Why writing contests can improve your skills.

NYCMidnightI joined the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction contest in 2016 with the hopes of rejuvenating my writing and getting myself back into a regular schedule of creation. The cost for the contest, a whopping $55, was enough to force me to participate, if only to account for the money spent. If you’re not familiar with the contest, I recommend you check it out at nycmidnight.com. They run four contests each year – short story, screenwriting, flash fiction and short screenplay. Each contestant is given a prompt at midnight on Friday (EST) and has 48 hours to create and submit their creation. Approximately 3,000 people participate and this is broken down into groups of around 30 people. Each group will receive a different prompt that must be used within the story. Points are given to the best stories in rounds 1 and 2. Whoever has the most points, will go on to round 3 and then the final round where you can win up to $3,500!

My requirements for Round 1 were Action/Adventure, igloo and lipstick. I created a story and submitted it on time, but that wasn’t the amazing part of the experience. On the NYC Midnight website, they have a forum where you can elect to post your story after the contest is over. People can read through your work and provide feedback about the writing. This was incredible! The only feedback I’d had in the past was, “this is good” or “I like it”. We all know how unhelpful that can be. In the forum, writers would tell me specifically what they liked or disliked about the piece. They would offer suggestions for improvement and even identify areas of confusion.

I know that it’s scary to share your work if you’ve never done it before. It leaves you feeling vulnerable and defensive. Tear down those walls and let your work be scrutinized, examined and possibly enjoyed. You won’t improve as a writer if your feedback is always roses and sunshine. Entering contests and exposing your work to the world is an experience I recommend for any aspiring writer.

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