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A Message to My Friends on HubPages; Updated on 3/1/2016 With Competition Results

Updated on March 1, 2016
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Chris has written more than 100 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

The Prodigal Returns

Four Mile Lake in southern Oregon with Mount Mcloughlin in the background
Four Mile Lake in southern Oregon with Mount Mcloughlin in the background | Source

For update, scroll down to Writer's Digest Competition Results, a little over halfway down.

Remember Me?

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

Source

Participation in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge, Fall 2016

Would you like to participate in the 2016 NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge and Forum?

See results

Lessons I've learned About Writing Fiction

  1. Word economy. In flash fiction especially, every word counts or it is out.
  2. Leaving out as much backstory as possible. Where to begin a story is one important key to its success.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Dialogue can be an important way of showing as opposed to telling in a story. Dialogue can even carry a story if done well.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. When writing comedy, the absurd and the ridiculous can be funny. Normal, at least for me at this present time, is not funny.
  9. Adverbs should be used as little as possible. Adverbs tell what should be shown in the behavior and words of characters.
  10. 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.

The "Faulkner portable": American novelist William Faulkner’s (1897-1962) Underwood Universal Portable typewriter, resting on a tiny desk his stepson helped him build.
The "Faulkner portable": American novelist William Faulkner’s (1897-1962) Underwood Universal Portable typewriter, resting on a tiny desk his stepson helped him build. | Source

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.

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    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

      Jo_Goldsmith11 7 months ago

      How cool is that? 21st place in all the thousands of entries!

      So happy for you. And I wish you much luck, many blessings ahead!

      You go for it! :-) This sounds interesting, so I maybe will think about entering, (this fall) if it's possible. Take care. :-)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 13 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Shauna, it is good to hear from you. Glad things are going well with work now. Writing is online is competitive and challenging for all of us, but if it ends up suppressing our creativity, it is time to step back and try a different approach. It sounds like you have responded well in your circumstances. Good luck with getting back to your writing.

      I've got several projects going now and the progress is slow on all of them. I hope at least one of them pays off eventually. Good to see you here today.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 13 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Lawrence, sorry I missed your post here. Thanks for reading the hub and for your words. I'll add a bit to the hub about round 2 of the NYCM competition.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 13 months ago from Central Florida

      Chris, congratulations on earning number 21 in the Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition. I entered one and wasn't chosen as a place-winner. I've entered many contests (many of which charge a fee) and got nowhere.

      I will say, though, that your UK mentor is a good one. I took a fiction writing course from a published UK professor/author and learned a lot. The first thing I learned was that I, too, used the passive voice way too often. Now I'm very cognizant of it and avoid it. I also point it out when I edit people's works who are looking to publish. I think that may be a writer's number one mistake (writing in passive voice).

      I haven't written in a while. I had to give up writing for a living and go back to a day job. At first I dreaded it, but I'm glad I did. I'm comfortable again and don't feel pressured. To me writing has always been a passion. When I tried to turn it into a paycheck, the pressure thwarted my creativity and it became a chore. I'm hoping to write something again soon, but I'm not going to push it; it'll happen when it happens.

      Thank you for filling us in on what you've been up to. I think the travelling you do in your job is very conducive to creative thinking/writing. It certainly seems to be paying off for you!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 13 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Chris

      Congratulations on the placement! That's a pretty awesome result,

      Here's hoping you get through to 'round 2'

      Lawrence

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 13 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Michael, Great to see you here today. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 13 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Deb, thanks for stopping by. It is always great to see you. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 13 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ron, It's great to see you giving FF a go. Very short fiction is such a challenge and has a beneficial effect on all other writing, in my opinion.

    • Michael-Milec profile image

      Michael-Milec 13 months ago

      Fabulous , great accomplishment Chris Mills, congratulations. Most of I can say is wishing you more success and Blessings on your journey to perfection...

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 14 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      I am so pleased that you have done so well in the first round. Glad to have you back, and I am rooting for you, Chris. You're a very good writer.

    • RonElFran profile image

      Ronald E. Franklin 14 months ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

      I've started writing some flash fiction stories that I've posted here on HP. This is an entirely new area for me, and your report is an encouragement to keep at it. Thanks!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Frank, thanks for the encouragement. It is time for a new flash fiction story outside of competition.

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 14 months ago from Shelton

      Cam.. doesn't matter where you placed there, you're still top ten in my book...:) hope you come back refreshed and fully charged with new flash ideas..:)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Jaye, I do believe you were the first person to call one of my stories, flash fiction. Do you remember that or am I confused? I'm working hard on my projects, writing every day. I look forward to the day when I can announce that I've finally published something.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Paula, thank you for all that you said. I do believe many of the friendships I have built here are for the long term. Writers are great people, deep people, the kind of people I want to be around me. Thanks for the visit. Nice to see you.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      mckbirdbooks, thank you for that encouraging word. I do feel good about that story and the recognition. It has definitely given me more confidence which can be a good thing in writing.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ann, sharing things I want to publish with my friends via email seems to work well. Having at least one other pair of eyes looking at something before publishing here would raise the quality of the site quite a bit, I think. It has been successful for you and me.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 14 months ago from Deep South, USA

      Congratulations, Chris, for your WD win! That's great news, but I've thought you a really good writer since I began reading your flash fiction. Now you've branched out into longer formats and are mastering them. I look forward to the novel.

      Jaye

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 14 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Congratulations Cam and just a word to encourage you to keep going forward. As long as you are doing what you love and have realized some goals, you're ahead of this game we call life.

      HP is a happy, comfortable place for so many of us and the bonds of friendship we gather, I feel, are long term. Our connection will remain as long as we choose.

      I wish you luck and more success. Thanks for this visit. You take care of yourself! Peace, Paula

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 14 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Congratulations on that 21st place finish, that is an achievement to point to with pride. Welcome back.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 14 months ago from SW England

      You're very welcome. I think it's good to share writing opinions and point out possible errors or improvements. It helps both reader and writer, I believe.

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      MsDora, yes, it feels like home and people like you are why it feels that way. Thank you for stopping by to comment on the article. I appreciate your encouragement.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 14 months ago from The Caribbean

      What a boost for HP --that it feels like home. Welcome back and I look forward to the demonstrations of all you have learned in your future posts. Thanks for sharing your experience and your lessons learned.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      chef-de-jour, I hope your prediction is on target. I have a novel in the works and am constantly working on short stories. The competitions are an interim during which I am testing my writing ability to see if it is good enough for publishing. The time is coming when I will simply have to try it. Thanks for the encouraging words.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Buildreps, It does get a little overwhelming to keep up with everyone we follow or who follows us here on HP. Thanks for stopping by and reading my article today. I'm glad you found the tips helpful.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Venkatachari M, Thanks for stopping by today. You are there every time I publish, and I thank you for your encouragement and support. I want to clarify the two competitions I was writing about. For the first round of NYCM, I wrote Baby Back Ribs and Russian Vodka. The judges are still going over those entries and I will hear something on March 15th. For the Writer's Digest contest, I wrote Working Vacation and that is the story that placed 21st. Nice to see you today.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Bill, Thank you. On a number of occasions in the past you have encouraged me to take part in competitions and to pursue publishing. I am putting everything I have in terms of time and energy into these competitions. It is the testing grounds. If I can eventually perform someplace near the top, I'll feel good about publishing. It you are correct, and I imagine you are, that there were thousands of entries in the Writer's Digest contest, then I am headed in the right direction. Thank you for the support and encouragement.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Faith, thanks for reading and commenting. Your words are encouraging. These competitions are challenging and rewarding. Thanks for being part of my support team back home on HP.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ann, Thank you for those kind words. It felt very self serving to write a whole hub about me, but it really is the only way to communicate to my followers. After you reviewed the story I sent to Writer's Digest, I must have rewritten it a dozen more times. In the end, I was happy with how it came out. I'm very pleased with how it performed in the competition. Thanks for your help and support.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      John, You would fit in well in the NYCM forum. It is a place where supportive people like yourself really have an opportunity so shine. But I know you work hard at the writing routine you have developed, so it would be a sacrifice to give NYCM a try. Thanks for reading my article. I appreciate the support.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Ruby, It is good to be back here for a while. On March 16, IF I advance to the next challenge based on my story in challenge one of the NYCM competition, I will be back into the forum there for several weeks of intense reading and reviewing of stories. Right now it is up to the judges and they can be unpredictable. Round two will be cut down to 300 writers from the 2100 that started out in challenge one.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      Eric, I remember a very strong bit of fiction writing by you in one of my challenges here. I will be rewriting my older flash fiction and moving them back here from my blogger site. I may as well have everything here. That site doesn't do so well. Thanks for your support.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 14 months ago from St. Louis, MO until the end of June, 2017

      sallybea, Thanks for the comment. There is a wide variety of writers that participate in the NYCM challenges. Many have never written any fiction at all and some are published authors. It's a great place to get started and to learn. I'd encourage you to give it one good try and see how you like it. Nice to see you here today.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 14 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Welcome back. I'll be reading your short stories in a slim, neat self-published volume one of these days? All strength to you in your quest to perfect short fiction.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 14 months ago from Europe

      Great 10 tips. I liked the metaphor 'chips without salsa'. There must be conflict in a story. You're a good writer, that's clear after reading the first paragraph. Honestly, I didn't notice you were gone. But that says something about me I guess. :( Anyway, great to have you back!

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 14 months ago from Hyderabad, India

      Glad to hear from you regarding your activities and achievements. I have already read your short story "Baby Back Ribs and Russian Vodka" and enjoyed it very much. Congratulations on your getting 21st rank.

      Your stories are very good to read and I appreciate your talents in storytelling. Wish you all the best.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 14 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Congratulations on that 21st place finish. I would venture to guess there were thousands of entries so I think 21st place is fantastic.

      You have been missed, Chris, but what you are doing is understandable and admirable, and you've got my support. You go, Dude!!!!!

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 14 months ago from southern USA

      Wow, Chris, That is wonderful! I'm so happy for you and knew you would do well. You are an amazing storyteller. I have no doubt you will advance to round two in the challenge. You certainly found an interesting challenge in which to participate and I enjoyed reading all about it. God bless you

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 14 months ago from SW England

      Your progress explained above is proof that your writing is improving in leaps and bounds. It takes dedication and courage to compete in the sphere of so many others and you've done so well, it's a credit to your character as well as your writing.

      I'm glad you'll be back amongst us for a while; I've missed your presence here as you're one of my 'core' hubbers whom I follow and you've offered me help too, which I greatly appreciate.

      Here's to reading many more of your hubs, Chris!

      Ann

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 14 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thanks for the update Cam. I did subscribe to the NYC Midnight newsletter awhile back. I would like to participate one day, like you I am not great at multi-tasking though. Recently I have been so busy with writing assignments through "fiverr" that I have had little time outside it and HP. Also my personal life in the real world has been much busier than is the norm. Congratulations on your story finishing 21st. I am sure their are hundreds of entries so that is great. I am sure you will improve every year. Good to see you back at HP.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 14 months ago from Southern Illinois

      It is good to hear from you again. I've missed reading your story's. I would love to be able to write good flash fiction. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 14 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Wow, that was interesting. What a cool path you are on. I wish I had more knowledge in the area. I sure like reading your stuff so I hope you will be publishing here more.

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 14 months ago from Norfolk

      Nice to hear all your news. My, you have been busy and very productive with your writing from the sound of it. Interesting to read about the NYCM Short Story Competition. I will have to check it out, though my experience of writing Flash Fiction is nil. There is always a first time, though:)

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