A couple of weeks ago, I got an email informing me that I had won first prize in Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1. I’ve entered many writing competitions and contests, although probably not enough of them, and this was the first writing competition I have won.
The email from Charli Mills, who runs The Carrot Ranch blog, came as a complete surprise. For some reason, I’d got myself into a position of not expecting to win any writing competitions that I’d entered. The reason – In the back of my mind was the memory of the very first writing competition I’d entered where my entry had been disqualified because I’d used words and phrases not familiar to the judges. That’s another story, but it’s a thought I have now well and truly thrown away.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve wondered what it was about my entry to Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1 that made it win the contest. The judges left me lovely feedback as to why they selected it, but I wanted to know what it was I had done to write that particular piece of flash fiction.
In this contest, writers were asked to write a 99-word story in response to the following prompt:
When I grow up. Cast yourself back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.
Stories were judged on ten criteria including relevance, capturing a child’s voice and originality. Extra points were awarded if the story included a comparison with the “real” childhood choice.
One of the first things that came into my mind after reading what the contest was about, and what the judges were looking for, was something that I’d started to hear being said a lot around the blogging world.
Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint!
All too often, I’ve entered writing and photography contests and challenges and rushed head-first into them without giving any of my ideas anytime to mature. In fact, I’ve done the same with some of my blog posts, with impulse telling me to publish them immediately instead of allowing my ideas to mature. I now look back at these pieces of work and see just how some of them were poor quality because I’d rushed them. In fact, some of my work shouted out ‘desperation’ in getting something out so I could hurry onto the next task. This time, I decided to do things differently and thought about what I was going to write about and jotted down some ideas.
While ideas festered in my head and on my screen, not only did I decide to write about a passion I had for a particular time of the year, but I checked out who the three judges for the contest were. Two of them lived in the southern hemisphere, and this told me to include at least part of my flash south of the equator.
I kept an eye on the closing date and time and played around with various ideas. I did some research and ended up writing several versions of what had matured over the days I’d first jotted ideas down. Several times, with the deadline fast approaching, I read aloud what I had written. I wasn’t happy, so I continued to play around with the words ensuring I kept the story to 99 words. Finally, and with the help of a writing editing tool, it was the nod of my head and my smiles that told me that my piece of flash fiction was ready.
When I submitted the entry, a few hours before the deadline, it never struck me that I had written something in a different method to how I usually write. In fact, had it not been for witting an entry for this contest, I do wonder if I would have ever looked back at the method of how I write. I could have ended up waiting a lot longer to win my first writing contest or, who knows, maybe have given them up altogether? That’s a frightening prospect.
It’s not only myself that needs to be congratulated, though. I’d like to thank Charli Mills for thinking up the idea of these writing contests and for the fantastic work she does in publishing a 99-word flash fiction challenge every week. Her challenges have pushed me with my writing and, although I don’t enter them every week, produced pieces of flash fiction that always get wonderful comments, as well as some great constructive feedback that helps me improve my writing.
Thank you to the three judges of the contest, Norah Colvin, Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin. They had no idea who wrote any of the entries until after they’d selected the winning entries. And, finally, congratulations to every one of you who had a go and submitted an entry. I’ve read some of them and can see that I was up against some very tough competition.
To read my winning piece of flash fiction, you’ll need to visit The Carrot Ranch. I’m not going to publish it here because Charli and her team are the ones that put all the hard work in. I just sat at my computer and allowed my mind to wander. Click the following link to read the story.
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