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A Message to My Friends on HubPages; Updated on 3/1/2016 With Competition Results
The Prodigal Returns
For update, scroll down to Writer's Digest Competition Results, a little over halfway down.
I'm the guy who writes flash fiction and stirs up trouble on controversial topics. Yeah, that guy. Actually, I had never heard of flash fiction before I came to Hub Pages. I wrote a short story one day and wasn't sure what to do with it. It was so short, I thought people would think it was an oddity. Someone read it and told me it was flash fiction. So I googled that and found out I wasn't all that odd. Some would disagree, I realize.
After writing here for a couple of years, a few people encouraged me to take my fiction writing a step further by either publishing or entering competitions. I still didn't feel all that confident in publishing, so I opted for writing competitions.
Writing Competitions and Mentoring
How do you find good writing competitions? I had no idea, so I googled it. I found an interesting one with a really strange name, NYC Midnight Challenges. NYCM began fourteen years ago as a screenwriting challenge and has grown to include short story and flash fiction. I've written about NYCM in other hubs, so I'll just update you about how it has paid off for this writer.
While I suppose I've been able to weave a reasonably good story all along, or so my sons say as they reflect on bedtime stories, I just didn't know how to write very well. The NYCM challenges and forum, along with one-on-one mentoring by a man named Vic Errington in the UK, taught me some much needed lessons.
The NYCM forum takes place after participants have written their story over a designated amount of time with prompts provided by NYCM. During the flash fiction challenge, participants write a one thousand word maximum story in forty-eight hours using prompts of genre, object, location. The short story challenge is a twenty-five hundred word story written over eight days with prompts of genre, subject, character.
While the judges deliberate over the stories for five or six weeks, the writers post links to their stories in the forum. During these weeks the participants read one another's stories and critically review them. More advanced writers provide valuable insight to the novices, but everyone is encouraged to say what they think about a story without being rude. The NYCM forum is actually more beneficial than the judges input which they provide for every story written in the competition. The NYCM forum has been a type of mentoring for me.
Learning the Art and Craft of Writing
Lessons I've learned About Writing Fiction
- Word economy. In flash fiction especially, every word counts or it is out.
- Leaving out as much backstory as possible. Where to begin a story is one important key to its success.
- The importance of conflict in a story. Conflict is what makes any story worth reading. A story without conflict is like chips without salsa. Boring.
- Showing rather than telling the story takes writing fiction to the next level. My words should create a vivid, mental "movie" in the minds of readers.
- Dialogue can be an important way of showing as opposed to telling in a story. Dialogue can even carry a story if done well.
- The twist at the end of a flash fiction story. Surprise endings are nice, but not absolutely necessary. I am learning to twist my endings two or three times in the direction of the unexpected.
- Eliminating passive language. Passive verbs need to be exchanged for active verbs. Sentences which include the word as, followed by an ing word are examples of passive language. As so-and-so did this, someone else was doing that. In one competition, it was pointed out that I used this in nearly every sentence.
- When writing comedy, the absurd and the ridiculous can be funny. Normal, at least for me at this present time, is not funny.
- Adverbs should be used as little as possible. Adverbs tell what should be shown in the behavior and words of characters.
- If the ending of a story is predictable, it must be changed. I want to let the reader think they know where I am going, but end someplace else.
My 21st Place Finish in the 2016 Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition
Last fall, I entered Writer's Digest Short Short Story competition by submitting three, twenty-five hundred word short stories. Actually, the flash fiction versions of these stories have been posted here on HP. The judges have just completed their work and the results are in. One of my stories took twenty-first place out of 6,700 entries. I am blown away, humbled and excited. This is what I have been waiting for, confirmation in a large competition. I'll be going forward more boldly now. I'm still waiting for the results from the first round of the NYC Midnight challenge. I'll find out on March 15 if I move on to round two in which the field will be narrowed from 2,100 to 300 writers.
Where to Go From Here?
Like every respectable writer, I am working on a novel. I'm also rewriting all of my favorite flash fiction stories with the goal of self publishing....someday. I'll continue to enter competitions, especially the NYCM challenges. I am assured of growth as a writer if I continue with NYCM.
I would like to see some of my HP friends join me in the fall when the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction challenge comes around. It would be fun to be in the forum together and beta read for each other in the challenges. I tend to disappear from HP during these challenges and completely immerse myself in the forum. This is not absolutely necessary and anyone joining from here could be involved in the forum and HP at the same time. I'm just not much good at multitasking.
Getting Back to HubPages
I have missed my friends here on HubPages very much, but the time away has been well spent, I believe. The NYCM Short Story forum is quieting down now, so I'll be here reading and commenting until the results come out on March fifteenth. I'll let you know if I advance to challenge two in the competition. Right now, the prospects of me advancing look pretty good. If I do advance, it will be the first time I have done so in two years of participation, and I will have done it with the loathsome genre, comedy. Here is the link to my NYCM Short Story submission, in case you haven't read it yet. Baby Back Ribs and Russian Vodka. The prompts were genre-Comedy, Subject-Etiquette, Character-An Assassin.
I look forward to interacting here on HubPages again. It is very much like coming home.