Writer's Roost Home Page

Last update: 25 July 2017

Welcome to Steven Houchin's official author website. He is a writer of novels, short stories, non-fiction articles, technical papers, and also performs editing services for other writers. His second novel won the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's 2007 Literary Contest in the Mystery/Thriller category. He was also selected to read and critique manuscript submissions for PNWA's annual literary contest in both 2009 and 2010 for the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category, and in 2016 for the Mainstream Fiction category.

Please check out his Writer's Roost BLOG. It contains book reviews, announcements, and articles on the writing craft. Please post your comments on any of the articles. Also, take a look at our list of upcoming Literary Conferences and Contests.

By the way, if you think you are related to Steven, check out his family genealogy website.

News items:

** Steven's latest novel, The Ignominious Idol was selected as a finalist in PNWA's 2017 Literary Contest in the Mysery/Thriller category. With this selection, three of Steven's four novels have reached finalist status, with one chosen as the winner.

** Steven was selected to read, critique, and score manuscripts submitted to PNWA's 2016 Literary Contest for the Mainstream Fiction category.

** Steven's article "A Journey Through Time" appears in the October 2011 issue of Northwest Prime Time magazine. It tells the story of a letter he wrote while in kindergarten that returned to him 49 years later, unopened.

** Steven gave an interview about his writing experience to local Seattle author Norma Nill, which you can read on her blog.

** Steven served as guest blogger at the Literary Liasons site with a posting titled "So, You Want to Win a Literary Contest?" In it, he explains some of the factors that will help your manuscript break through the clutter of contest entries to maximize the chance of winning.

** Steven's non-fiction article "McGraw Square" was published in the Summer 2009 issue (Vol. 23 No. 2) of Columbia Magazine, a publication of the Washington State Historical Society. It details the history of a statue in downtown Seattle that honors John McGraw, who served in the 1880s and 1890s as King County Sheriff and Washington's second governor.

Observations About Literary Contest Submissions, Part II

Last year I posted an article titled "Observations About Literary Contest Submissions" after being asked to read and score five manuscripts submitted to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association's 2016 Literary Contest. In my posting, I outlined six guidelines and truths about submitting to literary contests, hoping the advice might help new writers who are tempted by a contest. As a two-time finalist and former winner of this contest, I thought maybe I have learned something along the way.

I put my own advice to the test again this year, submitting two entries: a novel and a short story. Both received positive critiques from the first-line readers. And, the novel was chosen as a finalist! I find out in late July (2017) whether I have won again.

That news got me thinking again about the guidelines in my earlier posting, and the math involved in contests. In my article, I postulated that simply and precisely following the contest rules, and a cleanly formatted manuscript, would jump you ahead of half the others. Maybe that's an exaggeration, maybe not. But following all my six guidelines may do that and more.

Imagine if you're in a category, like Mystery, with 100 entries. If half of those fail the contest rules and neatness test, your competition drops to 50. Of those, many will fail to write a proper synopsis, maybe 10 of them. Another 20 may fail due to poor writing, such as too much backstory, mundane dialog, no description or scene setting, or a languid pace. So, maybe that 50 now drops to 20 or 25. They are your remaining competition. If the Mystery category has eight finalists, your odds become maybe 1 in 3, versus the original 8 in 100 (about 1 in 12) chance.

Now, my numbers here are pure speculation, but are based on experience having been a reader/scorer for the PNWA contest three times. So, I've seen for myself how often author submissions fall into that bottom 75% where glaring mistakes doom their entries.

So, if you want to greatly increase your odds of being a finalist in a contest, paying attention to the details, and the experience of others, is a good start.

Steven Houchin -- 3 July 2017

To see previous essays and musing about writing, please visit my Web Log.