NYC Midnight: a writing competition you’ve (almost) no chance of winning… so why bother?

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NYC Midnight 2020

I love ‘NYC Midnight’ and I’ll tell you why… 

The anticipation just before your category is released feels like preparing to go on a blind date, that’s going to last ALL weekend. Yikes! When they announce your challenge, it could be everything you hoped for and more – an all-consuming love affair with your favourite genre, where your charming words and wit or eerie, evocative prose will flow effortlessly. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll knock this flash fiction or short story out of the park!

Or…

Perhaps you’ll struggle to hide your disappointment, faced with a genre that doesn’t float your boat or obscure prompts that have you scratching your head. With your fountain of ideas initially running dry, you’ll desperately try to find some kind of spark, as it becomes clear this weekend will be a black hole that swallows you up. Goodbye family and friends! No fake phone call about your best buddy’s gall bladder emergency is going to rescue you from this writing date. You just have to sit down and thrash the damn thing out.

Either way, I promise it’s actually brilliant fun. 

The NYC Flash Fiction competition involves writing 1,000 words over a weekend, and the Short Story Challenge (about to begin) has a similar structure, with 4 heats in all. This is a competition where you sign up, along with roughly 5,000 other creative types around the world, and you’re placed randomly in heats.

The Annual Short Story Challenge begins this Friday at 11.59pm EST, (entry deadline Jan 16th). Writers will await the release of 3 things: a genre, a subject and a character assignment. There will be 8 days to write up to 2,500 words. Judges will choose a top 5 in each heat to advance to the next round, where writers will have 3 days to write 2,000 words and so on, with the time allowance and word limits reduced each round. With so many great writers taking part internationally, both seasoned and novice, the hard truth is even really high-scoring stories don’t guarantee their writers a place in the next round.

So why bother?  

You’re given personalised feedback from a few judges after every story you submit. It takes a while to come through, admittedly, but it’s useful if you want to make progress.

While you wait for their comments and to find out how many (if any) points you scored in your heat, you can embrace the review forum chats. Participants can post their efforts for review from fellow writers after submitting. The stories people come up with are so often fantastic! Some inspired me to work harder, practice my craft; some moved me, while others were a little rough around the edges, but showing great promise. It’s a learning curve for all of us taking part. If you love stories, there’s a great community of writers on hand and it’s up to you whether you’re comfortable posting your new piece up for all in the competition to see and comment on. Most people do – it’s good to get encouragement from your fellow writers and learn to take that constructive criticism on the chin! 

Stepping outside your comfort zone is challenging and refreshing. I never would have written about the things I did otherwise… Flash fiction 1: a crime caper, in a library, with a sprinkler. Flash fiction 2: a comedy, in a hall of fame, with a projector. 

There are cash and other prizes available for those who do make it to the final 10, but I’m in it to have fun and hone my skills. Besides, how often do you find something exhilarating these days?!

I wonder what the Short Story rounds will have lined up for me this month. Horror? Mystery? Sci-Fi? If you’re a budding writer, I hope to see your piece in the review forum! 

Let me know if you have any great tips for crafting a short story, or if there’s one you’ve read and especially loved!

Maybe you’ve had a short story published and you’d like to tell me about it in the comments!