Sunday, 7 March 2010

Eighth Place ... That's Not A Mistake

I had a pleasant surprise towards the end of last week. I discovered that one of my short stories had been placed in the final 8 of a competition. Now, I know many people would be disappointed with this. Surely a first, second or third would be better? Well yes, there's no denying one of those would have been more palatable especially as those positions come with cheques attached to them, but let's look at it another way. There were a total of 196 entries received by the competition, so my story was judged to be better than 188 of them. That puts it into perspective.

I've kept the note confirming this. I keep all my 'good news' correspondence, no matter how tentative the good news is. We all need a boost from time to time and when I need mine, I go to my achievement files. This is where I store all my published articles, stories, letters and competition wins and notifications. I like these files because they are what I call 'third party' reminders. These are judgments made by other people about my writing. If an article or short story is published, then the editor enjoyed it and agreed to pay me for it. That wasn't a friend or a relative telling me 'it was good' because that's what they thought I wanted to hear. This was someone in the business.

Every writer should keep an achievement file(s). It's the ideal antidote for when the postman brings those bulging stamped addressed envelopes back. Those editors may not have liked your work, so get your achievement file out and remind yourself that others thought you were worth publishing. If it makes you feel better, just tell yourself that the editor who has just rejected you has made a mistake. It's a mistake that they will have to live with. (Just ask the editors who rejected JK Rowling's Harry Potter, about making a mistake!)

Talking of mistakes, fellow WB tutor Alex Gazzola has just launched a blog called, Mistakes Writers Make. You can find it at and I would encourage you to take a look. Alex has also included some additional pages on his site offering details of a few international markets. He's been acting as a co-ordinator between tutors collating details of foreign markets that we've come across.

Alex makes some valid points in his postings so far, so not taking a peek, would certainly be a mistake!

Good luck!


  1. You're so right about needing a 'pat on the back' file - it's often a survival tactic.
    It also helps remind me that as a freelancer (which I am) at least I can't be fired.
    Recently, at a publication I write for, the editor of the section where I write was 'let go' and my stomach dropped when I heard as I feared that was the end of my work for this pub.
    But then I looked over my files and saw that in fact I'd survived 3 previous editors who had been 'let go'.
    It cheered me up immediatley - and Im still writing for the next editor.

  2. Fantastic news, Simon! As you say - at least it was placed the other 188 or so weren't so lucky - and if it got placed in this comp it may go onto to be placed or win another.

    I juat updated my achievements file yesterday - definitely worth having one.

    Julie xx

  3. Simon - you're evidently the eighth wonder..
    Well done and thanks for the support,

  4. Ann - That's a brilliant example of why an achievement file is so useful! It puts things into perspective doesn't it? And great news that you're still working with the new editor.

    Julie, well done for updating your achievement file yesterday. Keep adding to it, just reinforces the message!

    Alex - the eighth wonder heh? Now I feel like a world heritage site!

  5. Hi Simon,

    I like Alex's blog and will be checking it out regularly.

    I think you're right in this article. I'm new at this, and a Writer's Bureau student, but yesterday received a 'thank you for your article, I would like to keep it for future possible use'. It was a 'maybe later' not a 'yes' but I still felt encouraged so printed it out to keep - like your 'good news' correspondence!

    One thing I'd like to ask if it's not too cheeky to do so - I've been reading your blog and note how you encourage us to use quotes in articles. What I'm curious about is what quotes you can use, whether you need permission, whether you can quote from books etc. (Many articles I read quote authors and it's not actually clear whether they're quoting directly from them or from their book.) Is it safe to quote others if you include the source details, etc.?

    Anyway, sorry about that! Enjoy reading your blog.

  6. Hi Lucy

    Congratulations on your success - Yes a 'thank you, I'd like to keep it on file for possible use' is still good news. It proves you can writer material that is suitable for publication and ideal for the magazine's readership! So, yes, put it in your achievement file!

    With regards to quotes, you need to get the quotes directly from the source. If you're quoting from books, then clearly state the title of the book, author, publisher and ISBN number (so readers can go and buy the book themselves!). Don't quote too much from the book though. There are rules regarding what is a 'reasonable' amount to quote.

    But you can simply ask people for quotes. Most people are obliging! And if you're nervous 'interviewing people' face to face or over the phone, begin by emailing questions and then you can use your interviewee's replies as direct quotes.

    Good luck!


  7. Thanks Simon. That's very helpful.