I recently got an email about my entries in WEbook’s PageToFame contest. Apparently An Internal Conflict has gotten so few positive scores that their model predicts it can’t succeed, so they’re removing it from the contest. I have two pieces left in play, Sunshine Civil War and The Invasion.
This is not entirely unexpected. If the rules of the contest had given me two full pages to develop each piece, I think that Internal Conflict would be by far my strongest entry. Even with a single full page it’s a somewhat compelling read. But no, WEbook decided to only give each entry half a page. Even Sunshine Civil War, which is the closest to starting in media res, hasn’t quite gotten going before it hits the length limit.
If this stage were merely designed to weed out the really, really, bad stuff, that would be one thing. Using the contest’s five-point scale (higher is better), such a system would take everything with a plurality of scores at three or above. But no: only scores of four and five are votes for “promotion.” This system is thus designed to weed out anything that is not exemplary and excellent. (The problem is compounded by the extreme rarity of five scores, which the contest says mean “heavenly.”)
The problem with this is that to give an impression that your story is “exemplary” or “excellent” in one hundred fifty words, you have to be basically writing “short-short” or “flash” fiction, stuff that works well in that length but falls apart when given greater scope. WEbook has set up a contest where the first heat is a sprint and the last is a marathon; just as very few athletes excel at both the marathon and the hundred-meter dash, so too vanishingly few stories (in which I include everything from flash fiction to trilogies and beyond) work well both when truncated to less than two hundred words and when expanded to thousands of words.
Of course, it’s possible that all of this is merely that the contest is just designed to pick the sort of fiction that I don’t want to read.
WEbook goes to some length to ensure that all rating is done as a blind test, so I can’t ask you to go and rate my remaining work highly, but I think it could be helpful if you did some reading and rating so that excrable prose doesn’t get elevated over gems as so often happens.