I’m in the middle of a spate of submitting stories to competitions. All of the competitions I’ve identified charge a fee for each story submitted, which I suppose is fair – they need to cover their costs. Some of them offer a feedback service, for which they also charge. I’m not so sure this is fair. The feedback takes the format of the marks that the judges award for plot, character development, etc., plus some text outlining their thoughts on the story. What you get is essentially the assessment of your story that the judges will have prepared anyway (assuming they judge the competition in a properly structured and documented way). The charges are not excessive (as an example, one of the competitions charge AUS $10 to enter a story, and another AUS $15 for feedback). But if you enter a number of competitions, the charges will soon add up. For someone on a low income (such as yours truly) it’s difficult to justify paying the extra. Then again, I’m sure the feedback would be useful. Although.., actually, I’m not. The stories I’ve written (and I’ve mostly written a new story specifically for each competition) are in a variety of styles and have different structures and subject matter, which makes me think that the feedback might be inconsistent and difficult to apply more generally. Although, if I were to see some consistent criticism across such diverse writing, it would be fairly persuasive.
Writing all these short stories has slowed progress on my second novel. It’s frustrating, but it will be worth it if I have success in some of the competitions. Theoretically, it could be a good way to get some of my work published and have something to put on my CV. Although I’m not holding out too much hope – my first two entries got nowhere! I hate stopping work on the novel. Within a day of putting it down I feel as though it’s beginning to drift away from me. And when I start work again there’s a process of re-acquaintance that takes valuable time – like taking two steps back before I can take three forward. I am progressing though. I’m up to nearly 40,000 words now, and foreseeing the time when I will need to do some significant editing to cut it down to a more manageable size. Established authors may be able to get away with epic novels, but publishers seem to want and expect something under 100,000 words from new writers.
Anyway, what would you do about the feedback; save your pennies and hope your story is selected (which is all the feedback you need) or stump up the cash for feedback in case it isn’t?