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Six Reasons Why Entering Contests Pays off

commentary by Gay Degani, Editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles

Most writers hanging out on the internet know about flash fiction, that pesky stepchild that’s dug in its heels and demanded equal consideration as a viable genre of literature.

Most writers are also aware of the multitude of contests springing up at flash fiction sites, but these writers just might wonder why bother?

As the editor of Flash Fiction Chronicles, sponsor of the String-of-10 Micro-fiction Contest from February 6 through February 12, 2011, let me count the whys.

1. Deadlines!

Even if you’re an established, multi-published writer, it’s sometimes hard to get the juices flowing without a set deadline.  The rest of us have only ourselves to initiate that spark. Deciding to enter a contest can jolt a writer into action.

2. Publication Credit and (occasionally) Moola!

Not all contests offer prize money for the winner(s), but most of them offer publication. Publication means the opportunity to win new readers and growing a group of fans is on most writers’ career to-do list. Of course, when someone wants to hand a winner a check, no one’s going to argue.

3. Discipline in the Craft!

Contests often have word count limits. This offers writers a chance to test their writing chops. Working within a specific word cap forces writers to look hard at their work. Every word needs to serve a purpose when quantity is limited. Precise and specific language is a priority. What writer doesn’t benefit from practicing this discipline?

4. Originality in the Art!

To be a contest winner, a writer must be original. Many contests have specific prompts as part of their guidelines. Prompts often take writers in directions that would otherwise never occur to them and when specific words are used in a prompt, writers can discover new ways to use language.

5. Practice Trains Brain Muscle!!

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell states, “Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing that makes you good.” Contests offer writers a way to practice. Flash fiction contests are especially useful for this task because of the brevity of the work. A writer can enter several contests, one right after another, and the experience of each endeavor will serve the one that follows, building brain muscles in much the same way as crunches builds six-pack abs.

6. Easier to Question the Text!

And because each entry is shorter in a flash fiction contest, writers can take the time to ask questions about each story they write, subject the work to careful scrutiny, analyze each story. Has the reader been given enough character depth for the situation? What makes this story compelling? Does the story show a shift in emotions? Is the language fulfilling the needs of the story or does the language just serve itself? Does the story use specific details? Writers need to ask these kinds of questions in order to discover what they do well and what they do not do well.

In other words, it is my firm belief that short fiction contests help writers become BETTER writers.

With all that said, I’d like to invite you to enter the Third String-of-10 Contest to be judged by writer, Michele Reale.  Entries will be accepted February 6 through February 12, 2011. This contest is fee-free. Check the Flash Fiction Chronicles Guidelines for more information.

We look forward to reading your work.

Copyright February 2011 by Gay Degani

Gay Degani lives in southern California. Her stories can be read at: MetazenLITnIMAGENight Train, here at 10Flash and Emprise Review, among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart award.  She edits Every Day Fiction’s Flash Fiction Chronicles, blogs at Words in Place and works as a staff editor at SmokeLong Quarterly.

3 Responses

  1. […] of Flash Fiction Chronicles, elucidates the reasons why a writer should enter writing contests at Six Reasons Why Entering Contests Pays Off.  Sandra Odell is with us, too, with the first of a two-part review of SF podcasts — Do You […]

  2. String of Ten = a great competition. Thanks for the reminder(s), Gay.

  3. Good article, Gay

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