Sunday, 18 July 2010

Short Story Contests

The trouble with novel writing is it's delayed gratification to the nth degree. What with all the planning and character building and research you can easily spend months of your life never writing a word of the actual novel. Then when you do get down to it you have to honour the drafting process, so even when you write those magical scenes and dialogue you know there's a good chance it won't stay like that for long. Come back to it in a month's time and what do you know - it's a lot shittier than you remember and in need of a rewrite.

So by the time you get to the stage of saying "It's finished" you've lost all but a glimmer of that earlier excitement - you know, the giddy feeling that kept you glued to your Mac when every sensible person was outside sunbathing.

And it can be depressing to keep depriving youself of that satisfaction. So it's not a bad idea to do the odd mini project in parallel with the Magnum Opus, just so you can say "I've finished" more than once a year. With this in mind I've entered two flash fiction competitions this month.

I like flash fiction. It's short and snappy - not too demanding of time and effort - and when you write something you like it's immensely satisfying too. The challenge of a word limit - in one case as low as 150 words - imposes a strict discipline that makes you prune and edit ruthlessly, questioning the value of every word, trying to find one word instead of three. It's definitely a useful exercise and having a deadline to meet helps keep you focussed.

I haven't entered many short story contests for the shameful reason that I don't take defeat very well. When I post my Little Gem I can't wait to garner the accolades of my peers and if (or should I say When..?) they judge it less worthy than I it's a painful rebuke. It can take me weeks to recover from my hurt feelings.

But at the same time I do enjoy the nervous anticipation of waiting for a result. And if it's decided by poll, getting one person's thumbs up is thrilling beyond measure. Just the thought that one person thought mine was the best entry is enough to make my day.

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