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Frederik Pohl at the 1986 Taos Workshop

How to Impress an Editor by Frederik Pohl

Image above (L to R) Gene Wolfe, Rosemary Wolfe, Edna Budrys, Algis Budrys, Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson at the 1986 workshop in Taos, New Mexico.

What goes through an editor’s mind when he reads a story by an aspiring writer? In this article written by Frederik Pohl in 1987 for Writers of the Future volume 3, he is about to tell you.…

I don’t advise writers to write with editors in mind. An editor is really only a middleman; his job is to try to guess what readers will like, and it is the ultimate reader who will in the long run decide who succeeds in writing.

However, it’s important to impress an editor—especially if he has no idea of how well you write. It is the editor who makes the decision on what gets into print, so he can’t be ignored. Moreover, there are things to be learned from editors, if only because the editors have had to learn them themselves. At least half of the workmanship skills and techniques of writing are things I learned over the thirty-nine years from my first professional editorial job to my last. These form a major part of how I appraise a story from someone I’ve never read before … and a good part of how I do all my reading.

What editors learn about writing comes largely from the things that writers do wrong. It’s easier to see where somebody else has gone wrong than it is when it’s your own work, and then you can look at your own with a more knowing eye. That’s a big plus, for anyone who wants not only to “be a writer” but to write well. Unfortunately, becoming an editor is not an option open to everyone who wants to write; there simply are not that many editorial jobs.

What you can do, however, is what Albert Einstein called a “thought experiment.” Put yourself in an editor’s place for a moment, and see how you look to him as he goes through the process of deciding whether what you will subsequently find in your mailbox is going to be a rejection slip, or a check, or something in between.

THE IMPORTANT FIRST IMPRESSION

I’m going first to spend some time discussing manuscript preparation because that’s what makes the first impression for your story.

Your first contact with an editor (not necessarily the editor, but we’ll come to that later) occurs when the mailman drops your manuscript on his desk. (It may well be “her” desk, rather than “his.” In fact, these days it is more likely to be a her than a him—but forgive me if I don’t keep saying “his or her.”)

You can lose the whole game right here if your manuscript is handwritten, or otherwise illegible. You can also stack the cards against you, though not always lethally, in a lot of lesser ways, and a lot of them come under the general heading of “neatness.”

You see, what you don’t want to do is make it hard for an editor to like your work. His eyes take enough punishment. Pica type (also known as 12-point in printers’ measure, or 10-strike in IBM’s loopy dialect) is usually better than the smaller elite or “12-strike”— but don’t go overboard and use one of the giant sizes available with some computers.

You should, (1) enclose an adequately stamped, self-addressed return envelope in case of need; (2) put enough stamps on the manuscript mailing envelope so it doesn’t arrive postage-due; (3) put your name and address on the manuscript. The right place for your name and address is in the upper left-hand corner of the first page, but at least get it on there somewhere. If you want to use a pen-name on the story you can, but put your check-cashing name in the corner of the manuscript. Then, under the title of the story, type whatever byline you want, and the editor will know what you mean. Repeat a key word of the story title, and the last name of your byline, and a page number, at the top of each succeeding page.

A few additional general rules about the mechanics of submitting a story:

It doesn’t matter whether you use a typewriter or a word processor, but if you use a word processor don’t set your printer to create a straight right-hand margin. (No editors insist on justification, as it’s called, and some editors actively hate it. Typesetters are infuriated by it.)

If your printer (or typewriter) lets you do fancy things, don’t do them. Don’t italicize; underline instead. Otherwise the copy editor has to do the underlining for you, because typesetters require it.

Don’t use odd typefaces—small caps, semi-script, sans-serif—they’re sometimes hard to read, and often annoying. Besides which, typesetters don’t like them, and sometimes charge extra for setting “difficult copy.” Editors don’t like extra charges—their publishers speak to them about it.

Finally, don’t try to cram a 40-page manuscript into a letter-sized envelope. For a short manuscript of five or maybe ten pages you can fold it in half, although a fold makes copy-editing more difficult; anything longer should be mailed flat.

Remember, these mechanical things are the first thing the editor sees. They are, God knows, not important to the merits of the story—but blunders with the manuscript can keep your story from ever being read.

Sloppy manuscripting will not, in the long run, keep a real masterpiece from being published. But the facts of life are that most stories aren’t masterpieces. There is no clear-cut line between the story that gets bought—reluctantly—and the story that gets bounced—regretfully. Many stories are right on the cusp. They can go either way. How well or badly you do the mechanical things can push your story one way or the other.

THE TITLE

If you’ve done all the mechanical stuff more or less correctly, then you’ve passed the first test. At least now somebody will evaluate your story. The person who reads it probably is not the person who will make the final decision about buying it, because nearly all editors use first readers to eliminate the worst of the “slush.” And you are by no means guaranteed that he will read it all the way through. But at least you’ve got the story in the hands of someone who has the authority to move it one step closer to print, and what happens now is up to your story. There are many ingredients that can sway the decision for you or against. Here are some of them:

Title. A catchy title encourages the reader to read on—whether he is an editor who gets paid to read or is your cash customer in the store. What makes a good title? Some answers to that question would be “relevance to your story,” “tickling curiosity,” “graceful use of language,” maybe even “humor”—but it would be more truthful to say, “I don’t know.” I do know a good title when I see one, and so does everyone else, but there isn’t any formula for generating them. Probably you’ll know a good title when you think of it… so always try a few different ones.

One other way to come up with a decent title is to make a list of as many possible titles as you would be willing to have on your story, then ask friends which one would make them want to read the piece. If you agree with one, use it. But don’t get hung up on this. If you have a good title, that’s a plus. If you don’t, it’s not fatal. Editors are willing to improve titles; some of them, in fact, actually feel left out if they can’t.

NARRATIVE HOOK

Opening. Once past the title, your editor naturally starts reading on “Page One.” If at all possible, have something there to interest him, for if you don’t he may never get to “Page Two.”

The technical name for the kind of opening you want is a “narrative hook,” meaning something which so piques the curiosity, arouses the sympathy or otherwise engages the attention of the reader that he is hooked and wants to get on with the narrative. There aren’t any good rules for constructing a narrative hook, either, but a good way to find one is to start your story at the point where something interesting is happening. The art of writing, to some degree, is the art of leaving out the dull parts. If you can’t quite leave out all the dull parts, at least try not to start with one. It is a useful exercise to look over some of your unsuccessful stories as though the author were someone you didn’t know and didn’t particularly want to know, and ask yourself, at every page and even every sentence, “Why is he telling me all this?” If you can’t think of a reason, cut that part out.

Page-Turning. The above applies not only to the opening of your story, but all the way through it. Students of playwriting at the University of Texas (so one of them told me long ago, leaving an indelible impression on my mind) used to be told that there were only three reasons for including any given line in a play: To show character; to advance the action; or to get a laugh. If you make the last stricture “to give the reader pleasure of some kind,” I would think those rules apply just as well to prose fiction.

However, you can’t make a rotten story good just by cutting it to the bone. The bone may be rotten. To make a reader turn the pages it is not enough to get to what you have to say quickly; you must also have something to say.

You also need someone to say it about, and that element is called characterization. It is characters who make a story move. If you read in a newspaper that 1800 Bolivians have died in an earthquake you may not be greatly moved; but if your bridge partner is run over by a truck you care. The difference is that you know your bridge partner, and you didn’t know all those other people; events are more interesting when you know who they are happening to.

Characterization is making the reader know the characters, so that he will care what happens to them. You can do that in a quick-and-dirty way—that is, by what is called “funny hat” characterization, meaning that you tag one of your people by giving him an odd and picturesque trait. Perhaps you have him wear a funny hat, or give him a wooden leg or the habit of saying “Bless my watch fob!” Or you can do it by letting the reader understand what the character is like through showing what he does and what he feels. Understand better, if it is done right, than the character himself understands. Mark Twain did both: You remember the heroine of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court because of her “funny hat”—actually, her habit of telling interminably dull stories—you remember Huckleberry Finn because Twain made you see right into his stubborn, cynical, quirky but decent and generous soul. The second way is harder, and better. But both work, and if you can’t manage the hard way then at least do it the easy. If you can’t tell us anything else about your characters, at least let us know something about what they want, what they fear—what their problems are; because these should enter into the action of the story.

AND NOW FOR THE STORY

Which brings us to story. A story involves change. Something has to happen. What happens does not have to be on a physical level; it can be the inside of the characters that changes, and maybe the only thing that changes is that the characters positively make up their minds that change just isn’t going to happen. (That’s an approximate outline of William Saroyan’s most famous story, The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze). It should not happen in a straight line, of course. If your character’s problem is that he wants to marry The Girl, and he asks her, and she says yes, then that’s a kind of story but, oh, what a dull one!

Some pulp writers of a generation ago used to follow a “Plot Skeleton.” It was articulated by the literary agent, Scott Meredith, in a book on writing, and it says, basically, that the structure of any story has three parts. In the first part, the lead character is in a hellish bad fix. In the second part he almost gets out of it but, through no fault of his own, fails. In the last part he successfully solves the problem.

According to Meredith, this plot skeleton is actually present in every novel and short story ever written, from The Satyricon of Petronius Arbiter right up to the novelization of the latest Star Trek film. I wouldn’t go that far, but the ingredients are all useful: An opening problem, the more urgent the better; a complication that keeps the hero on the hook and the reader turning pages; a satisfying resolution so the reader knows when the story’s over.

Then there is pace. There are, it is true, some kinds of stories that require a good deal of elapsed story time for the events to unfold. Most stories don’t. Particularly in a short story, avoid like poison the sentence, “Several months went by without anything happening,” or anything much like it. The attention wanders. Once again, it is a matter of leaving out the dull parts—not only in the parts you describe but in those you don’t.

Last of all, accuracy. In writing science fiction in particular, get at least your basic science right. You can’t have helicopters flying around the Moon (there’s no air), or take a rocket ship to Alpha Centauri in a week (a rocket can’t go that fast). It is a matter of trust. If your reader doesn’t have trust in you, he won’t enjoy your story, and one sure way to forfeit that trust is to be caught in a fat-headed blunder. You don’t need to know much about science to write some kinds of science fiction, but don’t pretend to know more than you do.

What I have described is a sort of catalogue of the elements of an acceptable manuscript, as an editor might see them. The manuscript should be mechanically adequate. The story shouldn’t sprawl, either in wordage or in draggy action. The characters should be solid enough to make the editor (and the ultimate reader) care what happens to them. And something should happen in the story.

If you’ve performed the thought experiment of looking at your manuscript through an editor’s eyes, you now should be able to see some reasons why you’ve been rejected—if that has been the case—and in fact you can analyze your story, or anyone else’s, quite expertly. For that’s all there is to it … except for one thing, one element, one quality that I haven’t touched on at all, and that was quite unfair, since it happens to be the most important thing of all. I’ve talked about everything that goes into your story, except you.

The only thing any writer has to sell is his own personal, idiosyncratic view of the world. What is it that you have to say? What have you seen that nobody else has seen, that you can set down for others?

When the editor reads your story he does not compare it against the checklist above. But all of these things will be in the back of his mind, along with a hundred other things that have to do with his own personal needs and preferences. However, if all he is doing is no more than to count off the ways in which your story matches a standard recipe, you may sell, but you’re in trouble. That means your story is at best marginal, one of the dozen or so that he can probably print without stinking up the magazine (or the line of books) too badly, but which no one will miss if it doesn’t get published. And there really is no point in being a writer if you don’t intend to set your sights higher than that.

So … do all the things that are said or implied above, but don’t stop there. Do more. Do your best to write stories that no one but you could have written, and write them as well as you can.
And good luck to you in the attempt!


Frederik Pohl addresses the workshop attendees.

Frederik Pohl addresses the workshop attendees.

A notable SF author since before World War II and ultimately a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, Frederik Pohl (1919-2013) was also an editor of great influence throughout his career, starting at Astonishing and Super Science and going on to Galaxy, IF, and elsewhere. He is the discoverer of Ray Bradbury, R.A. Lafferty, Keith Laumer and Larry Niven, among scores of other well-known names. He created the Star series, setting the pattern that other editors still follow for anthologies of original SF short fiction. He was also a novels editor at several prestigious publishing houses, served as an instructor and Contest judge for the Writers of the Future program.

His own work in fiction included Day Million and The Gold at the Starbow’s End, The Space Merchants, Man Plus, and Gateway, which garnered a thicket of awards. But those symbols of expertise are equaled in number by the trophies he won as an editor. One year, IF won the Hugo award in every eligible category.

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

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

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

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

Why This Is Important to Your Career

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

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

What Industry Professionals Have to Say

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

So, isn’t it time you entered?

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

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

 

 

Remember the stories in the news about exploding phone batteries? Well, Writers of the Future winner (Vol 33) Stephen Lawson turned the “Lithium-Ion Batteries exploding” phenomena into a terse rescue effort on the planet Titan. The story is “Homunculus” and it was this year’s grand prize award-winner in the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story category.

Alumni Update – Stephen Lawson

Remember the stories in the news about exploding phone batteries?

Well, Writers of the Future winner (Vol 33) Stephen Lawson turned the “Lithium-Ion Batteries exploding” phenomena into a terse rescue effort on the planet Titan. The story is “Homunculus” and it was this year’s grand prize award-winner in the Jim Baen Memorial Short Story category.

Stephen recently posted a link to the story on his blog so you can read it for free. He also includes in that same blog the proofs of concept for the scientific stuff he has in the story. And if you are into the geeky side of stories, you will find it is a fascinating read all on its own. It shows the level of detailed research he does in order to create new universes for his readers.

Bestselling author and contest founder L. Ron Hubbard will tell you from experience how research pays off in his article “Search for Research.”

Likewise author and WotF judge Larry Niven, in his trademark succinct style, gives this advice to new writers, “Always do your research. One mistake in hard science fiction, in particular, will be remembered forever. Remember: you’re on record.”

Obviously, Stephen is on the right track as his propensity for research is paying off in both entertaining and award-winning stories.

Take, for example, his short story “Moonlight One,” which garnered him a Writers of the Future Award (published in Volume 33). This one is a murder mystery set on the moon. What sets this story apart from the normal who-done-it, is there are only two people on the moon. When the protagonist wakes up to find her husband murdered, she has to find the real killer. But behind the story are all the science facts that make it all work, as Stephen explains in this video.

Being one of the Writers of the Future winners, Stephen attended the 2017 Writers Workshop. In addition to studying articles by L. Ron Hubbard on writing and getting sage advice from bestselling authors and workshop instructors David Farland and Tim Powers, there were also guest speakers providing profession tips, for new writers including: Kevin J. Anderson, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Robert J. Sawyer, Nina Kiriki Hoffman, Nnedi Okorafor, Jody Lynn Nye, Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven, to name but some.

What additionally makes the Writer Workshop unique from others is the 24-hour story that each writer has to submit. The clock starts and the pressure is on as each writer has to turn out a complete story in one day. But Stephen, with his military background, is used to pressure as he explains here.

Looking forward to seeing what new worlds Stephen’s research will take us to next.

National Bestseller 4 Consecutive Years

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

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

The Hard Facts

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

Writers of the Future Provides Hope

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

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

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

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


 


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

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

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

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

Never Give Up

Never Give Up!

It was 1978. I was thirteen years old and my mother gave me Clifford Simak’s book, Mastodonia. So began my love affair with speculative fiction. Within a few years, I read everything from Poul Anderson to Roger Zelazny and had amassed hundreds of books and magazines. I was obsessed. I had found my calling. I was going to be a science fiction writer.

A Mountain of Rejection Slips

It took a few years to gather the courage to write a story, and another few to start sending them out. From 1986 to 1992, I wrote 47 stories, submitting them to any place I could find, including and especially to the Writers of the Future. The result was a mountain of rejection slips. Sometimes the editors provided encouraging messages, but they still rejected my stories! I entered the WOTF eleven times and received—no surprise—eleven rejections.

Becoming a science fiction writer was much harder than it looked. After six years of trying to get published, I made a huge mistake. I gave up. It was too hard. I was done. My love affair with speculative fiction was over. I sold all my books and magazines. The only ones I saved were my Writers of the Future books. I just couldn’t part with them. I wept as I boxed them up and put them in the closet, where they would remain for the next seventeen years.

Return to the Urge to Write

Fast-forward to 2009. My boss walks into my office and asks, “Do you like science fiction?”

“I used to,” I said.

“Read this,” he handed me E. E. Doc Smith’s Lensman series. He was my boss, so I obeyed.

And I was back in love! I bought back all my books. I dug out my WOTF books and re-read them. Then I got all the remaining volumes and read those.

Then it happened: I started to feel that urge again, that compulsion to start writing my own stories. But I was terrified. I had been down that road before, and it was littered with broken dreams. I wasn’t sure if I could do it.

So I made a vow. I would try submitting again, but only to the WOTF contest. If I earned an Honorable Mention, then maybe I would try submitting elsewhere. I re-read all the WOTF books again, and then I submitted a story. Of course, I received a rejection, then another, and another, and so on.

An Anonymous Guy from Topanga Canyon

Then it happened, entry number sixteen, an Honorable Mention! I did it! My head nearly hit the ceiling. Still, I was too scared to submit anywhere else. I kept entering the WOTF and soon earned another HM. When I had earned three, I began submitting to the magazines.

To my delight, I not only began receiving personal rejections; within one year, I sold my first story! Then I sold another. And another!

Still, my primary focus was with the WOTF contest. I never missed a quarter. I was earning more honorable mentions, but that was it. The higher levels of the contest seemed out of reach. Whenever I felt my confidence waver, I would look at the WOTF books and tell myself, you could win this contest. Don’t give up.

Then one day I was lurking the WOTF forum and noticed a mention of a cautionary tale about why you should never give up. It was from a workshop by Dean Wesley Smith. I knew about Dean. He had a story in Volume 1, and later became one of the judges. In his workshop, Dean talked about an anonymous guy from Topanga Canyon, a promising new writer who the magazine editors were talking about. They wondered who would be the first to publish one of his stories. Even book editors were showing interest. Then suddenly, he disappeared. Gone and never to be seen again. His name, to protect his identity, was Topanga Canyon.

When I read that, I felt a cold chill. I was from Topanga. That was me. I knew it in my bones. Before I gave up, Dean was editing Pulphouse and had written me personal rejections. I still remember them: “You’re close.” “Keep trying.”

I sent Dean an email. He confirmed my secret identity.

I felt waves of sheer delight with an undercurrent of utter devastation. Editors were talking about me! And I gave up.

The Magic Number—#47

This discovery inspired me, even more, to keep entering, which I did, every quarter, eventually earning twelve honorable mentions. On December 28, 2017, three days before the Q1 deadline, for the 47th time, I submitted yet another story to the contest. I had just received four rejections in a row, so my hopes were not high. I had entered every single quarter for the last eight years. Why should this one be any different? At best I hoped to add to my sizable collection of HMs.

Then the impossible happened. To my utter shock, my story was a finalist. The next few weeks were pure torture. I was at work when the phone call came that I had won second place. It was easily one of the happiest days of my life. I could feel that thirteen-year-old boy inside of me jumping up and down. I won! I actually won! I’ll get a monetary prize, a beautiful trophy, a week-long workshop, and best of all, my story is going to appear in Volume 35. At last!

All I can tell you is, if you have a dream, never give up. Not ever!

 


Preston Dennett

Preston Dennett

Preston Dennett has worked as a carpet cleaner, fast-food worker, data entry clerk, bookkeeper, landscaper, singer, actor, writer, radio host, television consultant, teacher, UFO researcher, ghost hunter and more. He has written 22 non-fiction books and more than 100 articles about UFOs and the paranormal. But his true love has always been speculative fiction. After a long hiatus, he started writing again in 2009. He has sold 37 stories to various venues including Allegory, Andromeda Spaceways, Bards & Sages, Black Treacle, Cast of Wonders, the Colored Lens, Grievous Angel, Kzine, Perihelion, Sci Phi Journal, Stupefying Stories, T. Gene Davis’ Speculative Blog, and more, including several anthologies. He earned twelve honorable mentions in the L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Contest before winning 2nd place for Quarter 1, 2018, (Volume 35), his third professional sale. He currently resides in southern California where he spends his days looking for new ways to pay his bills and his nights exploring the farthest edges of the universe.

 

Meet the Illustrators

Meet the New Faces of Sci-Fi & Fantasy Art

Writers of the Future Volume 34 coverThis year’s release of L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34 debuts 12 new illustrators with their own style of creativity and diversity in science fiction and fantasy art.

This latest anthology in the Writers of the Future series offers a full spectrum of artistic style. Publishers Weekly summed it up in their starred review:

“The 34th collection of Finalists for the Writers of the Future competition features expertly crafted and edited stories and art, running the gamut from humorous to bone-chilling.”

In 1983 L. Ron Hubbard created and endowed the Writers Contest, followed five years later with a companion Illustrator Contest, as a means to discover and nurture new talent in science fiction and fantasy. Illustrator winners are selected by a blue-ribbon panel of judges including Echo Chernik, Ciruelo, Bob Eggleton, Larry Elmore, Val Lakey, Gary Meyer, Sergey Poyarkov, Rob Prior and Shaun Tan.

Submissions for the Illustrators of the Future Contest have come in from over 170 countries. And here is a glimpse of the new artists you will meet in volume 34.


Kyna Tek

Illustrator of “A Smokeless and Scorching Fire”

Kyna Tek was this year’s annual Golden Brush Award winner and commented after the event, “When I saw everyone else’s illustrations in this contest I never imagined I had a chance. Thank you for this moment. I’m never going to forget it. I will cherish it forever.”

Kyna was born in 1980 at an unnamed refugee camp in Thailand along the Cambodia and Thailand border. His family eventually immigrated to Tempe, Arizona where he grew up a typical ’80s kid playing video games, watching movies, and reading comics.

It wasn’t until he attended college that he discovered his passion for drawing and painting. He immersed himself in studies of the arts and his skills grew exponentially.

After graduating from college he has continued honing his craft and discovering where he fits in the illustration world. He enjoys pursuing his ever-continuing education through self-study and creating inspired illustrations in the fantasy and science fiction genre.


Anthony Moravian

Illustrator of “Miss Smokey”

Anthony Moravian is an illustrator who uses classical techniques to create realistic fantasy themes. He specializes in charcoal drawings and oil paintings. Anthony was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and began drawing at the age of three.

Ever since Anthony was a child, he would draw from the collection of comics he had in his basement. He admired the creativity in fantasy and science fiction stories, and he works to capture some of their creativity in his paintings. He really began taking an interest in drawing fantasy art when he began playing fantasy-based video games.

Anthony graduated magna cum laude from the Associate’s program at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Upon recommendation from a professor, he worked sketch nights and events at the New York Society of Illustrators. It was there he began to take a great interest in realistic painting.

As a result, he began to work to capture some qualities that were often featured in classical realistic paintings while maintaining his interest in fantasy concepts. He currently lives and works in New York as a freelance illustrator.

Anthony had the honor of being an Illustrator Contest published finalist for Writers of the Future volume 33, and his art can be seen in that volume as well as volume 34.


Reyna Rochin

Illustrator of “Odd and Ugly”

Reyna Nicole Rochin was born December 30, 1990 in the suburbs of Los Angeles, California. Like most artists, she had crayons and paper in her hands since the day she could.

Growing up, there weren’t many other artists around her. She spent her childhood playing in the backyard, taking trips to the California beaches, and simply just trying to get through life in good grades.

Out of high school, she received a scholarship to play volleyball at San Francisco State University, which is where life took her next. With her sports background and a degree in Fine Arts emphasizing in drawing and painting, she had no clue what to do—so she took up a career in personal training.

A few years later, painting still captured her interests in her off hours. She eventually made the decision to return to school and was accepted to the Savannah College of Art & Design for MFA in Illustration.

Today, she spends her time working hard at school in Atlanta, power lifting and reading when she gets the chance.


Adar Darnov

Illustrator of “Turnabout”

Adar Darnov was born in 1993 in Teaneck, New Jersey. His family moved to Mt. Kisco, New York where growing up he always engaged in creative activities. Just like many other creative boys, he built cities out of toys and drew his favorite TV characters.

He continued on this path taking many art classes eventually enrolling for his undergraduate degree in illustration at School of Visual Arts in New York City. After visiting with some childhood friends who were playing Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering, Adar remembered how much he loved fantasy art when he was younger. This caused him to pursue fantasy illustration in earnest, especially leaning toward a realistic style.


Jazmen Richardson

Illustrator of “A Bitter Thing”

Jazmen Richardson was born in 1998 in Auburn, New York. Living in the middle of nowhere most her life, her imagination was able to roam through the fields surrounding her home.

Jazmen has been drawing and creating stories since she could walk and hold a pencil. Whether they made sense to the viewer or not at the time, each story’s characters were as real to her as another family member.

Though her family is full of creative hearts, she is the first to pursue it as a career.

After graduating a year early from high school to pursue an artistic mentorship, Jazmen was able to attend Ringling College of Art and Design of Sarasota, Florida to study illustration and the business of art and design.

She has been working in digital art for two years now, and is moving toward a specialty in oil painting.

Jazmen concurrently works convention-like events striving to make connections with other artists and improve herself and her work. She may be quiet, but there is nothing more gratifying than meeting new faces and experiencing stories other than her own.


Sidney Lugo

Illustrator of “The Howler on the Sales Floor”

Sidney Lugo was born in 1994 in Guarico, Venezuela. “Sid” to her friends, she grew up most of her life in Caracas, Venezuela and moved to Boston at age nineteen to study Interactive Design.

Her childhood memories serve as inspiration for many of her drawings. She developed an interest in fantasy and sci-fi from a young age.

Sid spent a lot of time looking at French comic books and stories, especially those from the comic anthology Métal Hurlant. These kinds of surreal sci-fi and fantasy stories stimulated her imagination and inspired her path as an artist.

Outside of her studies, she continued to learn and pursue her interest for art. She continues to learn and improve her skills in order to work as a storyboard artist and work on her own comic book.

Sid is currently a graphic design working as a freelancer for private clients.


Quintin Gleim

Illustrator of “Mara’s Shadow”

Growing up in the forests of southern Ohio, Quintin was transfixed by stories of fantasy and science fiction from early childhood. Starting out primarily as a digital artist he made the switch to oil painting after attending Illuxcon in 2016 and has been captivated by traditional mediums ever since.

Currently he is hard at work creating images for his illustrated novel set in a post-apocalyptic American West, populated by fantasy creatures, dinosaurs and other prehistoric beasts.

Quintin received a BFA from Shawnee State University in 2017 and currently studies at the Columbus College of Art and Design in pursuit of an MFA.


Alana Fletcher

Illustrator of “Flee, My Pretty One”

Alana Fletcher was born in 1996 in Middletown, NY. She was introduced to the arts at a young age while growing up in Michigan. She took figure-drawing classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, and continued to develop her work within online communities. She began painting with a mouse in Photoshop, but eventually obtained a Wacom tablet to continue to expand her capabilities.

Alana is now attending Ferris State University for Game Design and Digital Animation in Grand Rapids. She concurrently works as a freelance illustrator and concept artist.


Duncan Halleck

Illustrator of “All Light and Darkness”

Duncan Halleck is an illustrator and concept artist working in the entertainment industry and specializing in the genres of science fiction and fantasy. He began his journey as an artist at a young age, copying cartoon characters and superheroes from books he found around the house and spending hours studying movie stills from The Lord of the Rings. As he grew older, he developed a deep passion for science fiction and fantasy literature and devoured the works of authors such as Ray Bradbury, Ian M. Banks, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Always an avid doodler, his love for the arts never ceased throughout his school career, his notebooks attesting to his ceaseless drive to create and explore new ideas.

After graduating high school, several yearlong stints in cities across the US and a close brush with architecture school, Duncan settled down in Belgium with his wife and aged English Pointer.

Shortly after the birth of his first daughter and a time as a landscape painter, Duncan decided to pursue a full-time career in digital art and illustration and began in earnest to study the fundamentals of art and improve his skills as an image-maker. His passion for the fantastic carries through to this day and finds an outlet in the alien landscapes and future metropoli that populate his hard drive. Currently, he freelances for small publishers and developers out of Brussels, where he can be found hiding from the rain with a cup of tea, a good book, and a photon blaster.


Bruce Brenneise

Illustrator of “The Face in the Box”

Bruce Brenneise grew up in the countryside by Lake Michigan; nature and fantasy were two of his main interests from childhood. He continued to not-so-secretly focus on magic, monsters, and myths while studying scientific illustration at the University of Michigan. Pursuit of diverse environments and experiences led him around the world in search of artistic inspiration: a field sketching trip to Southern Africa, months amid ancient ruins of Anatolia, not to mention six years working and traveling throughout China and other parts of East Asia. The landscapes he has explored and the vistas one can only find in fiction are at the heart of Bruce’s current work as an illustrator and independent artist.

He currently lives with his wife and carnivorous plants in Seattle.


Maksym Polishchuk

Illustrator of “What Lies Beneath”

Maksym “Max” Polishchuk was born in 1999 in Lviv, an ancient Ukrainian city located at the crossroads of Western and Eastern Europe. Lviv, with its diverse culture and rich history, ultimately became one of the primary sources of Maksym’s inspiration, who was always fascinated by the history concealed behind each ancient structure.

Such fascination with history, coupled with the discovery of texts of Tolkien and J. K. Rowling, is what ultimately ignited Maksym’s interest in illustration. Art was the only way of transforming the stories and worlds he saw in his imagination into something more tangible. In order to help him achieve his dreams, his mother sent him to an art studio, which he attended almost daily over the span of six years, and which helped him nurture his talents and skills.

Maksym moved to the US just before his freshman year of high school. Even though his world was transformed completely, the one thing that remained constant was art. Today, Maksym studies political science and international relations at Loyola University Chicago in hopes of creating a better world that is not limited solely by the boundaries of the canvas.


Brenda Rodriguez

Illustrator of “The Minarets of An-Zabat”

Brenda Rodriguez was born in Mexico, but moved to the US before her first birthday and has been here ever since. She started drawing as a child and has never stopped loving it. Brenda attributes her passion for character creation to her interest in video games. Her favorites include The Legend of Zelda, Kingdom Hearts, and Final Fantasy. She recalls being inspired by them at a young age as a child, and on throughout her life thereafter. To this day, she can thank Nintendo and Square Enix for fueling her aspiration of getting into the entertainment industry as a character artist.

Brenda graduated in spring of 2017 with a degree in Computer Graphics Technology from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. She is now working as a freelance artist and polishing her portfolio to officially break into the industry.


Eneasz at library

Humanity vs. Monstrosity

Eneasz Brodski has a definite opinion about the importance of human values vs. soulless monstrosities. And so this is his tale of how his story “Flee, My Pretty One” published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 34 came to be. Check out the video interview below and Eneasz’s article that follows.

“Flee, My Pretty One”

This was originally written quite a while ago, for an open anthology call on the theme of “Start A Revolution.” I’ve been rabidly anti-corporation for most of my life. They’re soulless, profit-maximizing monstrosities, who know nothing of human values. Optimizers unfettered by concern for us. Stross calls them invaders from Mars. Many people have pointed out that they resemble the problem of unfriendly AI in their lack of human values + ability to alter their environment to fit their utility functions (including, infamously and recently, Ted Chaing). I agree, and I would love (or rather, once would have loved) to see a revolution bringing these forces to heel.

I call them Dragons. For two reasons. The first is that dragons are already known for their rapacious love of treasure, and their willingness to do anything to horde it. They are powerful, and non-human, so they make a good metaphor.

The second is that I’m racist against dragons. If that’s a thing? I realized this back when I was playing Shadowrun. During the course of a campaign, I realized that no matter what he did, I would never trust Dunkelzahn. He could be a saint for centuries, doing only good works, and die sacrificing himself to save me personally, and I still would say “Good riddance. You can’t trust a f**king dragon. He was obviously motivated by some evil plot, he held hatred for us all in his heart, and it will come to light eventually.” I’d be horrified if my offspring dated a dragon. Etc. I don’t care what they do, I know they’re evil.

Artist Alana Fletcher with Eneasz and the artwork for his story

Artist Alana Fletcher with Eneasz and the artwork for his story

And like, if you’re going to be racist, I think it’s probably best to be racist against a fictional giant lizard species, so you aren’t hurting anyone. And as long as I’m at it, I can maybe use that racism in my stories, so anyone who’s similar to me can get that same visceral revulsion.

Anyway, yes, the story is about starting a revolution against corporations, except that corporations are actual non-human persons(?) in the story. This makes it more satisfying to attack them, since violence against a person is always more meaningful than violence against “the system.” And giving your villains a voice and agency is more exciting.

Except, of course, violence is bad. And the real world is messy and fuzzy, so trying to apply sufficient violence to the correct target is never as clean as Hollywood and/or activists make it seem. So it all keeps spiraling into ever more chaos until everything is shit around you. And thus was born “Flee, My Pretty One.”

Of note: This story had a lot of near-misses when it was seeking publication, with editors saying “This is good, but it’s not quite right for us.” Then Trump was elected. And the next place I submitted to said, “Wow, this is great, you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the society.” And I nodded and said, “Oh yes, yup, that’s exactly what I was doing.”

I’ve been pissed at the system my entire life, regardless of the political party in charge. Because it’s not about the political parties, for the most part. It’s about the entrenched powers that stay entrenched from one election to the next, regardless of whether the Reds or the Blues are nominally in charge that moment. I guess most people aren’t that upset with the system itself. So, on the one hand, it’s interesting to see so much of the population suddenly as riled up as I’ve always been. It helped get this story published, at least. But I’m dismayed that what they’re angry at is still the politicians. I figure this means that once the politician in charge is swapped out, society will return to how it was, and nothing will have changed.

>:(


Eneasz BrodskiEneasz Brodski lives in Denver, Colorado. He is active in the Bayesian Rationalist community, an eclectic collection of misfits who believe humans can do better. Through the powers of science and technology, he hopes all humans currently living can someday celebrate their 5,000th birthday.

Eneasz has a number of meaningful relationships, of many varieties. He was raised in an apocalyptic Christian sect, and while he has left that behind, that childhood colors much of his writing to this day. He’s been writing since he could hold a pencil, but has only begun professional efforts in the past few years. He just finished his first novel and hopes to see it in print soon.

When he’s not writing, podcasting, or blogging, he can often be found gothing it up at a local goth club. He’s willing to strike up a conversation with anyone in dark clothes and eyeliner.

C Stuart Hardwick signing copies of his story in Writers of the Future Vol 30

C. Stuart Hardwick: Winning Is Just the Beginning

Writers of the Future Volume 30Hands down, the best and most useful part of winning the Writers of the Future contest and being published in L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 30 was the people. I’ve often compared it to reaching the end of the Yellow Brick Road and instead of yelling, “Ignore the man behind the curtain,” the wizard reaches out a hand and says, “Here, let me help you.” The workshop to which winners are treated is full of wizards, from childhood heroes of literature and art to instructors and invited guests who all give generously of their time and experience to help the next generation and the genre.

The Popcorn Speech

One such wizard is Kevin J. Anderson, who when time allows, gives what he calls “the popcorn speech.” It’s nothing revolutionary — just the idea that success comes from consistent effort, not a single shining moment of razor-honed brilliance. You can make yourself crazy trying to pop that one perfect kernel or you can relax and make some popcorn, leaving the duds in the bottom of the bag. Writing, he says, is like that: put enough work out there, and if you’ve any talent at all, something will stick.

The Nuclear Reactor Theory of Success

There is a closely-related idea that I call the Nuclear Reactor Theory of Success. This isn’t revolutionary either. It starts with networking 101: you meet someone and they introduce you to someone and so on. Eventually, the growing chain of introductions leads to an opportunity, and that leads to a slew of new introductions and the cycle repeats. Pretty soon you have a burgeoning network of contacts and opportunities, compounding like neutrons in a nuclear chain reaction.

And that’s where the magic happens. As the popcorn flies and your chain reaction grows, it starts to radiate its own luck.

Many aspiring writers harbor the misconception that “if you write it, they will come.” They think, or at least hope, that if they can just “break in” or “break out” or break something, somewhere, the world will be their oyster; the fans and the money will come rolling in and they’ll be recognized as the next Leo Tolstoy cum J.K. Rolling.

Yeah……..no. It doesn’t work that way. In fact with rare exception, it has never worked that way, not even for Tolstoy or Rolling.

This mentality ignores the cold reality that writing is a business, and businesses take time and capital to develop their brand, whatever else they may get right. It’s a myth and a prescription for misery to count on one unlikely shortcut to bypass that reality. Those who believe it are apt to hold back, waiting for the big break or big win that may never come. Or they may labor forever, polishing the life out of their One Great Creation instead of getting their work and their name out into the world, soliciting feedback, and growing as artists and people. And then when a break does finally come their way, they are likely to hang on it, Madam Bovary style, instead of sticking the feather in their cap and moving on, taking the next (sometimes frightening) step down their personal road. Worse, when the untrod path grows moss, they may grow cynical, blaming “gatekeepers” for their lack of professional attainment while driving away the very people and institutions who might have helped them.

When I won Writers of the Future, I knew exactly one writer (me) and I had maybe a dozen posts on my nascent blog, so I decided to interview my fellow winners—mostly just to scare up some content. Since then it’s become a tradition, and I’ve made friends and contacts in each subsequent WotF class. During the workshop, I camped out at the bar, listening to Mike Resnick and Eric Flint triple and quintuple my knowledge by the minute, sharing their advice and a career’s worth of hard knocks.

Mike gave me hell for not belonging to my local writers′ guild, so when I got home, I joined. That led to a bunch of appearance opportunities — but more importantly, to friendships that have paid unexpected dividends — from sharing the costs at local cons to getting a hug from “The Trouble with Tribbles” author, David Gerrold. It also led to my first gig as editor, helping with a locally-produced anthology.

With my fellow WotF winners and local guilders, I now had a posse to run with at conventions, so I could leave my inner wallflower at home and hang with the cool kids. But more than that, I had colleagues — colleagues who share tips and opportunities, make introductions, collaborate, critique each other’s work, and prod each other onward and upward.

That’s how I heard the popcorn speech — another WotF alum and I found Kevin in the hotel bar at WorldCon and he and Todd McCaffrey strong-armed — I mean persuaded me — to attend his Superstars workshop. I heard Kevin′s talk there, but I also met a whole new group of colleagues. This included the impressively mohawked Quincy J. Allen, who introduced me to a publishing tool that I now use to produce custom signed ebooks. Those help entice new subscribers onto my newsletter mailing list and let me give readers I may never get a chance to meet in person just a little something extra.

This is also how I learned about Taos Toolbox, a writing workshop taught by Walter Jon Williams and another WotF wizard, Nancy Kress. Since my WotF win, I′ve continued to hone my craft and was looking for a quality workshop to help up my novel-writing game. At Taos, I met a family of prairie dogs, George R.R. Martin, and Avatar scriptwriter, Steven Gould. I also made friends with a whole new group of awesome up and comers to share and grow together with.

Another writer friend told me about the Jim Baen Memorial Award — a competition focused on near future space sci-fi and tailor-made for my literary tastes. My first entry made the finals. Then it sold to Analog Science Fiction & Fact — a dream of mine since I was eight! I went on to final twice more before placing, and now I’m going to the International Space Development Conference to be honored alongside Amazon and Blue Origin founder, Jeff Bezos! More important, I’ll meet a whole new group of contacts — aerospace geeks, engineers, entrepreneurs and space exploration advocates. Who knows where that might lead?

The chain reaction grows…

The Future Is NighLast year, I hit up a few of my WotF friends to put together an anthology; nothing big, just an ebook for cross promotion and lead generation for our respective newsletters. It was a smash success — so much so we decided to take it to the next level. By the time you read this, “The Future is Nigh – A Treasury of Short Fiction by Award-Winning Authors” will be available in print and on Kindle.

So here I am, four years on, an Analog regular, a multi-award winning author, and now a publisher! My stories have gotten Hugo and Nebula buzz. I just found out I took first place in the annual Analab reader poll for my story, “For All Mankind” about two women who save the world in an Apollo-era spacecraft! I’ve gotten a back-stage tour of the Kansas Cosmosphere with a group of writer friends, been invited inside the Orion space capsule, and received an email from Spider Robinson saying “Go Cat, Go!”

What’s next? I’m working on a novel…and a few other things… We’ll see.

None of this might have happened without the Writers of the Future win, but none of it happened because of that win. It happened because I viewed the win not as a finish line but as a rung up life’s ladder. Because together with allies made at the WotF workshop and since, I keep climbing those rungs wherever they lead. Of course, I’m no networking mercenary and you shouldn′t be either. These are wonderful people, and knowing them is its own reward. But if my Reactor Theory can nudge you beyond the introversion so common among writers, then put the spurs to ′er.

Life′s a journey. Go boldly.

Stuart


C. Stuart HardwickIn addition to winning the Writers of the Future contest, C Stuart Hardwick is a Jim Baen Award winner, a James White Semifinalist, and an Analog Analab Reader Poll winner. His work has appeared in Analog, Galaxy’s Edge, Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Forbes.com and Mental Floss, among others. A southerner from South Dakota, he grew up writing radio plays and has been known to wear a cape.

More at cStuartHardwick.com

Writer winner Amy Henrie Gillett

A Little Light in a World of Darkness

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

I received a flat rejection.

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

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

Again, a flat rejection.

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

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

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

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

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

Draft seventeen won second place.

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

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

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

Writer and Artist Collaboration

Duncan Halleck and Amy Henrie Gillett

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

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

Jody Lynn Nye

About “Illusion”

"Dragon Caller" by CirueloWhen Galaxy Press sent me a request to add a fantasy fiction story to Volume 34 of the Writers of the Future anthologies, I was excited. They asked if I had any tales in my archive that would fit into the theme of wizardry and magic. They would take that story and have one of the Illustrator winners create a piece of art to go with it. I was going to look through my backlist (I’ve published well over 150 short stories), but I said I could write one. I opened the jpg file that accompanied the e-mail. It was the artwork for the cover, a painting by Ciruelo called “Dragon Caller.” I was enchanted by it. (Appropriate, no?) It’s so full of beautiful fantasy detail, and I felt I knew that wizard. I had to have that one as my art. I let Galaxy Press know that I was going to write a story to fit. The result is “Illusion.”

My writing style is usually gently humorous. I’ve been working on a new fantasy series centering on a young female magician who comes to work as personal amanuensis to a court magician with a legendary reputation – but he’s been living on that reputation for a long time. I thought that this fellow in the painting would make a great employer to my young woman. Because Ciruelo is from South America, I used Spanish names and titles for my characters. In my outline, the wizard had no name, so I called him Angelo.

Ciruelo’s painting gave me the opportunity to explore Angelo’s backstory and learn more about him. Other magicians in his position are of the change-the-world, transform-your-enemies-into-sheep, blast-down-walls variety. Angelo’s talents lie in illusion. He’s world-class, genuinely creative, and loves both his job and his ruler, the Regente Zoraida, but he is full of self-doubt as to whether all that is good enough. Yet, the realm of Enth fully believes in the image of an all-powerful wizard that he has created. When a genuine crisis strikes, he must step up and save it, using the only talent that he has. I really loved working the landscape into my story, and the image depicted is actually the very last scene. This story will be an important basis to the books I’m writing.

There’s a curious postscript to this event. Every so often, you’ll get a sign that what you’re doing is the thing you are supposed to be doing, as if fate wants to show its approval. I heard from Ciruelo shortly after the book was published. Halfway through reading “Illusion,” he wrote to me. He wanted to know why I named my – our – wizard Angelo. I explained that I wanted a name that spoke of power and authority, maybe with a touch of divinity, since he dealt with high magic. Ciruelo wondered if I had read his biography and wanted to compliment him. His son’s name is Angelo.

No, I hadn’t read it.

Cue the heavenly trumpets, or at least the bellow of a visiting dragon.

If you enjoy “Illusion,” you might want to check out some of my own titles. The Imperium series from Baen Books features Lord Thomas Kinago, a feckless young nobleman in the future who wants to be useful in a time when the nobility has no other function than to provide the gene pool from which the next emperor or empress will be chosen. He is devoted to the emperor, a cousin of his (Thomas has lots of cousins), but is determined to do everything his own way. He’s so wealthy, he doesn’t have hobbies – he has enthusiasms. The title of each book is the enthusiasm of the moment. View from the Imperium concerns photography. Fortunes of the Imperium sees Thomas investigating the effects superstitions have on people, while on a diplomatic mission to a former enemy power. In Rhythm of the Imperium, he tackles interpretive dance.

I’ve also taken over Robert Asprin’s Myth-Adventures series, the pun-laden humorous fantasy epic. Bob wrote the first twelve books, beginning with the wonderful Another Fine Myth. We wrote the next six and a collection of short stories together. Since his passing, I have written two more novels, with a third on the way. The latest book, Myth-Fits (Ace Books) is the twentieth novel. Skeeve and M.Y.T.H., Inc. have accepted an assignment to find a marvelous object, the Loving Cup, in a resort dimension that promises to fulfill every whim of a vacationer but seems strangely to be running out of magik.

Moon Beam is science fiction for young adults by me and Travis S. Taylor, a fellow author and actual rocket scientist. I’m also about to release a collection of my young adult science fiction and fantasy short stories entitled Daring, from Cat & Dragon Press.

Hope you enjoy them all!

"View from the Imperium" by Jody Lynn Nye

"Myth-Fits" by Jody Lynn Nye

"Moon Beam" by Jody Lynn Nye and Travis S. Taylor


Jody Lynn NyeJody Lynn Nye lists her main career activity as “spoiling cats.” When not engaged upon this worthy occupation, she writes fantasy and science fiction books and short stories. Since 1987 she has published over 40 books and more than 120 short stories.

Over the last twenty or so years, Jody Lynn Nye has taught numerous writing workshops and participated on hundreds of panels covering the subjects of writing and being published at science-fiction conventions. She has spoken in schools and libraries around the north and northwest suburbs. In 2007 she taught fantasy writing at Columbia College Chicago. She also runs the two-day writers workshop at Dragon Con.

Jody Lynn Nye became a Writers of the Future judge in 2016.