Last night the results for my first 250-word microfiction competition came out. (Read more about that submission here). I got 2nd place! That's out of approximately 50 writers in my group. For those keeping track, this is my third competition result and the first one that I feel really proud of.
So, 13th place sucks and 2nd place is good. What did I do differently?
First off, the genre and the prompts have a big effect. My first competition was Comedy (which I've realized I kind of like as a genre), but I was really not familiar with the flash fiction format. I think the concept there was decent, but the execution was poor.
My second prompt was Drama, which I... hate? I spent a full 24 hours just trying to figure out what drama means in a literary context. Highly reliant on internal character development. In hindsight, for my story here I didn't have compelling characters, and while I loved the character evolution through the story I didn't spell it out clearly enough to really hit the drama chord.
The first two were also 1000 word competitions while the third was a 250 word competition. I think one of the problems I've got with the longer format is that I'm relatively weak from a plotting perspective. I love writing by the seat of my pants and with 1000 words I get too stuck in my own head about an arc or a plot that is generic.
At 250 words I realize that all plots are generic, I just have to execute it well.
The third prompt though was Horror. Apparently I really like horror. At the time I was reading a lot of Junjie Ito, and I think I've got a (small) gift for finding those banal moments of spine-chilling fear hiding in our every day life.
Also, with the third competition I was okay going offroad for experience. It was written in second person, and leans on the kinds of rich, short descriptions I'm getting decent at. I didn't start with a plot, I didn't start with characters, I started with a feeling, and for horror, maybe that's perfect.
So, these were the key realizations around my third competition: - Genre matters
- Write for experience
- Follow my instincts especially if they lead me somewhere weird
Fourth competition is back to Comedy, I'll write something about that shortly, and then I've got the short story competition coming up in January :)