Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

I know many people don’t want to take the time or spend the money on entering writing contests. I was in the same boat up until a year ago. Then I took the plunge and entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2013 last fall, and then the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2014 this past spring. And whoa! My entire attitude changed.

Before I entered these contests, I assumed my writing skills were at their best…WRONG! In just two measly challenges, my abilities have grown exponentially. I’m actually kind of embarrassed by what I considered my “best”. I won’t even let my friends or colleagues look at my old work. Yuck…

So, what has writing flash fiction/short stories taught me, exactly? Well, I’ll tell you:

  • Write a complete story. To make a story truly shine, all facets of it must be developed and balanced equally. Plot, characters, scenery, etc. If you miss or lax on one, it stands out to readers.
  • Characters count. Characters carry a large portion of a story’s weight. Making them as 3D and likable as possible is a must. Also, too many of them tend to be confusing/burdensome for a reader. So, make each one count, and make each one memorable.
  • Keep it simple! Chop, chop, chop. Do you really need that character? Do you really need to talk about that fact?  Short stories force you to take a step back and consider what’s vital to a plot. If it’s not pushing it forward or making it deeper, get rid of it.
  • Take the road less traveled. Go outside the box. Be creative! Ask yourself, “Is this different? Will it make me stand out?” Example: In round one of the Short Story Challenge 2014, I received these prompts: Suspense, wedding, chef. My first impulse? Write a story about a bride and groom who are trying to off each other, and in the end the bride poisons the groom with the help of the chef. I immediately tossed it out and forced myself to dig deeper and think beyond the obvious. And I’m glad I did. Most of my competitors wrote stories about poisoned food and vindictive brides and grooms. Mine, “Chasing Monsters,” as nothing of the sort. And–mostly–because of that, I landed myself a 2nd place finish.

Those are just a few things I’ve learned while participating in these challenges. To list all of them would take a decade. I will, however, point out some specific benefits of participating in an NYC Midnight Challenge.

The main one is their forum. NYC Midnight offers competitors a location to interact and share their stories with each other. And I love it! The forum helps you:

  • Overcome your fear of sharing your work with others.
  • Discover what you do well. Positive feedback is always nice to hear, right?
  • Learn to open yourself up to constructive criticism. If you’re planning to enter the Harsh Land of Publishing, you will need to know how to do this. Trust me.
  • Meet other writers! While doing these challenges, I have gained a lot of friends and colleagues. I’ve also found a few trustworthy beta readers to help me with my future work.

So, with all of that said, registration has officially opened for the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. I strongly–strongly–encourage you to consider entering it. Yes, it costs some money, and yes, the actual challenge is, well, a challenge. But I promise, if you go into it with the right attitude and participate on the forum, every penny and every stressful second will be worth it. Plus, the manuscript you’re working on now, or will be in the future, will thank you for doing this. I know the one I’m working on is thanking me (as are my beta readers–ha!).

20140618-CaptureIt-PictureOf course, the NYC Midnight writing challenges aren’t the only ones out there. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge, or aren’t in a position to spend the moola, then I still encourage you to look into a blog or website that hosts free weekly challenges. My favorite is Chuck Wendig’s, terribleminds.

 You have until July 17th to take advantage of the early entry fee. There’s also a Twitter discount, so be sure to use that to lower the cost even more.

Hope to see you all on the forum!

To learn more about the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014, click here!

 

21 thoughts on “Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014

      1. I explored the website some more. Wow! I think I’m going to wait until the short story competition next year. I’ll be taking an extra course load in the fall and I don’t want to do it halfheartedly. I signed up for their newsletter so I won’t forget!

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      2. Great plan! Both are very similar, but also very different. I’ll admit, I like Flash Fiction a little more only because if you bomb the first round, you still get to participate in the second round. In Short Story, each round is sudden death. If you don’t do well, you’re not moving on. Nonetheless, I LOVE both, so I’d recommend entering them.

        Good luck with school! Hope to see you on the forum in the spring during the Short Story Challenge!

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  1. Money is what is stopping me. But I would probably not do well anyway. I would likely get some type of illness attack and just bomb. Thank you for sharing this. I know lots of people will want to do it.

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    1. Yes, I know how the money side of it goes. I’ve officially made these challenges part of my “fun” budget. So, rather than going out for sushi or shopping, I put the money away for the registration fee…and I may or may not skip the grocery store a couple of times to get back on track, hee hee.

      I don’t think you’d do bad at all! Plus, part of the fun is the challenge of the unknown, and overcoming your fears and doubts.

      Hope you’re able to enter in the future!

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  2. What awesome timing! I just read about the flash fiction challenge last night and I scrolled up and down the page, read and re-read the information trying to make a decision. But I couldn’t. Your post is VERY convincing. But I just have a question for you. I started writing seriously and almost professionally not too long ago, though I’ve loved writing throughout my life. I LOVE short stories but I must add that this is a new-found love and I am only beginning to stretch my cramped up writing muscles here. Should I still go for it?? I have a long way to go but maybe this is a sign that I should challenge myself. Knowing there’s also a huge change I may fall flat on my face:). Or should I practice more and give it a shot in the later years? What would you recommend?

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    1. Do it! Do it, do it, do it!! 🙂

      This challenge is perfect for writers of all levels (from brand, spankin’ new, to published authors). Personally, I encourage newer writers to participate more than anyone. This is a great avenue to “practice” your storytelling skills, find out what you need to work on most, and learn from those who have a little more experience.

      And don’t worry about falling flat on your face! I do all the time and I most certainly will again. Really, if you go in with the mentality of learning rather than winning, you’ll do great. Just keep an open mind, be willing to listen and accept critiques, and have fun. That’s my attitude every time 🙂

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  3. Oh, wow, I’m so tempted! Flash fiction and short stories have been my addiction recently and this would be so great to enter into. Unsure if I’d be able to afford it though. It’s not that it doesn’t seem worth it, but that is the biggest entry fee I’ve ever seen! I guess I’ll have to think about it… by the way, I can’t find it on their site but do you know if people in other parts of the world are eligible? I saw that someone from London won one of the competitions, so I’m assuming yes?

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    1. Yes, it is on the pricier side. But if you enter early and use the Twitter discount, it knocks it down from $50 to $35. So, not TOO bad. I’ve also heard from other competitors that compared to other contests, this one is priced more than fair for what you get back (as long as you take full advantage of the forum).

      Yes! This is an international contest. No matter where you are in the world, you may enter. In fact, because of this contest, I now have friends in Australia and England 🙂

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  4. I came across this blog post scouring all things NYCM. I entered the Short Story Challenge and proceeded to make myself sick with worry. I’m an extreme newbie. Not to writing, but letting people read what I write. Anyway, glad I found this post, as it calmed my frayed nerves. I’ll now look at the contest as a learning experience, practice and stretching my comfort zone. These are parameters I can work in. So, thank you for the calming post. It was just what I needed today to forge ahead to the first round.

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