Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Writer’s Competitive Edge, or How Twelve Equals Ten

This message is about the unconventional path my story took to be in Mystery Times Ten 2013. The adventure has convinced me that a writer should embrace every opportunity as a competitive edge.
 When people talk about having a competitive edge, they focus on the skills needed to win a contest. After all, “to compete” means being motivated toward success and “to have an edge” indicates knowledge that gives the competitor an advantage or an improved chance for achieving a goal.

I’ve discovered two important practices that benefit my writing: (1) sending my short stories to open calls for consideration, and (2) joining a short story writers’ critique group with members who actively submit to similar calls and are willing to share what they’ve learned from their experience. By participating in Buddhapuss Ink’s Mystery Times Ten 2013 competition and StorySuccess, the online critique group for the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime, I’ve improved my writing and reached a wonderful goal.

“Confidence in the Family,” the last story appearing in Mystery Times Ten 2013, is my first short story accepted and published in a print anthology. About this time last year, I remember discovering the Buddhapuss Ink call for submissions.

Previously, I read Barb Goffman’s “Truth or Consequences,” included in Mystery Times Ten 2011. It was nominated for an Agatha award at Malice Domestic, the annual conference for readers and writers of traditional mysteries in the Agatha Christie style. So, I knew serious authors submitted their stories for consideration to the competition.

After reading Buddhapuss Ink’s submission guidelines, I realized one of my stories that had been reviewed and improved by the StorySuccess critique group might fit the requirements. I gave the story a little more tweaking, then sent it off.

When the winners were announced, I saw that one of my critique partners, Georgia Ruth, had placed in the top ten with “Dear Courtney,” which had been reviewed by the critique group. In an email, MaryChris Bradley, our editor, explained to me that while my story was not among the top ten, it was one of two that the editors had decided to include as bonus stories in the ebook version. Hurray! I told folks, even if I was the last draft choice, I had made it into the big league. How could I not be happy?

Then, in November, I got even better news. MaryChris wrote that the editors had decided to include the two bonus stories in both the print and ebook versions. Talk about a reason to give thanks at Thanksgiving! And, it wouldn’t have happened without writing a story, having it critiqued to improve the quality, and submitting it for consideration.

Each new experience with Murder Times Ten 2013 has added joy to my life. The printed books arrived just before Christmas, so I could share them with friends. I signed them at the Murder in the Magic City (Birmingham, Alabama) and Murder on the Menu (Wetumpka, Alabama) conferences in February—my first appearances as an author. In May, I used the cover for a bookmark I carried to the Malice Domestic conference, where I was listed as an author in the program and moderated a panel. Then—perhaps best of all—in June, I got to meet my online critique partner Georgia Ruth face-to-face when I attended the High Country Festival of the Book in Boone, N.C. 

Paula Gail Benson and Georgia Ruth 

Since “Confidence in the Family” appeared in Mystery Times Ten 2013, I’ve had “Ghost of a Chance” included in the anthology A Tall Ship, A Star and Plunder (Dark Oak Press and Media, Memphis, TN, January 2014); eight stories published in online journals, the most recent being “Apple’s Lure,” in the July/August issue of the Bethlehem Writers Roundtable at along with a story by Georgia Ruth at; and two stories accepted for print anthologies scheduled to be released next year.

Thank you, Buddhapuss Ink, MaryChris Bradley, all the authors included in Mystery Times Ten 2013, and all my critique partners. I’ll always be very grateful to be numbered among you!

© 2014 Paula Gail Benson

Paula Gail Benson

A legislative attorney and former law librarian, Paula Gail Benson regularly blogs with others about writing mysteries on Writers Who Kill. Her personal blog is Little Sources of Joy and her website is

A Note from the Black Cat

Our thanks go out to our guest blogger today—Paula Gail Benson—for her contribution to our WRITER WEDNESDAY #WW Series. We hope you've been enjoying these posts and that Paula  has inspired more than a few of you to follow in her footsteps and "embrace competition" by  submiting your stories to writing competitions.
  Speaking of competitions, this seems like the perfect time to make an announcement . . . DRUM ROLL PLEASE . . . Buddhapuss Ink LLC is once again putting out an OPEN CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS for our Mystery Times 2014 short story anthology! (Insert wild applause and cheering here.) 

 Want all the details? You'll find them on our website.


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