Friday, 12 March 2010

Thieves & Scoundrels

One of my publishers, Absolute XPress, holds regular flash fiction contests, and then gathers all of the winning entries into a lovely anthology.  For their third contest they invited me to be the guest reviewer, which proved both fun and enlightening.  All right, and a little bit frustrating as well.  I'm copying here my insights into the process, which I've stolen from my publisher's blog (well, they ARE my words...)

On the Reviewing Process

Absolute XPress threw down the gauntlet once again with its third flash fiction challenge.  This time, writers everywhere were challenged to write about thieves and scoundrels in the genres of horror, science-fiction and fantasy.  And many fine writers answered that call.

Let’s face it – deep down inside we all love scoundrels.  A little piece of us would love to be as wild, free and uncaring as they are, able to move without fear of repercussion or worry of society’s reactions.  To just be your insane self, with clear purpose and direction, and the tools, skills and lack of inhibitions to get you there – come on, that just sounds like fun!

The theme, however, proved more of a challenge than we could have imagined. Not on the writers’ parts – they certainly tackled the theme with unscrupulous ambition.  It was the reviewers who had a tough time.  So many great stories and so many different perceptions of scoundrels!

The authors gave us a lot to chew on.  As reviewers, we had to analyze what we felt best represented scoundrels.  It was tough. As it turns out, there are lots of ways to break laws and freak people out.  There was so much potential in all of the stories that it took us an extra week of debate to get it down to the final 20.

Those who didn’t make it in this anthology, take heart.

Your stories were not bad.  Some had vital flaws that might have been caught with careful re-reads and test readers.  Others needed some refinement and growth, and a good copy editor.  Some just had too much crammed in there for a thousand-word long story.  As readers, we need some familiar footing to find our way to your characters and plot.  I was personally pissed off with some stories – they were so good, but those fundamental flaws lowered their ranking.  So I hope you all stick with it and try again, or try somewhere else, write something completely different – it doesn’t matter, just stick with it and keep increasing your skills.  It’ll be worth it to catch your publication prize.  After all, like most thieves and scoundrels teach us, half the fun is the thrill of the hunt.

The success of this contest is increasing, so expect another one soon.  Thanks to all of the authors who sent in a story, and those of you who didn’t make it in, please try again!  I personally can’t wait to read more from all of you.

Merry hunting!

Marie Bilodeau