24-Hour Short Story Contest

One of my biggest takeaways from my current writing class is that patience is a virtue. If your mojo is on the rise, you can fly like the wind during the actual story-writing process. But then comes the patience part.

I’m learning to “incubate” stories. Instead of editing and revising right away, I let my work sit for a few days. I can think about my story, but cannot look at it during that time period. Then I go back and look at it through fresh eyes. Sometimes, I do this two or three times.

I’m learning to send a story to a friendly but honest critic or two and give them time to read, mull it over and give me feedback before I try to ship the tale off into the world.

I’m learning to attack my stories with a machete. I’m mastering the art of recognizing whether words are contributing to a tale or just there to over-describe something I failed to tell well enough. This can take more time for me than incubating and getting critiques.

Next weekend, I’m throwing that all away, or at least condensing it  into a 24-hour-window, to participate in this:  Writer’s Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Contest.

I must be a wacknut. Or maybe not.

I always think carefully before entering writing contests. My criteria for whether or not a contest is entry-worthy is this:

– Unless I have an existing unpublished piece that fits the contest theme or feel that I will “win” in terms of a good writing experience even if I don’t place in the contest itself, I leave it alone.

– Given the long shots for winning in these things, if I do write “for” a contest I need to feel it is an opportunity to create something I can try to publish elsewhere. I consider it lighting a fire under my writer’s butt.

For this particular contest, I couldn’t say for sure that this will be the case. Since the whole point is that you have 24 hours to deliver your finished product, I won’t know what I’m writing until hour 1 of that period. It is hard to evaluate what an experience will teach teach you when you have no clue what it will be.  

But in this case, I felt like it was worth a shot anyway. First of all, it just sounded like fun.

More importantly, I’ve been flexing my “patience” muscles so much that my “speed” muscles are a little rusty. This is a chance to give them a workout. 

I’ve never speed-written fiction. I’ve turned work around on deadlines all my life, first as a procrastinating college student and newspaper editor and later as an occasional freelancer. But I was always feeding the deadline monster essays, articles or web content – never fiction.

I’m excited to see what I’ll do with a story when I don’t have a lot of time to mull it over, plot it, re-plot it, obsess over it, write it, trash half of it, and write it again.

Have you ever done anything like this in your writing ventures? If so, what was it like? If not, would you?


About hawleywood40

Writer, Steelers Fan in Baltimore, Frequent Visitor to the Shot Fairy
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4 Responses to 24-Hour Short Story Contest

  1. Frank Cote says:

    I’m learning to “incubate” stories. Instead of editing and revising right away, I let my work sit for a few days. I can think about my story, but cannot look at it during that time period. Then I go back and look at it through fresh eyes. Sometimes, I do this two or three times.

    I do this all the time while I “procrastinate”. It it doesn’t always work. On my last story, it lead to many many re-writes (the final one was good, in my opinion but still…)

    When it does work however, it’s so worth it! Sometimes it really pays to mull things over.

    That said, I’m making it a goal this year to work better with deadlines.

  2. indyink says:

    First off, I’m sitting at home on Friday night recovering from oral surgery and I just read not only one of your blogs, but several pages of your blogs. You are so friggin interesting.

    As a writer, I’ve done something similar to this… the 48-Hour Film Project. It was my first foray into screenwriting, and oh, how glorious it was. You basically have 48 hours to write, score, cast, shoot, edit, and submit a 7-minute film (you draw your genre out of a hat) with your team. Then your movie premiers at a festival–and if it wins, at a bigger film festival. To date, I’ve won 5 awards for these films and my writing has grown exponentially.

    Baltimore has a 48 Hr FP, by the way, and filmmakers always need clever wordsmiths to help write their scripts. The experience is fabulous and totally worth it. Peace and blessings.


    • hawleywood40 says:

      Wow – that sounds like a serious (but seriously fun!) challenge! I’ve never done any scriptwriting, but would love to try sometime. Peace and blessings to you too – I hope you are quickly recovering from your surgery!

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