Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2016

It’s that time of the year again! Time to convince you to sign up for an NYC Midnight writing challenge.

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 I entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2013. Then, whoa! My entire attitude changed.

Before I began entering NYC Midnight (NYCM) writing challenges, I assumed my writing skills were at their best…Wrong! In just a handful of NYCM Flash Fiction and Short Story Challenges, my abilities grew exponentially. I’m actually embarrassed by what I considered to be my “best.” I won’t even let people look at my old work.

So, what has writing flash fiction and short stories taught me? Here are just a few things:

  • How to write a complete story. To make a story truly shine, all facets of it must be fully developed and balanced equally. Plot, characters, scenery, etc. If you miss or skimp on one, it stands out to readers.
  • Characters count. Characters carry a large portion of a story’s weight. Developing them so they’re as 3D and likable as possible is a must. Also, too many of them tend to be confusing and burdensome for a reader. So, you need to make sure each one counts.
  • Keep it simple! Chop, chop, chop. Do you really need that character? Do you really need to go into that background information? With their limited word count, 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, chop it out!
  • 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,” was nothing of the sort. And 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 NYCM writing challenge. The main one is their private forum. NYCM offers competitors a location to interact and share stories with each other. And I love it! The forum helps you:

  • Overcome the fear of sharing your work. I’ve been sharing my stories for years and I still get butterflies whenever I let others read them. However, sharing our work is a must if we want to learn and take our writing to the next level. Plus, if you dream of being published like me, then sharing is a basic requirement. So, why not get used to it and learn how to manage those pesky butterflies?
  • Discover what you do well. Not only does positive feedback give you a nice ego boost, but it also helps you understand your strengths. And understanding your strengths helps you understand who you are as a writer.
  • Discover what you don’t do well. Yeah, I know. Who wants to hear what they’re bad at? Unfortunately, opening yourself up to constructive criticism is a necessary evil if you want to become the best writer you can be. Plus, if you’re planning to enter the Harsh Land of Publishing, then you will need to learn how to handle constructive criticism. And the forum is a great place for that. It’s safe, inviting, and supportive!
  • Learn by critiquing other stories. You wouldn’t believe how much you can learn by reading and critiquing other people’s work. When you (tactfully) explain to someone what you liked or didn’t like about their story, you will naturally apply those observations to your own work.
  • Meet other writers! While doing these challenges, I’ve gained a lot of amazing friends, writing pals, and trustworthy beta readers. So, believe me when I say, the forum is an excellent place to connect with other writers and find the moral and professional support you need to succeed.

One of my personal favorite things about the NYCM challenges is the discovery of new ideas. I have now participated in thirteen rounds, which means I’ve written thirteen stories I would never have written otherwise. And from those thirteen, I have bigger plans for at least eight of them. Three I’d like to polish up and send to publishers. One I’d like to adapt and expand into a screenplay. And, four I’d like to expand into novels. In fact, the manuscript I’m working on now is an expansion of my second round story from the last Short Story Challenge. So, if nothing else appeals to you, think of this as an amazing way to increase your idea inventory!

Anyway, with all of that said, registration has officially opened for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2016. 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 stressful second will be worth it.

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.45.29 AMOf course, the NYCM 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 December 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. Final deadline is January 21st.

Hope to see you all on the forum!

For those of you who’d like to understand the differences between NYCM’s Flash Fiction Challenge and Short Story Challenge, click here!

To learn more about the NYCM Short Story Challenge 2016, click here!

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13 thoughts on “Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2016

  1. I joined NYCM’s Short Story Challenge! I’m thrillified (both thrilled and terrified). And you are 1000% right about the benefits of joining in writing challenges and getting feedback from fellow writers. This year was my second year submitting to NYCM’s Flash Fiction Challenge, but my first year using the forum. What a wealth of experience I’d missed in not sharing my work with others! The critiques helped me focus on the task at hand: writing concisely and with impact.

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    1. Thrillified…hee hee. Have you ever seen the musical, Wicked? They have words like that in the show. So awesome.

      I wouldn’t do this contest if it wasn’t for the forum. The forum is invaluable! I’ve learned so much and met so many amazing writers. I’m happy you decided to hop on it during FFC and give it a try. I’m also excited to see you signed up for SSC! It’ll be a blast.

      Good luck with FFC results tonight!

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      1. Yes, Wicked is a wonderful musical! I was lucky enough to see it on Broadway in 2004 with the original cast. Simply amazing!
        Yes, the forum is *the best* and I’m very much looking forward to the SSC! See you there! 🙂

        Like

      2. Lucky! I’ve seen Wicked more times than I’d care to admit, haha. I just saw Idina Menzel on stage in the production of If/Then. So amazing! She’s so talented.

        Yay! I’m glad you’ll be joining in SSC. I’ll see you on the forum in a couple of months.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree with everything you said. I have learned heaps doing the challenges, and tho I haven’t made it very far in any of the challenges, I still am super happy I did them. I’m still debating on doing SSC tho. This year my Ssc story rated well but not well enough to place. And I’m still a little sore that a story I loathed in my group got in the top 5 but mine didn’t place. But I’ll probably push through all of that and sign up again because of you guys. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You hope you return for SSC! We’ve all had those bitter experiences like you. I’ll never forget during my first FFC, my rom-com got a zero, while someone else (whose story had no rom and no com) got 11 points. GRRR! But, I let it go and came back again and again. I haven’t regretted it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I try to keep in mind that we’re talking about an art here and preferences are subjective when it comes to what one likes and dislikes. I’ve gotten positive feedback from one judge and negative from another in regard to the same point. There are award-winning and top-selling authors I can’t abide. There are classics that make me question how they ever got published. Friends will recommend a book to me in glowing terms that I find to be ‘hack’ material.

        Case in point is my Round #2 win. Despite a lot of ‘this wasn’t clear’ and ‘does this really fit the Horror genre?’ feedback, it won first place. For whatever reason, it pushed all the right buttons. It’s unpredictable what is going to appeal to any one person at any given time. We should write because we love the craft and want to hone it whenever possible. If other people ‘get’ it and are positive about it, but the judges aren’t – *shrug* – we still benefited.

        And those were my unsolicited two cents! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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