09 April 2011

Slushing the BFS Story Comp

And while we're talking about the BFS Story Comp... how can you (yes, you!) beat the slushpool and make it to the top 5 and, thusly, to the eyes of the celebrity judges?

Well, let me tell you... ;-P
(At this point I should mention that these are the personal opinions of someone who has been slushing the comp for maaaaaany years and in no way related to official BFS policy, etc. and so on.)

1) Read the submissions guidelines. No, really. They matter. Especially the word count. (No, the title doesn't count.) A few words over won't matter, but if you go a couple of thousand over you will be marked down. Formatting matters too, if only to make it easier for us to read. You really want to make your work easy for us to read. Trust me.
Oh, also, it's a *genre* story competition, genre meaning F/SF/horror. Make sure there's at least a little genre in your story please! The clue's in the British *Fantasy* Society.

2) Make it your best writing. Seriously. Edit it and polish it, make sure it hangs together. Send it to a reliable beta reader for a crit. And spell check. And grammar check. Then leave it to rest for a few days and check all over again.

3) Resubmissions. Yes, we remember stories. And while there's no rule against resubmissions, unless you've made some major changes to the story, if it didn't go through last year, it won't go through this year. In fact, chances are it'll get scored lower this time around.

4) Avoid cliches. Battering the same tired old tropes in the same tired old ways won't rise your story up above the rest. Do something new.

5) Trick endings rarely work. (And can be seen from, oh, the first paragraph in some cases.)

6) Make sure there's an actual story in the story. 3000 words explaining a cool world concept with a couple of character bits thrown in does not a story make.

7) Avoid excessive infodump. Trust that we can actually get the gist of the background stuff and concentrate on the actual story you're telling. We've read a lot, we *get* the shorthand in genre fiction. Honest.

8 ) Diversity! We welcome you! Without going into a long rant about default POV characters and settings...(because this is a very personal bugbear, and I'm likely to mis-speak myself if I go on too much...) I'll just quote the Strange Horizons guidelines, who say what I'm trying to say so much better -

"We'd like to help make the field of speculative fiction more inclusive, more welcoming to both authors and readers from traditionally underrepresented groups, so we're interested in seeing stories from diverse perspectives and backgrounds.

"...We like settings and cultures that we don't see all the time in speculative fiction, as long as they're well-researched and not exoticized." Special emphasis on that last bit.

And also check out Shweta Narayan's excellent post on that particular subject here.

9) Female characters! (Another very personal bugbear.) Yes, there are many excellent stories told from the male perspective. I read them. I love them. However... last year, out of 148 stories:
45 were from the female perspective
96 were from the male perspective
3 from both
3 unknown gender
1 dog (male)

Can we at least even the balance up a bit please? Like, with some active female protags? Ta muchly.

Think that's it for now - get writing, and good luck! ;-P

1 comment:

Jan Edwards said...

I second that!