March 22, 2009 at 7:44 pm #528354
One of the major differences between contests and magazine submissions is that contests often cut writers a LOT of slack where grammar, spelling, and punctuation are concerned. In this case, however, there really wasn’t much wrong with the grammar, except where the writers seemed to be breaking the rules to serve the story. Would I buy any of these stories for a magazine? One of them, The Key, with a bit of rewrite, would stand a very good chance. The others would not.
My biggest problems with the stories wasn’t the lack of grammar or spelling, however, but the twist endings that were no surprise at all. A twist ending only works if it’s good, if it’s appropriate, AND if you don’t see it coming, but should have seen it in hindsight. These were telgraphed well in advance, and just weren’t very good.
The writing wasn’t stellar, not Ray Bradbury quality, certainly, but it wasn’t horrid in any of the stories. It could have been better, and on a pro level, I would expect it to be better, but it was good enough, considering the short length.
Obviously, we should strive to write as well as possible, and should make every piece of writing the best we can make it, but I do wish new writers would concentrate less on the quality of the writing, and considerably more on the quality of the story, the characters, and the dialogue. Really bad writing, and there’s a lot of really bad writing out there, will bring a fast rejection, but really good writing often gets rejected, as well, because editors do not buy writing.
Editors buy story, character, and dialogue. The better the writing is, the better everything is, but merely competent writing combined with good story, good characters, and good dialogue is always infinitely better than great, spectacular, wonderful writing that lacks good story, good characters, and good dialogue. New writers concentrate on the details, on the components, of a story. Editors and pro writers concentrate on the big picture, on the completed whole.
Honestly, if you fail to place, contests like this have very little to no meaning. I wouldn’t take it personal.