I just finished Round 2 of the Flash Fiction contest. So far I’ve had anywhere from 20 to 30 stories in each of my favorite three genres: Historical Fiction, Drama, and Romance. The catch is that NYC Midnight assigns a location where the story must take place and an object that has to be mentioned. The story also has to fit the rules of the assigned genre.
How hard could it be, right? Well, some people have trouble following the guidelines. I’ve read Historical Fiction that talked about current events. I’ve read Romance where there was no romance. And there were numerous stories that failed to take place at the designated location or failed to mention the assigned object. If the genre, location, or object assignment were neglected, the story could be disqualified. And points are taken off for grammar and spelling mistakes.
Did the authors in question edit their stories? I wonder.
It was hard for me to penalize people who didn’t follow the rules. And there are vast gray areas when it comes to the genres. But it’s not just about the rules. It’s about giving the reader something worthwhile. Something wonderful.
A good story needs a good storyline, strong characters, and great description. If you’re writing Historical Fiction, make sure you include the details of your chosen era. What year is it? Where does the story take place? What’s significant about that location, that culture, that area of the world? How did life differ then? How does your character fit in or not? If you’re writing Romance, don’t just tell us that two people fall in love. Show us. Do they fight or are they best friends? Are they attracted to each other? How? Do they enjoy each other’s company? Why or why not? What do they notice about each other? What makes being together fun, exciting, romantic?
All of this applies outside of the contest world as well. Whatever you write, you won’t please everyone. My favorite stories likely are not favorites of other judges. Writing and judging are certainly subjective. I love poetic phrasing and gorgeous descriptions, but I’m also impressed with clever plotting and unique characters.
We all have different perspectives about the world, and those opinions and points of view come across in our writing. Your point of view makes you who you are. No one else will choose the words you do, or string phrases together as you do, or develop characters with your unique quirks. Be proud of that.
It’s thrilling to read a good story, that special combination of events and characters and emotions that moves me and makes me sigh or laugh or cry. Good writing is a gift. Some authors come by that gift naturally. Others have to work hard at it. Whichever is true for you, keep at it. Don’t give up. Just make sure you edit what you write.
And maybe one day I’ll read your story in a contest I’m judging.