I just entered a short story contest for the first time in my life. I may be crazy. I may be on drugs. Or, I may be a genius.
The NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge takes places in heats over the course of four months. The rules are as follows (taken from the website):
“There are 3 rounds of competition. In the 1st Round (January 22-30, 2016), writers are placed randomly in heats and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment. Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words. The judges choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the 2nd Round (March 17-20, 2016) where writers receive new assignments, only this time they have just 3 days to write a 2,000 word (maximum) short story. Judges choose finalists from the 2nd Round to advance to the 3rd and final round of the competition where writers are challenged to write a 1,500 word (maximum) story in just 24 hours (April 29-30, 2016). A panel of judges review the final round stories and overall winners are selected. Sound like fun?” (Learn More!)
Sound like fun? Fun!? It sounds torturous. It sounds like NanoWriMo, and Fiction 440 and every deadline that has ever loomed over my head rolled into a few days of madness over the course of 4 months.
Actually? It sounds fabulous.
I am slowly discovering that I do better with deadlines. Even though I didn’t complete it this year, I usually thrive during National Novel Writing Month (the month that challenges writers to complete 50,000 words in a single month). And I love the challenges presented by my local Fiction 440 group (write a story in 440 words using three words they provide). In my professional life, I can struggle for weeks to write something and then, when the deadline is a day away, the words flow and I can crank it out in just a few hours.
I don’t know what it is, or why it is that ridiculous deadlines produce some of my best work, it’s just how my twisted little mind works. It also doesn’t really work with self-imposed deadlines. I can’t tell myself, “You must write 1,000 words by Friday or there will be consequences.” Pssshh…I don’t believe you. I mean…I don’t believe…me…whatever. It just doesn’t work.
I am also discovering a difficulty with finishing things. Novel-sized things to be exact. I love the fast-pace of my Fiction 440 entries and the thrill of bringing the reader through the story in such a short span of time. But, I’ve struggled with the longevity of novel. Connecting the parts of the story, creating structure and character arcs. It’s something I still want to practice but, maybe, due to this, short stories are more my forte. And short story contests my real calling.
I mean, contest imposed deadlines? Combined with the direction offered by providing a genre and specific character? Now, that may be just the ticket. Maybe I’ve discovered my niche. My calling. The key to get me writing. Maybe I have found my sweet spot. Maybe I have a found a way to ensure that I am consistently creating content, getting feedback and opening myself up to new opportunities. Maybe I’m a genius.
Or, maybe I will crash and burn.
Let’s find out, shall we?