A Writing Challenge

by K. Kris Loomis in Writing

One of my writing goals this year, apart from publishing a book about Ecuador and starting a novel, is to enter at least three writing contests a month. Whew. So far, so good! Of course, it is only February.

I found three really cool contests in January and got my manuscripts to each of them ahead of schedule. Then, on January 31st, I started researching open contests for February. YIKES! The deadline for one of the ones I was really interested in was February 1st. THE NEXT DAY!

Now, unless you actively enter writing competitions you may not realize that 99% of these contests require you submit unpublished material. That means every time you enter you have to write something new, which is fine when you find a contest weeks or months in advance. But to come up with something fresh for the following day?

Some contests require you write about a certain theme or for an audience in a particular genre. Pretty much all of them have a word count limit. For example, the first contest I entered in January required the writer to include some type of food or drink as a major part of the story and it couldn’t exceed 5,000 words. I had fun writing a story about a mother and daughter coming to terms with unexpected life events while baking a cake.

One of the reasons I was attracted to the February 1st competition was the writing prompt. The story had to be speculative fiction, include at least one philosophical element in the story, and be between 1,000 and 7,000 words. I have not written speculative fiction before, but I was really enticed by the whole philosophy requirement. Was I up to the challenge?

Yes!

After all, what was the worst that could happen? If I didn’t finish in time I would still have the start to a story I could finish and use for a future contest. Plus, I had three things going in my favor.

I am Consistent

I have been writing consistently since I decided to pursue writing professionally almost a year ago.

Luckily, I have found that the more I write, the more I stay tapped into that part of my creative expression. I essentially keep a toe in the writing pond at all times, which means I can quickly dip in further whenever I need to fish for new ideas and words.

I Know What to Expect

When I first started writing, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t know how long it would take me to write things or how I would effectively organize my thoughts.  Now I have a system of organizing my workflow that allows me to produce consistent results.

For example, I have ‘idea’ folders for different writing situations (blog, short stories, nonfiction, etc.). I know how long it will take me to write, say 1,000 words, so I can plan my time around how many words I need for any project. And I know how to choose a form for different projects and how to use an outline to keep me focused.

I Follow Directions

This is such a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people just don’t follow directions. I have heard many writers bemoan that their manuscript was rejected because they went over the word count or they didn’t submit the entry in the specified format.

When I find a competition I am interested in, I find the requirements section, I read it about twenty times, and then I DO WHAT IT SAYS. Seriously, you could be the next Hemingway, but if they say your story can be no more than 1,500 words and yours is 1,501 it will be disqualified. Simple as that.

So, I set out to write a short story for submission in less than 24 hours. I wrote the first draft the evening of January 31st, did edits to the story the morning of February 1st, and got my entry in with eight hours to spare. Yay!

I had a lot of fun playing with Ian and the dwarf on the planet Trine, and I wish I could share the story with you, but it’s against the rules until the contest is over.

February writing contest challenge: one down, two to go!


 

K. Kris Loomis is the author of the humorous travel memoir, Thirty Days In Quito: Two Gringos and a Three-Legged Cat Move to Ecuador. She also writes adult parables and short stories as well as books about yoga and meditation. Kris is a determined chess player, an origami enthusiast, a classically trained pianist, and a playwright. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats.

Get a free short story by signing up for Kris’ bi-weekly blog! And you can connect with Kris anytime on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest @kkrisloomis.

 

 

 

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6 Responses to “A Writing Challenge”

  1. Kris, this is a really motivating post for me to read right now. For a variety of reasons, my writing time has spiraled downward, and I am really struggling for motivation. I have so many ideas in my head, but when I sit down to write, it is “blank screen syndrome.” Your explanation for your ability to meet such tight deadlines (consistency, consistency!) is really helpful (and hopefully, just the kick in the pants I need!).

    • Hey, Wendy! Thanks for reading! And I can tell you, we ALL need a good kick in the pants sometimes. I, personally, have a tough time writing in a vacuum which is why, at least for now, entering contests is really good for my motivation and productivity. It’s nice to know that SOMEONE is going to read what you write, even if it’s a judge who ultimately rejects your work 🙂

  2. Vahn says:

    Hello Kris,
    I’m very impressed by how you jumped into the Feb challenge with a 1 day deadline 🙂
    It is true that sometimes, when we’ve learned to know ourselves, we are capable of amazing things. Ain’t no mountain high enough!
    And what I’ll take with me from your story is: even if you don’t finish your goal, better set a higher goal and start a great project than to say “I’ll never be able to do it”.

  3. Nancy G Villalobos says:

    Hi Kris,
    This is an inspiring post. I have never written fiction so I am going to investigate non-fiction contests. On the other hand, maybe you will inspire me to try my hand at fiction…

    • Thanks for reading, Nancy! There are lots of nonfiction contests out there, so if that’s your realm then there is plenty for you to investigate. Happy writing 🙂

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