy anthology that hits national bestseller lists each year! I’ll attend a fancy awards gala (I’ll probably trip on my dress and laugh when we’re all supposed to be quiet, but that should make everyone more comfortable, right?)

They’ll give us writer winners a special writing class and fly us down to Los Angeles for everything.

Yes, it feels like a dream. I’m honored by the favor, overwhelmed by its magnitude. Very grateful to my friends who have supported me and read my drafts and encouraged me in so many ways. Thankful to my God who continues to show that he has some great plans that involve my writing.

It’s time for victory dancing, you guys! In April, I’m going to Hollywood!!

 


Elise Stephens

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. She is a recipient of the Eugene Van Buren prize for fiction. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), and Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015, INDIEFAB Book of the Year Finalist). She lives in Seattle with her family.

Find her on Twitter @elisestephens and Facebook.

Writers of the Future 3rd Quarter Winners

Writers of the Future 3rd Quarter Standings for Year 35


Of all the writing contests out there, this one launches careers!

 

And the Winners are:

First Place – Elise Stephens from Washington

Second Place – Christopher Baker from the United Kingdom

Third Place – Mica Scotti Kole from Michigan

 


Finalists:

Sarah Feng from California
Storm Humbert from Michigan
Tom Prentice from Ireland
Ujwal Rajaputhra from New Jersey
Tyler West from Georgia

Semi-Finalists:

Jason Cantrell from Texas
Andrew Dykstal from Virginia
Chanahra Fletcher from Georgia
Berkeley Franklin from Oregon
Taylor Geu from South Dakota
Sydney Kuntz from New York
Eden Ariel from New York
James A. Hearn from Texas

Silver Honorable Mentions:

Joshua David Bennett from Colorado
Carina M Bissett from Colorado
Sarina Dahlan from California
KM Dailey from California
Nathan Dodge from Texas
Mira Dover from Virginia
Neil Wesley Flinchbaugh from Illinois
Charlie Harmon from Illinois
Barbara Lund from Utah
Chinedu O’Nwachukwu from Nigeria
John D. Payne from New Mexico
J.C. Pillard from Colorado
Kindra Pring from California
Claire Wrenwood from North Carolina
Dodde Steiner from Georgia
Blazej Szpakowicz from Canada
Galen Westlake from Canada

Honorable Mentions:

Jaimie Aurelio from California
Hannah Azok from Ohio
Robert Bagnall from the United Kingdom
Raluca Balasa from Canada
Garrick Bateman from Colorado
Christopher Baxter from Utah
Jordan Benefiel from California
F. J. Bergmann from Wisconsin
Olivia Berrier from Pennsylvania
Len Berry from Missouri
Hayden Bilbrey from Oklahoma
Beverly Alice Black from Pennsylvania
Timerie Blair from Ohio
Rob Bleckly from Australia
Gustavo Bondoni from Argentina
Matt Bosio from Florida
Ezekiel James Boston from Nevada
James Braun from Michigan
Forrest Brazeal from the United States
Ian Brazee-Cannon from Colorado
Rodney Brierly from Virginia
Richard D. Bruns from Minnesota
S.D. Bullard from Louisiana
Katie Bushan from Virginia
R.H. Butler from Pennsylvania
Jackson C from Kansas
Steve Cameron from the United Kingdom
Tom Camozzi from California
Dylan Cary from California
Erin Casey from Iowa
Amanda Cate from California
Ethan Douglas Chadwick from Kansas
Grace Chan from Australia
Carrie Channell from Illinois
Samuel Chapman from Washington
Stephen Charles from Australia
Rachel Chimits from Nevada
Russ Colson from Minnesota
James A. Conan from Canada
David Coombs from Canada
Michael Costello from New York
Emily Craven from Canada
Kate Dane from Minnesota
D.J. Daniels from Australia
S. R. Dantzler from Arkansas
Brandon Daubs from California
Laurance Davis from the United States
Drema Deoraich from Virginia
M.A. Dosser from North Carolina
CC Dowling from California
Jen Downes from Australia
David Dunbar from Pennsylvania
W.H.N. Dunham from Canada
Noel Dwyer from Illinois
Sharon Erez from Israel
Andrea Escoto from District of Columbia
Frederick Essig from Florida
Kristy Evangelista from Australia
Eveona from California
Aiki Flinthart from Australia
Jacob Foncea from Alabama
P.K. Gardner from North Carolina
Nick Garrett from Georgia
Collin Gian from Tennessee
JCG Goelz from Louisiana
Ilyssa Goldsmith from Arizona
W Goodwin from Florida
Mark A. Gordon from Florida
Asa H. Grey from Utah
Thomas Griffin from Tennessee
Ioseff Griffith from Sweden
Claudine Griggs from Rhode Island
Jen Haeger from Michigan
E. G. Hamilton from Indiana
Dan Hankner from Iowa
Rachelle Harp from Texas
John Harper from New Zealand
Mary-Jean Harris from Canada
S.L. Harris from Illinois
DW Harvey from California
AnnElise Hatjakes from Nevada
Danielle Hauck from Canada
Robert Hawkins from Texas
Christopher Henckel from New Zealand
Brendan Hiles from Canada
Alexandra Holbrook from New York
K.R. Horton from Oregon
Kate Howe from Colorado
Porter Huddleston from Florida
Patrick Hurley from Washington
Isabelle Hutchings from California
Ifeoluwa J. Ibitayo from Indiana
Stephan James from Missouri
Cristina Jantz from Colorado
Jao from the Philippines
Anisha Johnson from California
Jessica B. Johnson from Virginia
Joe Jones from Maryland
Ron Kaiser from New Hampshire
Carolyn Kay from Colorado
Christopher Keene from New Zealand
A. Keith Kelly from Georgia
Zada Kent from Ohio
Michael Kingswood from California
Priscilla Kint from the Netherlands
Emily Kjeer from Minnesota
Brittany Koch from Illinois
Kacie Faith Kress from Tennessee
Andrea Lain from Utah
R.D. Landau from California
Nita Lapinski from Arizona
Dan Latusick from Oregon
Katelyn Lauer from Colorado
Laura Lavelle from New York
Joseph Layden from Georgia
Colt Leasure from California
Kialee LeValley from Kansas
Marissa Levine from Florida
Roger Ley from the United Kingdom
Miranda Liang from Massachusetts
Brandon M. Lindsay from Japan
Noah Linwood from New Mexico
Sierra Loewen from New Mexico
LindaAnn LoSchiavo from New York
Shantrell Lumpkin from California
Robert Allen Lupton from New Mexico
William Mangieri from Texas
E. H. Mann from Australia
James Stuart Mann from California
A.J. Martin from Ohio
Kiera Martz from Georgia
Dennis Maulsby from Iowa
Robert J. McCarter from Arizona
Jason J. McCuiston from South Carolina
Molly McDonough from New York
L. R. McGary from Massachusetts
Sean Patrick McGinley from Pennsylvania
Taylor McNitt from Minnesota
Jim Meeks-Johnson from Indiana
Brittany Miller from Washington
Devin Miller from North Carolina
CV Mollee from Canada
Dennis Mombauer from Sri Lanka
Wulf Moon from Washington
Josh Morrey from Utah
Aaron Moskalik from Michigan
Nitin Motiani from California
Megan Nordquist from Utah
Toni Novotny from Florida
Kevin L. O’Brien from Colorado
Y.M. Pang from Canada
Aayushi Parekh from India
Jason Parker from Florida
H. Parkin from Maryland
Joe Paul from Maryland
J. R. Pearson from Arizona
Barton Perkins from Alabama
Paul Peters from Kentucky
Vin Piazza from California
Thomas Pitts from the United Kingdom
Aelred Powell from Georgia
Rajeev Prasad from California
D. Hunter Reardon from Virginia
Esther Magdalena Reed from Colorado
Jake Reed from California
Willow Reeves from Kentucky
Elsa Risgin from Massachusetts
M.C. Rosado from New York
Jesse Lynn Rucilez from Nevada
Nicholas Ryan from Maryland
Will Scarborough from Georgia
Jacob Schafer from Oregon
Cody Schroeder from Missouri
Spencer Sekulin from Canada
Jasmine Sewell from Montana
V. Shalace from California
C.L. Shoemaker from Canada
Hank Shore from North Carolina
Joseph Simurdiak from Wisconsin
Adam Sloter from Arkansas
Mikayla Smart from Canada
Richard Smith from Georgia
Shelby Sprigg from California
Robert Stahl from Texas
Mark W. Stallings from Colorado
Tasha Staples from Colorado
Robert Stephenson from Australia
Nicholas Stillman from California
M. F. Sullivan from Oregon
Cynthia Suryawan from Texas
N. L. Sweeney from Washington
Shannon Sweetnam from Illinois
David Teves from California
Dan Thurot from Utah
Shara Tran from California
Alicia Tubbs from Georgia
Noe Varin from France
Scott Pohaku Vilhauer from California
Ben von Jagow from Canada
Jonathan Vowell from Tennessee
Jack Waddell from Arkansas
KT Wagner from Canada
M. Saxe Wallace from Ohio
Jeremy Walsh from California
Alice Wanamaker from Massachusetts
R.C. Weissenberg from California
Thomas Welsh from Washington
Daniel Westmoreland from New Jersey
Luke Wildman from Indiana
David Williams from Ohio
Oona Winners from Illinois
Cliff Winnig from California
Tyler Wood from Utah
Thomas Woodward from Minnesota
Austin Worley from Oklahoma
James Wright from Utah
Michael J. Wyant Jr from New York
Dax Xenos from Kentucky
Sonny Zae from Texas
Jackie Zitin from Missouri

Rainsdon Brittany Certificates

Birthing Stories: Five in Thirty-Five by Brittany Rainsdon

I’m Brittany. I’m a nurse. I’m also a mom. I just had a baby. And I got my fourth quarter entry in for the Writers of the Future Contest while working around giving birth. Crazy? Maybe. But sometimes our dreams make us push a little harder (pun intended) and crazy things make a certain kind of sense.

Discovering Writers of the Future

I first heard about Writers of the Future approximately two years ago, when I took an online writing class and was assigned to research potential markets. A few clicks made it clear this was the contest to enter—but it almost seemed too good to be true. In fact, I remember querying a few writer friends to find out if the contest was indeed legit. It was.

Another assignment involved reaching out to published authors from my target market and asking for an interview. Still intrigued by the contest, I hit up Sharon Joss, a previous Golden Pen winner (she also has eight novels under her belt). She gave me an entire page of writing tips and advice, but perhaps her most far-reaching was this: join the Writers of the Future Forum, a discussion board where members communicate about the contest.

I did.

I immediately found friends who wanted to exchange stories, talk craft, and some even seemed to have insider information on how to do well (Coordinating judge, David Farland’s tip emails were foreign to me at the time). They preached producing a fresh story every quarter, not giving up, and maybe (eventually) you would win.

They were right. Even if I didn’t win, my craft would. I would form habits. If I kept writing and then sending my best stories to other markets, I could even pro-out. That would be a win in and of itself. I’ll admit, I haven’t sold anything yet—but with two honorable mentions and a silver honorable mention from this contest, I have hope I’m on the right track. Writing professionally is a marathon, not a sprint.

At the start of Volume 35, one “forumite” set up a challenge—enter every quarter. I had already entered three in a row the previous year, so I committed to do four more. Obviously, at the time, I didn’t know I would deliver a little girl a few days before the end of the final quarter.

When two pink lines did show up a few months later, I determined to plow through all four quarters regardless. What’s a little morning sickness? But I discovered it was much harder producing stories while pregnant. I had three other children, and well, they didn’t exactly slow down when my body did.

Although it got harder to write with each trimester (and Writers of the Future quarter!), the real scrambling didn’t start until the end. For some reason (I blame hormones), I decided the old nursery needed to be completely redone and sanitized. I love my three other kids, but kids can be gross! We scrubbed the walls, painted, caulked, put up wainscoting, rented a carpet cleaner, and even sewed a matching nursery set. Coupling that with other health issues (thanks again, hormones), writing time became slim. Slimmer still as I felt like I couldn’t work on anything non-baby related until the baby came.

As the final quarter drew to a close, my story remained unfinished. With twelve days left in the contest and my baby overdue, I needed a boost. I took to the Forum.

Whenever I tell people my goals, it makes me more accountable. It’s the reason I’ve joined consistent critique groups in the past—friends help friends get things done. The Forum proved to be that and more.

When I told the “forumites” about my desire to finish, they were super supportive, but also reminded me to be reasonable. Having a baby is kind of a big deal, and they advised me it would be okay to take a pass this round. No judgment. I still wanted to finish, but it was a reality check that health and family came first. I told myself I would only write if I had time and it made sense.

I didn’t touch my story.

Instead, I focused on making my home baby-ready, caring for my other children, and eating as much spicy food and pineapple I could handle (spicy food to start contractions, and pineapple to prep the cervix for delivery). For the record, pineapple core is gross, but not so bad when blended into a smoothie.

When the baby still didn’t come, we scheduled to induce labor on the twenty-fourth. All my other children had come naturally, so medical intervention made me nervous—especially when well-meaning women would tell me their induction horror stories. And what would recovery be like? I didn’t think it would include writing. Still unwilling to admit defeat, I gave my laptop the side eye and packed it into my hospital bag.

Giving Birth

Rainsdon's BabyLucky for me, I went into labor on my own a few hours before my scheduled induction and had my little girl in my arms shortly thereafter. It was, perhaps, my easiest labor.

So, I wasn’t exactly giving birth with a typewriter atop my belly, but I was incredibly grateful I had my computer in the delivery room. When the rush of adrenaline came that wouldn’t let me sleep for hours, I had something to do.

While still in the hospital and snuggling my newborn close, I typed out everything but the last scene. I kept my promise to only write while it made sense. If I was tired, I slept, and when my other children came to visit, I visited.

Transitioning to home was difficult. The baby didn’t sleep, I didn’t sleep, and it seemed I had tripped just before the finish line. But my sweet husband knew my goal and offered to take the children on Friday afternoon (the twenty-eighth) so I could finish my story. A few hours later the deed was done.

On the last day of the contest, I edited as much as I could and then hit submit. It was my most rushed entry, I had no time for critiques, but hitting that button felt oh, so good. Four submissions in Volume 35—but by my count, I produced five in 35. I dare you to count differently. I birthed two babies that week!

I think I’ll keep pushing.


Brittany RainsdonBrittany Rainsdon grew up as the only girl in a family with four brothers. She’s reversing that trend with her own children—three girls and one boy. Brittany is a registered nurse and has worked in both medical/surgical and rehabilitation nursing. When she went to her first writing conference in 2017, she wore a new pair of green glasses and several people recognized her during lessons as “that girl in the glasses.” She kept the nickname and uses it as her tag on the Writers of the Future Forum. Brittany wants to eventually publish novels, but is currently focusing on writing short stories.

Author Scott Parkin (right) with fans at SLC FanX18

Writer or Author? How to start a story playing with a question…

I think the answer is pretty straight-forward. A writer writes; an author publishes for a paying audience. So while every author is a writer, not every writer has the stuff to be an author.

How do you make the transition (other than the obvious: selling)? You develop and internalize the tools needed to produce material that satisfies both your own inner critic and a publisher’s needs—and use those tools to deliver on-time and according to request (word count, genre, subject matter).

Things to Write About

For example, when you see a call for submissions for an anthology of urban fantasy with a deadline in two days, do yourself a favor and figure out what urban fantasy is. I had no idea, so I wrote a nice bit of magic realism involving a miniature horse and a WW1 veteran (based on a real person), then set it in Berlin. Sent it off the next morning so it would arrive before the deadline. Got a lovely rejection that same day from an obviously confused editor who said, “It’s urban … and it’s fantasy. But it’s not urban fantasy. Good luck selling this elsewhere.”

Oops. I hit the deadline just fine, but I didn’t understand the genre or its tropes. Writer, not author.

Sometimes you don’t have time to wait for the muse to provide inspiration for things to write about. So you learn to make anything into a story. I once used an “Empty every night” label on a trash can as a fantasy writing prompt to write a story that I’ve now sold three times by playing the question game.

How to Start a Story

Empty every night… Empty what? Stories are about characters so it should be a character who is emptied. Emptied of what? Thoughts? Toxins? Hope? Memories. His memories are edited each night. Is he a robot or a person? Editing a person’s memory is both harder and more horrific, so it’s gotta be a person. Who does it? Government agents? Caring family? Himself? I like the idea that he edits his own memories, but I think it’s more horrific if it’s done to him by someone he trusts. Aliens? Yes. Aliens whose only desire is to help, so it hurts them to do this cruel but necessary thing to him.

And so on until you’ve answered enough questions to generate a plot with try/fail cycles, character jeopardy, and meaningful consequences. What to write about—all from a trash can label.

Sometimes when working out how to start a story you start with an idea. I recently sold a piece based on the question, “What makes someone beautiful?” Sometimes you start with a colorful character as I did with the horse/veteran story above. Or an image, as I did with a microchip advertisement that featured a chrome-clad warrior woman standing atop a silicon wafer—who I immediately recognized as The Electric Valkyrie.

So go out into the world and experience new things to generate new images, characters, and questions that you can then transform into a story. You can literally turn anything into a story by playing the question game and exercising a little creative imagination.

Writer or Author?

In fact, this post is based on exactly that. I wrote an odd, quirky little experimental story that ended up winning a prize in the Writers of the Future Contest. (Read “Purposes Made for Alien Minds” in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 31.) At the award ceremony, I noticed that the announcer always referred to the winners as either author or artist, and that set me to wondering why. And of course, I already knew the answer—an answer that had been reinforced time and again during the week-long workshop before the awards.

Authors are those who can turn anything into a story that’s well-written and interesting enough to be published. All you have to do is work hard and compellingly answer a few simple questions.

 

Scott Parkin after his book signing at FanX Salt Lake City 2018.


Scott ParkinScott R. Parkin is an author, essayist, podcaster, and pop critic who’s sold more than fifty short stories to a wide variety of markets from literary-academic to romance to military SF. He is also a proud winner in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest.

Alicia Cay certificates

How To Start Writing

I have always known that I am a writer. With the kind of knowing you feel deep in your bones and emanates from the very core of your being. And as writers must do, I write. Although that wasn’t always the case. How to start writing…

A Writing Contest

About eight years ago my Mom returned from a trip to Los Angeles with a couple of books she had gotten for me. One was the coffee table book, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future—The First 25 Years, which she had even gotten signed by someone. The other book was the contest’s most recent anthology at the time, Volume 27. My Mom encouraged me to read about the writing contest and send in a story. Somehow she knew it too, before I had ever written a purposeful word of fiction, that I was a writer, and I just needed a nudge in the right direction. I appreciated the gift, thanked her, and promptly tucked the book away on a shelf. I don’t think I even cracked the binding.

A Writers’s Journey Begins

Three years later my Mom passed away, and it took another two years for the haze of grief to thin enough for me to realize, it was time to begin writing. But where to start? As if in answer, a writer showed up in my life and took me under his wing. He introduced me to the world of writing, showed me where to begin, and even took me to my very first Sci-Fi/Fantasy convention. Now, I had heard about the contest from those books my Mom had given me, but at the convention something happened that was going to change the direction of my entire life. I met a previous winner of the Writers of the Future writing contest who was kind enough to share her experience with me, and that, as the old saying goes, was all she wrote. I decided right then and there I was going to start writing, enter the contest, and win! This meant that I, who had never written a short story before in my life, now had a month to write one and get it submitted before that quarter’s deadline.

My First Story

The first thing I did when I got home from the convention was to dig out those books my Mom had gotten me, and I began to pour over every word. I learned everything I could about the contest itself, and began to read and study the stories written by previous winners. I even studied the contest judges, previous and current, reading at least one book or story from each of them.

I managed to get a story written and submitted by the end of that quarter. Two months later I was rewarded for my efforts with an Honorable Mention. I haven’t missed a quarter since.

Twelve Quarters Later

Twelve quarters and many stories later, I have attended other conventions and met other Writers of the Future winners, all of them kind enough to offer a word of encouragement or sign their story in one of the volumes I have collected. I also attended one of David Farland’s wonderful writing workshops, where he taught us how to bring our stories to life and immerse the reader into our worlds. A few of my short stories have even given way to novel ideas (pun intended), and I’m working on those now. Of course, I always make sure to get a story entered into each quarter of the contest as well.

I am beyond grateful. This contest started me writing and it has kept me writing. It gives me a deadline, and a goal worth achieving. Plus, there are those cool certificates that show up in my mailbox and keep me encouraged—nine Honorable and Silver Honorable Mentions to date—such a treat! The contest also pushes me to continue to improve my writing, and not only my writing, but in my life too. I had to come out of my shell to learn how to network. I’ve found other writers to talk to, I’ve made new friends, and I’ve become part of an awesome writing group. All of these things I have reached for because there was a need for it—because I want to be a better writer, and because I am going to win this contest. To do that, I need to write a story worthy of those who have come before me, and whose words grace the pages of each new Writers of the Future volume.

Oh, and that signature in the Writers of the Future book that my Mom gave me? Turns out she got Kevin J. Anderson, one of the contest judges, to sign it for me. So yeah, Kevin got to meet my Mom. Lucky guy.


Alicia CayAlicia Cay has had a loyal love affair with books since she could read, collects quotes, and suffers from wanderlust. She currently writes short fiction, has had two of her stories published in SF/F anthologies, and is working on her first novel. Alicia lives in Denver with a corgi, a cat, and a lot of fur. Follow her writing and traveling adventures at: aliciacay.com.

Dave Wolverton and Algis Budrys

A Different Kind of Writing Workshop

David Farland with Algis Budrys at the Writers of the Future workshop in 1991

When L. Ron Hubbard initiated the Writers of the Future contest, he knew that there would be awards and publications for the winners. As Algis Budry, the first contest administrator put it to me, “He wanted to make sure that this helped launch new writers. That it gives them publication and some notoriety, along with enough prize money from winnings and publication so that a new writer could invest in his or her career by purchasing a new computer, doing research, and so on.”

But he wanted more for the new writers. He wanted them to meet and mingle with real professionals, people who had struggled and made their mark on the field, and he wanted to do that in the context of a writing workshop.

So a different kind of workshop was envisioned. They knew that the authors who won would already be good writers—maybe even incredibly gifted and talented writers. So a decision was made early on: We’re not going to go back over the basics. We aren’t going to teach the writers yet once again how to polish a sentence.

How to Become Writers

It was reasoned that each of these writers would have learned to write, at the very least, a professionally sellable story, and probably a great story. So what do you teach a writer who already knows the basics of how to write?

The answer was to teach them “How to become writers.” In other words, teach them how to move from being an armchair quarterback and to get into the game.

You see, people have a lot of odd ideas about what writers do. They imagine that we go to scenic mountain resorts and type out a manuscript, then deliver it to an editor to great applause. What most people don’t know about writing is this: Writing can and should be hard work.

So a workshop was created to give advice that would be perfect for taking budding new writers into the professional arena.

Algis put the lesser amount into the workshop, and so I will cover his offerings briefly. He suggested that in the mid-1980s, most new authors weren’t being taught how to plot a novel or short story. He was right.

Plotting a Story

Throughout the 1930s to the 1980s, many in the mainstream were rejecting the idea of literature that they felt “relied upon plot.” Such literature—which included things like romance, mysteries, and science fiction—were called “genre literature,” and were not considered worthy of study. Certainly, in many creative writing programs, plotting was something that was never taught. In my school, Brigham Young University, several professors refused not only to teach how to write genre literature but demanded that students not even read or study it, since it was unworthy of emulation.

Now, it didn’t matter that the most popular stories in the world were well plotted, or that “genre authors” very often outsold literary authors a thousand copies to one. Nor did my teachers realize that their notions were antiquated and had been proven wrong in other mediums. For example, in poetry when many of the beat poets were suggesting that poets ought to revolt against form in writing, Robert Frost famously silenced them by saying that “Writing poetry without rhyme is like playing tennis without a net.” In short, it makes the artist weak and sloppy. His real answer to them, though, came in his own magnificent poems that used rhyme and near-rhyme so effectively that the rhyme schemes became invisible, so that you could read one of his poems in a natural voice and not discover until after you stopped and studied the poem that it was a perfect sonnet.

In short, Algis’s argument in favor of form is simple: A formed story can be more powerful than one that has no form. So he decided to talk about form in the workshop. How do you write a plotted story? He chose a simple adventure plot, and advised writers on how to handle it. As he put it, “This isn’t the only way to write a formed story, but if you use it, you can make an entire career using this basic plot line.”

So he taught authors how to write a simple story. You can learn about his structure in an article called “Writing to the Point,” which is available from Wordfire Press. It is one of the most insightful little books on plotting you’ll ever find.

When Algis wrote it, I don’t recall ever seeing any other book on plotting—and I looked. I was researching the craft heavily, and I really wanted to know. Eventually, I became an expert on plotting myself, and you can read some of my insights into it in my book Million Dollar Outlines, where I teach not only how to create a plot, but also teach enough advanced audience analysis so that a writer can figure out how to write a bestseller.

Of course, in the past thirty years, I’ve seen a number of other fine books on plotting come out, and they are readily available now.

Becoming Your Own Muse

L. Ron Hubbard wanted to talk about more than just plotting, though. He wanted to talk about a lot more. He wanted to talk about where ideas for stories come from, and how to generate them off-the-cuff, so that if an editor calls you looking for a story or a novel, you can compose the tale in a matter of a few hours, rather than agonizing over them for years.

So Ron contributed articles like “The Manuscript Factory,” where he emphasizes that an author is a factory that produces manuscripts for a living. If you aren’t producing, you’re like a factory that has shut down.

He also contributed articles like “Magic Out of a Hat,” where writers learn to draw upon their broad experience in travel and in learning various vocations so that they can “write what they know.”

Most writers are insular people—folks who make their friends in books, so that they have little in the way of first-hand experience to draw upon. But the most successful writers in science fiction have been people who have studied engineering, worked in the military, become doctors or researchers.

In short, his advice can be boiled down to “live a large life.” As a teen, Ron left home to travel the world, becoming a photographer in China, joining the Explorer’s Club, learning to fly a plane and pilot a ship, and eventually joining the military. All of his experiences became fuel for his stories.

So he designed exercises to help writers identify some of their own unique experiences. Maybe the author has worked as a cop or a prison guard? Maybe she’s been through an ugly divorce? Maybe he was abused as a child? All of that can add details and realism to a story.

And of course, he suggested that we keep learning. Ron designed exercises to help people learn how to go start up conversations with strangers, or how to research information at libraries.

In short, I think that he would say that the person who refuses to live life, to go out and experience it, to examine it, is probably not going to go very far.

Oh, yeah, and there is that productivity thing. I remember in college hearing a quote from an ancient Greek philosopher who said that if he could go out and come up with a perfect sentence in a single day, he felt gratified. It was enough.

But that’s foolish. One sentence a day won’t do it. Instead of writing one perfect sentence in a day, I’d rather write twenty pages of damned-fine scenes, and with some jobs, it might take more. A real writer sometimes has to roll up his sleeves and get to work. If a producer needs a hundred-page screenplay in two weeks, you write it in two weeks. I recall writing a Star Wars book at 3 a.m. and feeling exhausted, so I put in another two and a half hours before I caught some sleep.

All of that “Sitting around and waiting for the muse” is tripe. Real writers become their own muses.

So Ron suggested that we have our winners compose a story in a day. For many writers, that seems undoable. But most of our writers discover that not only is it doable, it becomes an essential skill.

The Point of the Writers of the Future Workshop

Last of all, L. Ron Hubbard wanted to expose the winners to some of the wisdom of the best current writers in the field, so on the last couple of days of the workshop, the authors get to hear from and hobnob with our contest judges, where they learn the industry secrets and gossip that you won’t find in any writing books.

The entire workshop is a big and exhausting event, and it is sometimes hard on some of our winners. For example, early on, Algis and I had to decide how to start the workshop. We might have people flying in from all over the world on a Monday. Some of our winners might have flown in from places like Australia, or London, or South Africa. They’d have terrible jetlag. So we considered giving them that first night off, but when we talked to students, most of them were excited to get started.

So we decided to introduce them to the workshop that first night in part so that our winners would be able to get some work done.

But we felt that there was something far more important that happened: When we introduce the students to one another on that first night, they always get together and begin to talk, to compare notes, and to socialize. They bond, and in effect, they often begin to become best friends for life. We’ve even had couples marry.

So if you win the contest, and you’re jet-lagged that first night, and I call you in so that we can all introduce ourselves, blame me. Sorry, you might lose a little sleep, but you’ll gain something more.

Really, what I want to emphasize is this. The point of the Writers of the Future workshop was never to “teach you how to write.” Instead, the goal was to teach you some more important skills, like “How to succeed as a working writer.”

 


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.

L. Ron Hubbard as president of the New York Chapter of the American Fiction Guild in 1936

Advice to the Word-Weary by L. Ron Hubbard

L. Ron Hubbard, center, as president of the New York Chapter of the American Fiction Guild in 1936. The Guild’s membership included Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Once upon a time Ye Ed wrote me a letter in which he stated that he did not want a dissertation upon the way Keats used a comma. He wanted, he claimed, an article in which there was a great deal of sound advice about writing and a number of examples.

While cleaning my files I ran across the following letters and carbon copies. If I wanted to be grasping, I could write two dozen articles using this material.

Instead, by cutting out the funny sayings and things, here is raw, solid meat as handed out to certain gentlemen and ladies who, somehow or other, obtained the address and thought, for some reason, that I could write.

•••

L. Ron Hubbard
New York City

Dear Mr. Hubbard;
For a long time I have been writing fiction. Most of it came back and lies neglected in my files along with letters from editors and plain rejects.

I have not managed to sell a single line. Of course I had some published in the school paper and a few places like that, but I think that if I could get at it right, I could earn a good living by writing.

The man down at the service station has read a lot of my stories and has given me quite a lot of good advice on them. He took a writing course, I think, or maybe it was journalism, at the local university.

Is it asking too much for you to answer this question? How did you start to write and sell?

Respectfully,
Jim Higgins
Cornshuck, Iowa

•••

Jim Higgins
Cornshuck, Iowa

Dear Higgins;
It isn’t a question of how I started to write, it’s a question of why.

There’s a world of difference there. I take it that you have a job, otherwise you wouldn’t eat and if you don’t eat, you don’t last long.

We assume, therefore, that you are eating. That is bad, very bad. No man who wants to start writing should be able to eat regularly. Steaks and potatoes get him out of trim.

When a man starts to write, his mental attitude should be one of anguish. He has to sell something because he has to pay the grocery bill.

My advice to you is simple. If you have the idea that you can write salable stuff, go off someplace and get short of money. You’ll write it all right, and what’s more, you’ll sell it.

Witness the case of a lady I know in New York. She was plugging at writing for some fifteen years without selling a line. She left the Big Town with her husband. In the Pacific Northwest her husband died and left her stranded.

She went to work in a lumber mill and wrote a book about it and sold it first crack out. She worked as a waitress and wrote a book about that and sold it. Having succeeded with two books, she went back to the Big Town and got herself a job in the library until the returns came in. She wrote all the time after that but she was eating. In sawmill and hash house she wasn’t living comfortably. She needed the extra.

She hasn’t sold a line since.

The poet in the garret is not a bad example, after all. Personally, I write to pay my bills.

Jack London, I am told, plastered his bills over his writing desk and every time he wanted to get up or go arty he glanced at them and went right on grinding it out.

I think if I inherited a million tomorrow, my stuff would go esoteric and otherwise blah.

I started to write because I had come back from the West Indies where I had been hunting gold and discovered that we had a depression going on up here. Dead broke and with a newly acquired wife I had to start eating right away.

I started writing one story a day for six weeks. I wrote that story in the afternoon and evening. I read the mag I was to make the next day before I went to bed. I plotted the yarn in my sleep, rose and wrote it, read another mag all the way through, went to bed….

Out of that month and a half of work I have sold fiction to the sum of nine hundred dollars. At the end of the six weeks I received checks amounting to three hundred and two dollars and fifty cents.

Unable to stand prosperity, I left for California. I got broke there, wrote for a month without stopping to breathe, sold eleven hundred dollars’ worth. Nothing like necessity to take all this nonsense about how you ought to reform editors right out of your head.

As far as that guy down at the service station is concerned, he may be okay, but remember this: You are the writer. You have to learn your own game. And if he’s never hit the bread and butter side of the business, he knows less about it than you do, all courses to the contrary.

Write me again when you’ve gone and done some tall starving.

Best regards,
L. Ron Hubbard
New York City

•••

L. Ron Hubbard
Podunk, Maryland

Dear Mr. Hubbard;
I have always felt that I could write if I tried, but somehow I’ve been so busy during the last few years that I haven’t had much chance.

I was married when I was very young and every time I started my writing, Joe would either move (Joe is my husband) or we’d have to both work because of the bills.

Most of my children have grown up now to a point where they can take care of themselves and although I have some time now I don’t seem to be able to get down to work. I have a lot of stories in the back of my head but I just can’t find time or ways and means of getting them down on paper. I feel that this is mostly mental.

Would you tell me how you write?

Wishfully,
Mary Stein
Swampwater, Florida

•••

Mrs. Mary Stein
Swampwater, Florida

Dear Mary Stein;
Remember when you read this that I didn’t ask to be appointed your psychoanalyst. I am nothing but a hard-working writer, after all, using fictitious characters and working them over. When real people get planted in front of me I stand back and gape and wonder if it can be true.

Let me tell you about Margaret Sutton. She writes some of the best children’s books being written today. She has five kids, I think. A lot of them need plenty of attention. She has to support them and do her own work and everything.

One day somebody asked her why she didn’t get a maid now she had so much royalty money. She blinked and said, “A maid? Why, what would I do with my extra time?”

Well, there you have it. Maybe it is mental.

From Crabtown to Timbuktu, when I have been introduced as a writer, somebody always has said, “Well, now, I could write too if I just had some time.”

That is a queer mental quirk with people. If a man is a writer, he is doing something everybody thinks they can do. A chap who is the head of a big insurance company, highly successful, once said to me, “I would like to write, but I never seem to be able to find the time.”

It’s their way of apology, I guess. Nearly everyone makes that remark and, to be brutally frank, it is a source of much merriment in the professional ranks.

I am not one to talk about working and writing in the same breath. I have a law around the house here which says that writing comes first and to hell with everything else. The lawn grows into an alfalfa field, the pipes drip merrily, the floors need paint, but I turn a deaf ear to pleas and go right on writing.

I have found this to be the case. My time at the typewriter is worth, per hour, what the average artisan gets per week. I do not work the same hours he does. I work far less, but I work much harder.

Therefore I paint my floors and fix my pipes with the typewriter keys, if you get me. One short story will pay for all the work to be done around this house in a month including the maid’s wages.

People let petty things keep them away from a typewriter. I think that is true because they want to be kept away from the machine. When you start to write there seems to be an invisible wall separating you from the keyboard. Practice is the only thing which will dissipate it.

If you make yourself write during trying times, you are doing a lot toward whipping your jinx.

Recently I was very ill in a New York apartment. My agent, Ed Bodin, and his wife came in. My wife had been there with me for several days and was worn out. Ed and Juliet wanted to take her to a show.

They left at 8:45 p.m. They returned at 11:30. In the interim I had grown restless. I felt that I was stale, would be unable to write anything for months. Then I got mad at such a traitorous thought, climbed out of bed, sat down at the mill and wrote a story which I gave to Ed upon his return.

I knew, of course, that the story would be rotten. Half the time I couldn’t see the paper, I was so dizzy.

But I guess I was wrong. Ed sold it almost immediately to Detective Fiction Weekly. It was “The Mad Dog Murders.”

My contention is that, if you have the stuff on the ball, you can write anytime, anyplace and anything.

Best regards,
L. Ron Hubbard
Podunk, Maryland

•••

L. Ron Hubbard
Unusualado, California

Dear Mr. Hubbard;
I been pounding out a lot of western yarns and shipping same to certain editors located in New York where the only horse in town is located on a whisky bottle.

These gents claim, per letter and returned stories, that I haven’t got any real feel of the west.

The same irritates me considerable. I spotted a yarn of yours and you seemed to know hosses hands down and guns likewise and that don’t measure like most of these western yarns.

I think maybe I’d better go back to wranglin’ hosses because maybe I don’t know how to put it in stories. I sure do know something about putting them in corrals.

I thought it was about time somebody wrote some western stories that knew what they was writing about. I still think so.

The question is, what the hell can I do about it?

Yours truly,
Steed Monahan
General Delivery
Stud Horse, Arizona

•••

Steed Monahan
General Delivery
Stud Horse, Arizona

Dear Steed Monahan;
You have laid the finger on something. I’m not sure what. I wouldn’t go as far as to say that you have the dope but lack the knack of writing fiction. You know there might be something in that. Anyway, I’m no judge because I never read any of your stuff.

This question once leaped up at a New York Chapter meeting of the American Fiction Guild. Clee Woods, Al Echols, Sayer, and maybe Tom Roan got pretty deep into the argument about whether or not you had to know the west to write westerns.

I wasn’t so very interested because my forte is adventure and such, but I listened because I had been raised in Montana but had never been able to sell a good western story.

These lads who knew the west had it all settled to their satisfaction that you had to have the dope and data before you could put down the words and syllables.

Then Frank Gruber stood up and said he’d sold a few westerns that year. Fifteen or so. And that was odd because, he said, he had never been closer to a ranch than editing a chicken paper in the middle west.

So there you are. The dope and data does not outweigh good story writing. I can write stories about pursuit pilots, stories about coal miners, stories about detectives, stories about public enemies, G-men, arctic explorers, Chinese generals, etc.

Which doesn’t mean that I had to shoot down another plane to get the dope. I have never: 1. Been in a coal mine. 2. Been a detective. 3. A public enemy. 4. Been a G-man. 5. Explored the Arctic. 6. Been a Chinese general.

And yet I am proud of a record which was only marred by one inaccuracy in a story, and that was very trivial. By getting experience somewhere near the field, I can exploit the field.

For instance, of late, I have been looking into dangerous professions. I’ve climbed skyscrapers with steeplejacks, dived with deep-sea divers, stunted with test pilots, and made faces at lions. But at no time was I actually a member of that particular profession of which I was to write. I didn’t have to be because the research enabled me to view it from a longer, more accurate range.

The only thing you can do is try hard to write a swell, fast-action western yarn. Peddle it to every western book in the field. Ask for some honest comments on it.

But before you do this, be sure you are writing what these magazines are buying.

A good story comes first. Information comes second. An editor of one of our best books recently told me, “Accuracy be damned. Very few gentlemen will know you’re wrong. Give us the story. We can buy the accuracy from a twenty-five-a-week clerk with a library card. You don’t have to know. You can write.”

Ride ’em, cowboy, and don’t pull any leather until they spot your trouble for you. But if you can’t write, you can’t write, no matter how much you know.

And I guess that’s all I know about that subject.

Best regards,
L. Ron Hubbard
Unusualado, California

•••

Mr. L. Ron Hubbard
New Orleans, Louisiana

Dear Mr. Hubbard;
During the last few months I have managed to sell some of my stories to magazines located in New York. I have every assurance that I can keep right on selling these stories of mine and I think it’s about time I made a break for the Big Town.

I’ve been reading the writers’ magazines and I think you have to know all about New York and the markets before you can really get places in this game.

I’ve been making over a hundred dollars a month in the writing game and I’ve sold stories to__________, and__________. I asked one of the editors about this and he told me by all means look him up when I got to New York. As that sounds encouraging, I’m planning on leaving.

Jeb Uglook wants me to go with him to Baffin Land on his whaler this summer, but I think I better give my writing a break and go to New York instead.

But I thought, before I made a decision, I’d better write to some professional writer like you who’s been in New York a lot and ask him what conditions were there.

My stories are mostly about this part of the world as I am always cruising around or trekking off someplace with guys like Jeb Uglook, or Biff Carlson (he’s the Mountie here), but I think I ought to have a wider field for my work. Detective stories, for instance, and things like that.

Would you tell me about New York?

Sincerely,
Arch Bankey
GeeHaw Factory
Hudson Bay

•••

Mr. Arch Bankey
GeeHaw Factory
Hudson Bay

Dear Arch Bankey;
A few years ago I knew a beachcomber in Hong Kong. All he ever talked about was the day he would go to New York. That was the place. New York!

But he was smarter than the rest of us. He never went. He just talked about it.

There’s nothing like knowing your editors, of course. Editors are swell people as a rule. Nothing like getting their slant face to face. Increase your sales no end.

But if you think you can go to New York and live there on a hundred a month, you’re as crazy as a locoed wolf. Think about it from this angle:

In New York you’ll have noise, bad living conditions, and higher expenses. You will have to keep right on writing to keep eating.

You are used to writing where the biggest noise is a pine tree shouting at its neighbor. That is the condition you know. You can write there.

Chances are a hundred to one that you won’t be able to turn out a line when the subway begins to saw into your nerves, when the L smashes out your eardrums overhead, when ten thousand taxi drivers clamp down on their horns.

If you can’t write, you can’t eat because you won’t have enough reserve.

Besides, the markets you mention are not very reliable. Those eds are the brand that want something for nothing. Wait until you sell the big books in the pulp field. Wait until you crack into at least four of the big five publishing houses. Wait until you are pretty sure you know what you’re doing in the game before you make a change.

I’ve wrecked myself time after time with changes just because I have itchy feet. I have just come from New York. I got along all right, for a very little while, then the town got me. I had a big month and managed to get out.

But once New York gets you, you’re got.

Some of the swellest guys I know are in New York. Also some of the worst heels.

Here’s my advice, take it for what it’s worth to you.

Jeb Uglook and the whaler will provide you with lots of story material. Go with him and write it. Trek out with that Mountie and study the way he goes about it. Take your trips with your eyes open for data.

Neither Jeb nor Carlson will let you starve. If you can’t put out the wordage, you’ll find editors far from interested in you.

Write everything you can, study the mags you’re sending stuff to, collect every scrap of story material from GeeHaw Factory. Collect yourself checks to the amount of one thousand dollars, no more no less. With that all in one piece, shove off for New York.

On arrival, get yourself the best clothes you can buy. Register at the Waldorf-Astoria. Take editors out to lunch in a Cadillac taxi.

Stay in New York until all you’ve got left is your return trip ticket to GeeHaw. Pack up and leave right away quick for home.

Don’t try to work in New York. Don’t try to make it your home. Go there with a roll and do the place right, then grab the rattler for Hudson Bay before the glamor wears off.

Sitting in a shabby room, pounding a mill with the landlady pounding on the door is fine experience, but I think gunning for whales up off Baffin Land is much more to your liking.

Best regards,
L. Ron Hubbard
New Orleans, Louisiana

•••

And this, my children, endeth the lesson. Any questions?

 


L. Ron Hubbard

L. Ron Hubbard, New York City, 1935

With 19 New York Times bestsellers and more than 350 million copies of his works in circulation, L. Ron Hubbard is among the most acclaimed and widely read authors of our time. For a more extensive biography, go to www.galaxypress.com/l-ron-hubbard

Pulp magazine covers featuring L. Ron Hubbard stories

History of Helping New Writers by Algis Budrys

L. Ron Hubbard, 1935Like other author-adventurers with names like Melville, Twain, London and Hemingway, L. Ron Hubbard’s experiences and travels—as an explorer and prospector, master mariner and daredevil pilot, philosopher and artist—found their way through his writing into the fabric of popular fiction and into the currents of American culture for fifty years. Distinguished editor, literary critic and grand master of science fiction Frederik Pohl said of L. Ron Hubbard: “There are bits and pieces from Ron’s work that became part of the language in ways that very few other writers managed.… He had a gift for inventing colorful pictures that still stay with me…. Pictures that stayed in your head.” At the same time, his unique voice and style helped reshape and establish new literary trends for many of the popular genres he wrote in—from science fiction to fantasy, and from horror to adventure—resulting in a compelling literary legacy. And what a legacy it was: 19 New York Times bestsellers, stretching over 50 years from his earliest commercially published story, “The Green God,” in 1934, to the completion of a mammoth ten-volume novel, Mission Earth, in 1987. His most signal talent, however, was perhaps the ability to create rich characters and place them in unusual circumstances.

In his 1940 horror classic, Fear, Hubbard frames an unrelenting nightmare of the macabre around bookish and mousey James Lowry, Professor of Ethnology at Atwater College, who after publicly debunking the existence of demons and devils finds himself confronted with unexplainable and ghastly real-life evidence to the contrary. Horror/suspense giant Stephen King acknowledges Fear as “one of the few books in the chiller genre which actually merits employment of the overworked adjective ‘classic,’ as in ‘This is a classic tale of creeping, surreal menace and horror’…This is one of the really, really good ones.” Works like Fear etched Hubbard’s place among the greats of contemporary suspense fiction including legends like Ray Bradbury and Stephen King. But his storytelling expertise was not limited to suspense.

Hubbard also excelled in other fiction genres, including fantasy, “future-history” science fiction, space-travel adventure and frontier fiction, while still showcasing his unforgettable characters in desperate—or hilarious—but always original circumstances. In Typewriter in the Sky (a satiric, story-within-a-story, literary fantasy), he engages the reader in a what-if tale of a piano player suddenly finding himself part of an adventure novel written by his writer friend, Horace Hackett. As if that weren’t enough, he is trapped in the novel as the villain of the piece and discovers that he has to suffer through Horace’s hackneyed writing and threadbare plot—knowing that his character is going to be killed off at the end. In Final Blackout, the apocalyptic science fiction adventure set in the aftermath of total war, the story focuses on an enigmatic, post-modern guerilla fighter, who is the least likely to lead a nation back from oblivion, and yet finds himself stuck with the problem. To the Stars is yet another beautifully crafted novel of future space travel and adventure that explores the sensibilities of a man shanghaied into becoming a crewman on the “long passage” of extended travel across the universe, while time goes forward normally on Earth.

All are examples of Hubbard’s unique approach to fiction and his unmatched storytelling ability, crossing multiple genres with ease. From horror and suspense to action-adventure and, of course, science fiction, he blazed a wide path of fiction output rarely matched by either his contemporaries or literary followers with over 250 novels, novelettes and short stories to his credit. Not surprisingly, L. Ron Hubbard’s life was an adventure story in itself.

His real-life experiences began in rural Montana where he grew up on a ranch in the early 1920s and formed an early and lasting friendship with the Blackfeet Indians. By the late 1920s, he left the country to serve aboard a coastal trading vessel operating between Japan and Java in the Pacific. On his return in 1927, Hubbard studied engineering and took one of the earliest courses in molecular phenomena. Later, he went on to achieve renown as a pioneer aviator, famous in the air meets of the day, and became a master mariner—licensed to sail any ocean, and was three times a flag-bearing expedition leader of the Explorers Club (as recounted in George Plimpton’s As Told at the Explorers Club). All the information gleaned from his experiences growing up and his personal interactions with the characters he met during his travels found their place in his various works: stories of civilians’ narrow escapes from marauding warlords and vindictive Japanese generals during the Sino-Japanese war; men being trapped in the Sahara under the guns of the enemy without enough ammunition or water—or relief—in sight; or tales of danger and the risks taken by those who had to test airplanes for the military before such could be put into active service. During this period, his editors noted that his name on the cover of a pulp magazine would greatly boost its sales, so compelling were his stories, and he became a frequently featured writer.

NOVICE WRITERS ASKING FOR ADVICE

As a consequence, novice writers who hoped to learn his storytelling and story-selling skills often consulted Hubbard for advice. He was happy to offer suggestions and so he began sharing his hard-earned experience with creative writing students in speaking engagements at institutions such as Harvard and George Washington University. In 1935, he was named president of the New York Chapter of the American Fiction Guild, where he made it easier for new writers to join the guild and readily shared his knowledge of writing and publishing with others who sought his help.

Hubbard also generated a series of “how to” articles that appeared in a number of writing magazines in the 1930s and 1940s, offering guidance to help new writers navigate the rough waters they were likely to encounter. Included in this volume is his wry article, “Advice to the Word-Weary,” a compilation by Ron of advice letters not previously published. In 1940, as a feature of a radio program he hosted in Ketchikan, Alaska, while on an Explorers Club–sanctioned expedition, he offered advice for beginning writers and went one step further, initiating the “Golden Pen Award” to encourage listeners of station KGBU to write fiction, and he awarded prizes for the best stories submitted.

THE CREATION OF WRITERS OF THE FUTURE

Years later, in 1983, in recognition of the increasingly difficult path encountered between first manuscript and published work, particularly in an era when publishers devoted the lion’s share of their promotional budgets to a few household names, L. Ron Hubbard “initiated a means for new and budding writers to have a chance for their creative efforts to be seen and acknowledged.” And so were born the Writers and Illustrators of the Future Contests. These Contests have continued to expand and now receive entries from all over the world and have become today the standard by which any aspiring writer and Illustrator in science fiction and fantasy should measure their work. And, as years have proven, the writers and illustrators you will meet will be the names you will see in the years to come.

So read and enjoy Writers of the Future and see for yourself why Orson Scott Card says, “Keep the Writers of the Future going. It’s what keeps sci-fi alive.”

 


Algis Budrys

Algis Budrys (1931–2008), known as “AJ” to his students and friends, was one of the most prominent forces behind the Writers of the Future Contest, workshop, and anthology series. He was born in Königsberg, East Prussia, on January 9, 1931. He became interested in science fiction at the age of six, shortly after coming to America, when a landlady slipped him a copy of the New York Journal-American Sunday funnies.

Budrys began selling steadily to the top magazine markets at the age of twenty-one while living in Great Neck, Long Island. He sold his first novel in 1953 and produced eight more novels, including Who?Rogue MoonMichaelmas and Hard Landing, and three short story collections. In addition to writing, he was renowned as an editor, serving as editor in chief of Regency Books, Playboy Press and all the titles at Woodall’s Trailer Travel publications. He also edited Tomorrow Speculative Fiction, where he published numerous new authors (many of them his students at WotF).

In 1983, Budrys was enlisted to help establish a new writing contest for aspiring writers. This was a request he took to heart. Not only did he assist with the judging, he used his well-known skills as an editor for the annual anthology. He attended scores of science fiction conventions, speaking on panels during the day about the Writers of the Future, and again at night discussing the Contest with many of the top names in science fiction and fantasy, using his influence and charm to bring them on board as Contest judges.

 

David Farland winning Writers of the Future Contest in 1987

Prize Writing—Three Things to Know

Contest judge Frederik Pohl presents Writers of the Future Award to David (Wolverton) Farland, 1987

As many of you know, I got my start by prize writing. While I was in college, I won third place in my first writing contest and decided to see if I could win first place in a contest. I spent a year honing some short stories for various contests, in between my studies, and sent them out in the autumn of 1986. Within a few weeks I discovered that I had won not just one, but all of the contests that I had entered. One of the judges at Writers of the Future, Robert Silverberg, liked my story well enough so that he shared it with some editors, and this led to a three-novel contract with Bantam Books. I’ll always be grateful to Bob for that.

So I promised a couple of people on the list that I would talk about prize writing. If you think about it deeply, everything that you write is really for a competition. You’re competing for publication with other writers, for promotional monies from the marketing departments of various publishers, for literary awards, and of course for your reading audience. So these posts really apply to any writer. When you think about it, it would seem that there isn’t a lot that you can do in order to win a prize. Thousands might enter a competition, but only one will win. However, there are some things that you can do to increase your chances dramatically.

These things include:

  • Get to know your judge’s tastes.
  • Aim your story straight at your judges.
  • Make sure that your story is presented well.

This all might sound easier than it is, but let’s take this one step at a time. Your first step is to get to know your judge’s tastes. Now, if you’re talking about a contest judge, this person might be a teacher at a local university. The best way to gauge the judge’s tastes is to read anything that they’ve written. If your judge has written short stories, look at the age of the protagonists, the themes that the judge covers, his or her use of language, and so on. This will tell you whether the judge values crisp dialog over brilliant metaphors, slow pacing versus fast, and so on. Pay particular attention to the themes. If a judge has a penchant for writing about stories that deal with death, for example, you might realize that your story will hit them harder if you feature a death scene.

In some cases, you’ll have a panel of judges. For example, there are more than a dozen judges at the Writers of The Future. So if I wanted to win that contest, I’d look at the mix of writers. How many write only science fiction? How many write fantasy? What do each of their tastes seem to be.

One easy way to gauge their tastes is to look at past stories. You could read the grand prize winners from each anthology. By doing so, you’d begin to notice some patterns.

You can of course do this same thing with any publication. You could go to editor’s panels at science fiction conventions and listen to editors talk about their favorite books out. You could go to Publisher’s Marketplace on the internet and find out what each one of those editors has bought.

It’s really quite easy to learn the tastes of one solitary reader. If you’re facing a panel of judges, the task becomes more complex, but it is possible to write a story that will average out to be a winner.

So start studying!

 


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.