On the Wordos Jury Piece

One of the steps in the process of becoming a full member of the Wordos is to submit a jury piece to the Wordos co-chairs. Some candidates get anxious and have questions about what sort of jury piece to submit.

What We Want to See

Write a short story - about 4000 words - preferably in the science fiction or fantasy genre. Make it the best short story you can. We're flexible on the word-count; it's a suggested target.

A non-exclusive, non-exhaustive list of the markets that Wordos sell stories to include: Clarkesworld Magazine, Azimov's Science Fiction, Analog Magazine, Beneath Ceasless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, Redstone Science Fiction, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and Fantasy Magazine. Many of these sites have samples available on the internet. Read them to get an idea of what to submit for your jury piece.

Problem Manuscripts We've Seen Before

Stories Without a Strong Speculative Element. Don't make us wonder when the unicorns or the cyborgs are going to come in. Also, we might mis-interpret your jury piece by inferring (non-existant) speculative elements simply because that's what we're used to reading and writing.

Stories With Too Much Narrative Summary. If there's too much telling and not enough showing in a manuscript, the result is flat characters, passive voice, and a manuscript that feels distant to the reader.

A Dramatized Fantasy Role-Playing Game Log. Maybe we'd take these if we were a gaming company. Most Dramatized Logs suffer from weak character development, too much narative summary, shallow culture- and world-building, or weak plots.

Stories with Two (or More) Characters in a Room Philosophizing. This usually takes the form of a Socratic Dialog between a prisoner and a guard or a victim and a torturer. In a room. With no action, just talking. (Sometimes called The Talking Heads Plot.)

Stories Featuring Characters Without Names (or characters whose names are capitalized job titles). If the characters in a manuscript are named The Boy, The Lady in Red, The Man in Black, The Teacher, The Beast, or (our favorite for unintentional humor value) The Vampyre, chances are good that A) we're going to wonder about or be confused about characters' gender, age, and general description, and B) we're going to intentionally read the manuscript melodramatically.

Poorly Formatted Submissions. While we try not to be the syntax-police, manuscript format can make the difference between an accepted manuscript and one we reject.

What We Don't Want to See

The first three chapters of your current novel. Well... OK, we'll look at it, but novel excerpts can be problematic. It can be difficult to show a plot or reveal characters within the excerpted bits.

Memoir. The Worods really isn't a memoir critiquing group. Many of the memoir pieces we've seen as jury pieces suffer from wish-fulfillment plots or from a flat character arc. A secondary problem with memoir is that sometime truth IS stranger than fiction, and, unfortunately, not as believable.

Secret Memoir. See memoir. Also, this one can be socially awkward if the secret is revealed after everyone's critiqued the protagonist in unflattering ways.

Stories Without Plots. This happens more often than one would think, usually for more pages than one can endure. Remember, a story plot has a beginning, a middle and an end. Pseudo-random dream montages or stream-of-consciousness logorrhea are not plots.

Poetry. The Wordos is a short story critique group. If you send us a poem as your jury piece, we're likely to be reminded of the Vogons from Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker series. And then we'll ask you to submit prose in the form of a short story.