When you win Writers of the Future, many aspiring writers approach you asking for any writing tips you might give them, and, oh, would you mind terribly reading one of their stories they hope to enter? The answer to the latter is often no, I really am too busy … unless they have a really cute avatar. Wait, that’s Ready Player One. We’re not jacked into the OASIS universe yet.
But the answer to the former is easy. The best writing tip I can give them? The tip I always give them? Join the Writers of the Future Forum. How many writers have taken my advice? Maybe a handful. Which is crazy—I get a lot of people asking me this question. Apparently, they just want the secret handshake. Well, that is the secret handshake.
Ever wonder why winners of this contest—the largest talent search in the world for aspiring speculative fiction writers—come year after year from the Writers of the Future Forum? In some years, even multiple winners? Wait. You don’t know this? Well then, let me explain…
Finding Your Tribe
We all know that to win this contest that has launched many professional careers, you have to write. A LOT. We also know you have to read. A LOT. (Hopefully, you’re reading the latest Contest anthologies.) But there’s another foundation stone aspiring writers need in order to survive and thrive. A tribe.
In the days of old—you know, those days before social distancing—families came out of the woods and joined together with other families to protect themselves. They discovered it’s a cold cruel world out there, where men with names like Sweyn Forkbeard and Eric Bloodaxe tried to steal your cute baby goats. People discovered that by uniting forces with those of like mind, they could encourage one another, share tribal knowledge, and work together to create strength through community. Their combined might gave them the power to tell Forkbeard and Bloodaxe to shove off, and the subsequent freedom allowed them to raise even more cute baby goats … which they discovered made popular YouTube videos, so popular that even mentioning cute baby goats in their blogs brought them increased visibility in their SEO keyword results.
This same need for strength through community is true for writers. Writing alone, facing rejection, sifting accurate knowledge from false, competing against pro writers for the few slots in pro magazines—it can be a cold, cruel world for new writers. Joining forces with those who share a common goal can be a great source of strength. Knowledge shared can shave years (and much frustration!) off your learning curve. And it really does help to have a group of friends that understands the trials unique to aspiring writers, encouraging you to keep forging ahead through those dark moments of fear and doubt.
This is the purpose of the Writers of the Future Forum. Its mission is to provide a community of friendly support to help you write a professionally crafted story that has the power to win this contest, or sell to other respectable markets. Just like the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest, the Writers of the Future Forum is dedicated to helping aspiring writers improve their craft so that they may create publishable works to help launch their writing careers. Can the Forum help you succeed in reaching your writing goals? Take a look at the many benefits when you join and participate.
1. It Takes a Village to Raise a Writer
When you join the Forum, you gain a circle of friends dedicated to helping you succeed. Yes, everybody says this about their group, especially if they charge for membership. But the Writers of the Future Forum is free. The members are there because they’ve heard good things through word of mouth—often from the very winners of this contest. Many came in not even knowing how to start a story, let alone finish one. But within the Forum, they found friendly writers quick to help them as they posted their questions to the group. They found writers of similar mind and similar goals. They found members writing since childhood, writing after retiring, writing when their kids go to bed, writing for the love of writing, writing because they know in their heart of hearts they are writers … and they see entering the Contest as their way of proving that to the world.
Every advancement by one is considered an advancement by all; every win by one is celebrated by all. I know that sounds like fantasy, but it’s true. Writers in this group don’t view themselves as competitors. They see themselves like a guild helping its craftsmen excel in the workmanship of their product. In a guild, when a member produces a blue-ribbon product, the entire guild celebrates because they know the superior craftsmanship was due to the shared knowledge among all guild members. It’s no different in the Forum. When a member questions whether they will have a story ready by quarter’s end, everyone says, “You can do this!” When results come in and a story earns a certificate, these members understand the significance and cheer for each one as a badge of honor. When a member announces they’ve made a sale, there will be hearty congratulations. And when someone announces they’ve won the Contest? No one is happier than Forumites—it’s a huge smiley emoji party in there. Why? Because they’ve watched that friend grow with them in the Forum, and seeing a Forumite achieve a life goal tells them they can achieve this goal, too.
Forumites stand together like family. But don’t take my word for it—I’m the Forum’s moderator; of course I’m going to be proud of these folks. Listen to the words from some of the latest Forum winners:
“The Writers of the Future Forum is the best place for entrants to congregate. I value the camaraderie and shared wisdom there from other entrants and past winners both. It’s turned the Contest into a real community for me. I’ve made friends, cheered wins, mourned losses, and found story swap partners. Anyone who actually wants to win Writers of the Future should do themselves a favor and join. You’ll learn what judges like and why, when results are likely to come out, and hear strategies from recent winners.” —K. D. Julicher, Winner, Volume 37
“Most of us on the forum, even winners such as myself, are at a similar place in our development as writers. That makes for a congenial and supportive environment. I’m glad to say I’ve made friends. ” —Andy Dibble, Winner, Volume 36
2. Critique Circles
All writers have difficulties seeing their blind spots—areas they need to improve in. Aspiring writers have an even harder time because they are new, they’re still learning their craft. Finding someone in their real-life circle of friends that knows anything about writing can be challenging, even impossible. Here again, the Writers of the Future Forum excels. Members are always ready to swap stories in private critique circles or open calls on the boards, whether it be just a look at first pages, or a deep dive into the entire manuscript. Many of the Forum’s members have significant knowledge that they bring to the table—some are Contest finalists and winners, some are professionally published authors that are just a sale or two shy of “pro-ing out” (losing amateur status). These members are sharpshooters, and they continually offer help to new writers seeking to improve their aim.
“I have learned so much about how to improve my stories, and have seen my writing grow just in the past few months of applying what I’ve learned here. I’ve also found some amazing critique partners through the forum, and their feedback has helped so much in pointing out my blind spots so I can take my writing to the next level. I’m not usually a forum-type-of-person; I actually lurked in the forum for a LONG time before ever posting anything. But I’m very glad that I took the leap and started engaging and being active.… Everyone in the forum has been so encouraging, and I’m continually learning from and being inspired by all the other forumites! This has been an amazing tool for growing as a writer and for finding a like-minded writing community.” —C. Crawford
So you figured out how to start a story. If you took L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future Online Workshop, you also figured out how to finish it. But there’s a final step that many writers can’t get up the courage to carry out. Submitting that story! Why? They’ve got George McFly syndrome. When Marty McFly met his young father in Back to the Future, he discovered—get out of town!—that his 1955 father secretly wrote science fiction stories! But did his father show them to anyone? “Oh no, no, no, no. I never, I never let anybody read my stories. What if they didn’t like them? What if they told me I was no good?” Sound familiar?
In the Forum, members help one another get past that fear. Each quarter has a topic where writers talk about the story they’re working on for that quarter and how they’re progressing. Accountability—they’ve told their peers they are entering that quarter, motivating them to fulfill their stated goal. Some even sign up for challenges, like entering all four quarters of the Contest year, writing fresh original stories instead of revised ones, or writing two stories each quarter and sending in their best. Accountability—they’ve signed up for a challenging but reachable goal, and their peers cheer them on, helping them to cross the finish line.
Does sharing writing goals with your peers work?
“Participating in the forum has brought me closer to the fearless writing warrior I want to be. I am quicker to start and finish a piece with the quarterly threads giving a defined time frame and a built-in cheer squad. Plus, having a shared goal with my fellow forumites makes the waiting process of publishing a team sport instead of a lonely slog.” —JV Ashley
4. Writing Tips
Ever take a creative writing course at college? I have. No offense to any beloved teachers reading this, but why did you instruct me to write like the old masters when I was trying to learn how to write a story that would sell in today’s marketplace? They say knowledge is power, but that’s not totally true. Current knowledge is power. Old news just lines the bird cage. And inside knowledge? That’s gold. It’s so dangerous, you can get arrested for using it. Just ask any trader on Wall Street.
The Writers of the Future Forum is a place that shares the latest knowledge—knowledge on craft, knowledge on story, knowledge on current markets, knowledge on writing tips from bestselling authors and even the Contest coordinating judge. And the board’s topics have a compendium of Contest knowledge down to its minutiae. When do each quarter’s results come out? You’ll find previous dates for comparison. What’s the difference between a Silver Honorable Mention and a regular one? Someone with a Silver HM will tell you. How are Finalists notified and what is that moment like? Someone who’s “had the call” will share the moment Joni Labaqui, Contest Administrator, called them, and can recite the exact words she opened with. (If she says, “Are you sitting down?” you can start screaming.) Worried whether your results are coming soon? Forumites don’t have to wonder. Because of inside information—and I hope I don’t get arrested for this—members are first to know current updates. And when results start coming in, members immediately post theirs to the Forum.
In addition to the Forum’s collective mind, I’ve uploaded my own mind onto the Forum as well. Not quite as efficiently as the Needlecasting in Altered Carbon, but you work with the tools you got. I spent twenty-five years trying to win this contest, and I gathered much knowledge during that time. When I won Writers of the Future, I dedicated myself to helping other aspiring writers struggling like I had to figure this thing out. And I put it all down in a Forum topic that’s had almost 150,000 views since I launched it: Wulf Moon’s SUPER SECRET Workshop & Challenge. This is my award-winning compendium of writing tips targeted specifically to the Contest, tips I’ve gleaned over the years from workshops I’ve taken from Contest judges Algis Budrys, David Farland, Dean Wesley Smith, Orson Scott Card, and Tim Powers. Vital writing tips that I believe can help your story win are in there, with a handy hyperlinked table of contents, waiting for you to access. You don’t need to hack my cortical stack. It’s all there.
There’s also a challenge aspect to my workshop that Forum members can sign up for at the start of the Contest year. In the year and a half since I started this creative writing project for Forum members who enrolled, my Super Secrets’ group has seen tremendous results: regular honors in the Contest from HMs to Silvers to Finalists; their very first professional sales; multiple winners of scholarships to the Superstars Writing Seminar; and two winners of the Writers of the Future Contest itself!
“I definitely attribute part of my win to having found the WotF forum. It’s full of kind, knowledgeable people, some who have been submitting for multiple years. Everyone there is rooting for each other and compiling all the information they can get in order to win. Wulf Moon’s Super Secrets thread especially is chock full of helpful tips for how to write a story that will win the Contest. If you’re trying to win this contest, the Forum is an invaluable resource and a space full of friends waiting to be made.” —Leah Ning, Winner, Volume 36
“When I decided to return to writing and shift focus to fiction, I scoured the Internet and various books for the best guides. I found no better resource than the Writers of the Future forum. I’ve recommended to many writers—even those outside SFF—to reference Wulf Moon’s ‛Super Secrets’ thread. It’s the ultimate primer on how to construct a story.” —Ari Officer, Time magazine contributor
So there’s the reason Writers of the Future winners come from the Forum year after year. Just like at the casino, Winners happen here! Unlike the casino, this is not a mathematical probability event—it’s the result of the combined knowledge and support of the Forum’s collective members training together like an Olympic team of athletes to produce winners. Winners produced here! But the real question is this: If you’re trying to win this contest, why aren’t you a member? Why sit alone in the cold dark woods, rubbing words together trying to make fire when bonfires are roaring in the tribe’s village down below?
Join the Writers of the Future Forum. Come share our fire. We will warmly welcome you in.
“I stumbled on the forum three years ago when I knew next to nothing about writing stories. Through the forum I’ve made lifelong friends, and it has been a huge part of developing my writing ability to the point I made my first professional sale last October. The forum is a gathering place, a lecture hall, a support group, and a community of writers unlike anywhere else I’ve found on the internet. Not only has it grown my writing ability, it’s helped me grow as a human being.” —Rebecca E. Treasure
“If I ever am fortunate enough to be standing at the podium in Hollywood, at the top of my thank list will be the forum and its members. The members there are extraordinarily supporting and helpful. Honestly, what I learned by hanging out there, and the places the members pointed me to for help, have made all the difference in my writing. John D. McDonald said you needed to write a million words before you really knew what you were doing. I found a shortcut: The Writers of the Future Forum.” —Chuck Thompson
Wulf Moon wrote his first science fiction story when he was fifteen. It won the national Scholastic Art & Writing Awards and led to his first professional sale in Science World.
Since then, Moon has won more than thirty awards in writing. These include: Star Trek: Strange New Worlds 2; Critters Readers’ Choice Awards for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Short Story of 2018, Best SF&F Short Story of 2019, Best Nonfiction Article of 2019, Best Author of 2019, Best Writers’ Workshop of 2019; and the Writers of the Future Contest, Volume 35.