Allow me to make a connection between one of my favorite geek past times--Dungeons and Dragons--and submitting short stories for publication. Dungeons and Dragons characters (as well as a slew of other tabletop role playing games) are created using specific attributes such as strength, intelligence, etc. Each attribute is given a score at the creation of your character; the higher the score. the bigger the bonus you add to your rolls. The roll is a gamble in itself, but it is you who comes up with the idea in the first place on any particular action you wish to take. Perhaps you'd like to jump down out of a moving caravan, swinging your sword at an approaching beast. You roll the dice, make any adjustments, and wait to hear from the dungeon master whether you've succeeded or not.
In Dungeons and Dragons, the bonus can sometimes be the difference between a hit or a miss.
In writing, the bonus is the feedback one gets before submission.
I could have a great idea that I, alone, came up with; be it jumping off a moving caravan to spill goblin blood or writing a story about a modern-day Frankenstein in the working world trying to make ends meet, but if I don't execute it properly, the idea could go from being genius to being a failure.
In writing, there could be a plot point missing, bad character development that could be changed in only two sentences, inconsistencies, or complete contradictions that distract the reader (at this point the reader being an editor; the one giving the yay or nay). These are common things that can be overlooked when writing, in particular if you don't allow yourself some time away from the piece and come back to it at a later date. Most recently, due to my procrastination and an approaching deadline, I had no choice but to write and submit without setting it aside for a bit. Instead, I selected a small group of people to provide feedback for me.
My character and his scores (my idea) are important, the character's weapon (the finished story) is important. The dice thrown (submission to publisher) is the gamble. My attributes may be high and my weapon strong, and sure I could roll a high number or even a natural 20 (geek lingo..sorry), but having that bonus sure strengthens my chances.
Nearly everything I've written, I've only let my wife and kids read before it was submitted for consideration. This most recent "experiment" of having a select few outside of family read my contest story before submission was a wonderful learning experience.
First off, I didn't anticipate such great feedback. Three of them took the time to make remarks within the context of the story and send it back. This was a tremendous help. I took the feedback very seriously and made changes where I agreed with them (which was quite a bit). It was also refreshing to see that nobody suggested any plot point changes or character changes, in essence making my final draft the same story I sent as a rough draft; the only changes being some grammatical errors, sentence restructuring, and a few details added that had been left out. Still, that "bonus" could make the difference.
I'm learning that writing can be much more than a solo adventure. Sure, I could play the role of the literary paladin and attempt to solo every orc, goblin, and kobold I came across, but with the community experience--the fellowship if you will--I learn so much more, and it can help build relationships.
The creative writing forums, the Facebook groups, the friends (old and new), and the family all make the rewards during this adventure all the more obtainable. A big thank you to my "bonus!"
For more geek references crossing writing and D&D, go to Kristen Lamb's blog entry where she demonstrates how to use D&D character alignment for building the characters within your story.