Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A long listing... what does that say?

A new-ish story of mine, Garden Baby, made it to the longlist of the Happenstance Short Story Comp. Out of 170 entries, I got into the last 31. But don't get excited - they already announced the shortlist and Garden Baby didn't make it that far.

It's interesting, a longlisting. What does it mean, making it through the first round? Well, it means they didn't read the first paragraph and throw it down in disgust, or yawn and look around for something more interesting. I think it means they read it all the way through, and maybe even for a second time.

And then they thought about it for a while.

And then when they had to decide, they didn't shift it to the smaller pile because...

1) They didn't feel completely drawn in by the story
2) The characters weren't well rounded enough
3) The plot was not quite there
4) The ending missed the mark and they were confused/frustrated/disbelieving

It could be any or all of these things. And what it means is that I need to take a long hard look at this story, not necessarily tomorrow but maybe in a few weeks, and prod it and poke it and see what gives.

I am lucky, my wonderful writing groups have given me great feedback on Garden Baby (including the title, which a few found misleading!). I received some very thought-provoking comments on the story last week. So I have what to go on. Doing it alone is hard - it is damn difficult to step back from your own story and try and critique it with fresh, objective eyes.

Maybe that's what a longlisting means: take a long look and put in the work.

And a short listing means: it'd only take a short time to turn this into a winner.

I have a story that's been shortlisted twice now. But the wonderful thing is that it's not a case of always a bridesmaid, never a bride with writing: I believe that if I put in the work then my story can make it to the altar, will be the one wearing the white pouffy dress. This business is a little bit about luck, but mostly about hard work. And I'm up to the task. Tomorrow is a new day!


Vanessa G said...

I'm not sure I like the 'never a bride' analogy. Remember, once you've been a bride, you're stuck with the same bloke for a looooong time, no matter how lovely he is!

It is great to have work selected for long or shortlisting in a competition. It is a valuable form of affirmation.

But, looking at it scientifically (!) what is it affirmation of?

I think the answer to that depends on the competition... and even then, it depends on the quality of the readers, that unknown morass stories have to get through before reaching the desk of the judges.

Longlisting means that your work was 'better' than xxx others, in the judgement of the reader who was allocated your story. Thats great.

Shortlisting means a lot more. It means probably that several readers have read it and agreed that it is better than xxxxx others.

(Unless the comp is so tiny that all the processes are done by a single set of eyes and one brain... and that is unsatisfactory, for me)

Its a huge lottery, this comps business. Thats what makes it fun!
more thoughts coming....

TitaniaWrites said...

That's totally true - after I wrote my blog post I thought about the subjectivity of it all. After all, in the competitions where one story was longlisted, another story - shortlisted elsewhere - was entirely ignored. So yes, it does depend on readers, and we shouldn't forget that. But I don't think that means that writers should sit back and say "Well, ok, they didn't like it but someone else will," without taking another look at the writing. Everything can always be improved.
It is fun though!!