Do you love to enter writing contests? I admit that I really enjoy the deadline pressure of the timed writing contests. Even more so, I love the elation of winning a contest. Though I have experienced that feeling in a few contests, I have not succeeded at placing in a timed story writing venture. You know, these are the ones that release a prompt at a certain hour and the writer has roughly 24 hours to finish the tale and turn it in—at a specified word length and often with certain words or a certain scenario sentence included.
However, I find that such contests are terrific creativity building exercises and even if I lose, a source of profit in more than skill. Yes, I’m talking dollars! The first thing to remember about these stories is that they are turned in with very little rethinking and revision. Once the story is done, I check for basic shape, spelling, and grammar, give it one read through for story and one to see if it meets the guidelines of the contest. Then I hit the button to submit.
Sometimes I feel that the story is a winner. But if the judges do not agree with me, that is never the end of the tale. When the notice comes back, I take the story and give it a cold re-read. This is now at least a couple of weeks after I have written it. I begin to reshape, sharpen and generally revise. I correct any plot holes and look for a logical flow. I sharpen the beginning and the ending lines. Without a word limit, I can add detail on the people, place, weather, and other elements of a story’s supporting cast. I still go back and excise fluff. Usually all of these tweaks only add a couple of hundred words to the story.
Once this happens I submit it elsewhere. Case in point: My story, A Cup of Comfort , crafted to meet the demands of a 24 hour contest to make a story that with the prompt A snowstorm outside, battering the cozy ski lodge was not a winner. When my rejection came, I applied my own advice and then submitted it to Over My Dead Body. You can read it there. Although this market does not pay a princely sum, I got some real cash to jingle in my pocket. My cash inflow more than paid for the contest fee and I have readers for my story!
Right now, I am in the process of doing the same for a story rejected by an anthology. Who knows where it will end up? I hope, in the hands /computers of readers and that it’s acceptance will also place a bit of cash into to my bank account. Moral of the story? Never give up! Make your story better, and make it pay!
Joan is a story performer and writer who loves to come to your location to give talks on writing or perform for you. You can read a collection of Joan’s short stories, some mysteries, some historical, some winners of contests and some simply published in national magazines in her book, Simply a Smile.
The title story won first prize in a contest, but a couple of the tales were first time losers that were published in journals after revision.
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