I just wanted to follow up and clarify a little bit why an Honorable Mention would be seen as encouraging. After all, above Honorable Mention is Semi-finalist, Finalist, and Winner (not to mention Mega-Winner, the grand-prize winner chosen from the 4 quarter winners). So Honorable Mention is pretty far from winning, right?
Well, I could go into the statistics and number of entrants, etc. but that is not what makes me feel good. What makes me feel good is a sense of progress.
Normally, you can’t really see any progress being made. For one any particular story, you never know who’s going to like it and who’s not. So you send it out all over the place, but a rejection doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad story. For example, a story of mine that didn’t get anything in Writers of the Future made it all the way to the editor at one of the big 3 magazines. So it’s pretty much hit and miss, or luck*. And, since the story isn’t changing as you send it out to each different place (at least mine aren’t), then getting an acceptance on the story doesn’t prove anything other than you hit the right editor on the right day, since that particular story isn’t improving every time you send it out.
So for the most part, you are either accepted or rejected, yes or no, and no real way to tell how close you were to a yes. And even if you get a yes, that in-and-of-itself doesn’t really tell you much.
Well, that’s not exactly true. With a little rejectomancy, you can get a little sense of progress here and there if you submit consistently to the same market. Maybe your stories start out as form rejections by the slush readers. Then you start to get some personalized notes scribbled on there. Maybe you get a higher-form rejection, where your story was passed on by the slush readers. Maybe you start to get personal rejections from editors. Finally you make a sale. Of course, you don’t have to progress through these steps to make a sale, and not all markets do it the same, but if you do find yourself going through them, you do get some kind of feedback that your writing is improving. (I suppose you could also look at acceptances over time, but that implies you actually get acceptances.)
However, with Writers of the Future, there is no doubt. It’s not just a yes or a no. There are levels. You can actually, quantitatively see how close you were to a yes. And now I am one step closer than I have ever been. I might have a long ways to go up the ladder, but today I have proof that I am at least on the first rung.
*Don’t get me wrong, you make your own luck by putting yourself into a position to get lucky…if you have 10 quality stories out there, chances are you’re going to get lucky more often than if you have 1 bad story.