It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year since I started entering flash fiction competitions but I’ve learned a lot in that year: the most important lesson I think is to trust your instincts and don’t get too hung up on the judging: focus on the story.
Sure, winning is great (and addictive) and while you should write with your audience in mind, I’ve learned that for me, my best stories are those that fill me with joy and make me chuckle.
There is no magic to writing a story that wins, at least none that I’ve been able to figure out. It’s a combination of good writing, hitting the right chord with the judge and being consistent.
I have written some stories that I felt were beautiful, that never placed, were never even commented on and I felt let down. Then again I’ve written some that were just quirky bits of fluffy humor that have done very well. More often than not, it’s the stories that make me giddy that do well in competition but not always.
My voice, my style… my personality is about laughter and maybe a hint of mischief. I love to do the unexpected and while I tend to skim over physical descriptions, I am all about personality: mine, and my characters.
My personality comes across in the voice of the story, my style: my way of looking at things and writing about them are what make the stories mine. This could be my greatest weakness, but it also my greatest strength.
The problem is, when someone judges a story a lot of it is a matter of opinion: what gives the judge joy; what sticks with them and haunts them… or makes them giddy.
While the mechanics of writing are universal, and the rules about breaking them, and when to break them are a matter of style, not all styles are for all people, especially judges. So you shore up your mechanics and make sure you have a good structure behind your words, but after that– it is a matter of opinion.
Remember that even the greatest comedians fall short sometimes, every actor has that role they wish they could forget and every writer, no matter how good, has stories that just… didn’t cut it.
Remember: it doesn’t stop there.
Every story you write is you putting your heart and soul to paper, and sometimes you don’t win, not because your story wasn’t amazing, but because someone else’s story hit the right chord; some other writer hit their stride that week or the judge just didn’t fit your style.
There is no easy formula, there is no right or wrong. It’s a matter of style against a matter of opinion.
That is why I say: write what you love; believe in it and make it the best you feel you can do. If you don’t like it… no one else will.
I have learned that it is better to fall flat on your face with enthusiasm than to slip into a room and remain hidden until the perfect moment arrives. This may work for some people but it’s never worked for me: it’s just not my style and if the perfect moment ever arrived, I’d probably trip over the curtain anyway.
Win, lose or draw it isn’t personal, or if it is: you’re in the wrong place.
Art is a matter of opinion and winning a competition doesn’t make your writing better: challenging yourself does.
Until next time.
When I first started writing flash fiction, I lucked into a good writing community and an excellent weekly challenge at FlashFriday. One of the more important aspects of this writing challenge is the community of writers I have had the pleasure of meeting.
The sheer number of stories and ideas that can be generated by one picture is amazing, and the fact that people come back week after week with new tales is awe inspiring. The tales are free, all they ask in return is an audience, and maybe a comment or two.
Find a community where you belong, a group that challenges you, dares you to be your best. This is what will make you a better writer.