Once Again, Only GOOD this Time


One Competition Finishes…

So SlingInk’s Eurofiction is over. Actually for me it’s been over for more than a week but I finally got the final scores. For those that don’t know Eurofiction is SlingInk’s annual short story competition. 10 rounds over 20 weeks with the scoring following a ‘Eurovision’ model (top story gets 12, next two get 10, next two 9 and so on).

My goals for Eurofiction were simple:

  1. Finish it i.e. hand in a story for each round (I only managed two rounds of the Whitaker 2008)
  2. Write a new story each round

Well I finished and did complete each round. I wrote 9 new stories and only re-worked an old for one round because of a last minute work thing that meant I didn’t have as much time as I’d hoped. Once I realised what the scoring system was and that there were 32 entrants I added an extra goal:

  1. score in each round

I did score in each round though by round 6 all that required was that I kept entering due to the number of people no longer submitting. I didn’t win a round but I scored 10 twice. My lowest score was 2 (in round 2).

Lessons Learnt

What did I learn from SlingInk?

  1. That I am capable of not only finishing stories but doing so regularly
  2. That deadlines are great – they motivate you to finish stuff
  3. that deadlines are evil – they stress you out and cause you to hand in any old crap
  4. that what I like and what scores highly aren’t necessarily the same thing. My favourite stories of mine scored 2 and 6. My least favourite scored 10.

So Let’s Do It Again

In about 30 minutes[1] Whittaker 2009 starts and I’m entered. This is the short story competition of The Write Idea forum. I entered last year but dropped out due to lack of persistence. However buoyed by my success – in terms of finishing – in Eurofiction I’m going into this quietly excited. Plus I like the fact that I’ll be back on the deadline treadmill again. Like as in also hate it that is.

Whittaker’s similar to Eurofiction but there are a few differences:

  • Only 9 rounds
  • There’s a 2500 word limit – Eurofiction has no limit and in 2 of my entries I went over 2500.
  • The scoring is based on a 100-point system with so many for character, plot etc. I prefer this as I can see where I’m doing well. (though Eurofiction did have very helpful constructive feedback)
  • The scoring is based on the story itself not relative to the others. In theory all entrants could score exactly the same.
  • The prompts in Whittaker tend to be a bit more cryptic – but they are there more for inspiration than anything.

New Competition, New Goals

My goals for Whittaker 2009 look a lot like my ones for Eurofiction:

  1. Finish – enter each round
  2. Write new stories for each round
  3. Make the quality higher – write stuff you’re actually proud of.
  4. Win a round

Those last two are obviously linked. The incentive to win is that the winners get published in an anthology and whilst its the kind of thing largely bought by the writers and their friends and family, last year’s was really well put together.

But aside from winning I really want to make this about writing better. The great thing about the deadlines was it made me finish stuff on a schedule. The bad thing was that by the end of the competition I’d get to a deadline and all I cared about was having something to hand in. If this is to be about learning to write then I want these stories to be better.

How To Write Good

How am I going to achieve that? Simple really. My new rule is that I won’t allow myself to hand in a first draft. I sort of had this last time but in the end I was polishing the first draft, mainly for typos and spelling and calling it a second draft and entering that. This time I really won’t hand in draft one because the rule is I have to write draft two from scratch.

I did this with a couple of my first stories. I wrote an entire first draft then started again with a blank document. It works because you already know something about how the story should go. Any good bits, any really nice bits of writing, snappy dialogue or effective description you’ll remember anyway. Plus it allows you to just write without worrying about where it’s going because you already sort of know. Not that I’ll not re-configure the plot if that seems like a good idea.

I’m going to try to make “first week = first draft” my motto too – but I know the power/curse of deadlines – everything gets done, but it gets done last minute. We’ll see.

[1]or probably already has by the time I finished writing and formatting this post.[2]

[2]yep it has!

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About shuggie

My name is Shuggie, Paul or LatePaul depending on where you know me from. I work in computers (databases) and occasionally write about softw
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