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Can I Get a Testimony!

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stephenmatlock View Drop Down
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    Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 5:45pm
So in the spirit of "what is this forum, and who are these crazy people called 'writers,' anyway?", I'm asking all of us to talk about what participating in these forums and these contests means to them.

For me, being here and submitting my work to the NYCM gods/judges has been something that has pushed me forward as a writer. I started my first contest in 2013, the Flash Fiction Contest. I had no idea what was required, and my first story was more than 4000 words long. (I mistook the 1000 word limit as the floor, not the ceiling.) A few hours of hasty cutting after I realized what I did got me down below 1000 words. I submitted it--and along with my next story, I had enough points to advance to the next round!

That was exciting! I've had some good scores since then, I've bombed, and I've tried new types of writing--screenwriting is something I never did before, but now I find it wonderfully challenging.

As far as success goes, well, I've had some stories published, and I've had two of my radio plays performed. I'm probably not going to make a living as a writer, but I know better how to turn out a story.

But most importantly, I think that I'm a better writer. My first efforts were written in a plausible, acceptable style. They were stories. You could read them. They "worked."

As I continued to write, however, my style changed. I deepened my work. I challenged myself to dive more into the characters as people. I worked hard, damned hard, to make their world come alive.

The desire to write better stories about the people in my stories has led me to take classes in seeing--and writing--the other. It has led to many fruitful relationships and opened me up to experiences--and histories--that I never would have entertained for a moment.

Not every story is a home run. In some, I strike out. Some are just a bloop single. Some make it to second base. But I'm satisfied that I know better how to write a compelling story. Sure, these are just first drafts, but I feel like I am turning out good work where language and style and vocabulary and plot and character work together to create a world that you can inhabit as long as you're reading.

That's what I'm here for. That creative spark.

So, what has this forum and these contests done for you? Let the people hear your testimony!
Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. ~ James Baldwin

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote chrissie0707 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 6:38pm
Last time I piped up in a thread like this, I was dismantled for my writing past. But I have a feeling that won't happen this time around.

I was an artist first, before my creativity switched on me in college, or, while taking a break for a semester sophomore year. This is when I accidentally discovered fanfiction was a thing, and it seemed like the perfect way to try my hand at the writing thing. I've been an active fanfiction writer with a decent following for about 13 years now. No ships, no alternate universes, no squicky indulgences - just stories that are as canon and true to the characters and storylines provided as I can while learning who I am as a writer. Since I was 21, I've written nine novel-length fics, and roughly 150 shorter pieces. Of course, those are posted to more of the "loved it!" feedback that is a great ego-stroke, but never really helped to improve. It was just practice.

I saw an ad for SSC last winter, and entered on a whim. Sort of a "well, if I'm serious about being a writer, I better start seeing what I can do with some original work." See if I can DO THIS. And I did pretty well, first place in round one, third in round two, and made it to the finals. So then I was addicted, and hopped into the FFC the first day I could sign up. Finished fourth, then first, and finally ousted with a HM in the third round this year. Now I'm feeling pretty good about my writing, AND I have SEVEN original short stories that I didn't have a year ago, all with PAGES of good feedback from this forum. Just struggling to collect the nerve to work toward trying to get some things published.

This has been a wonderful community and experience, and I feel like I've already grown so much as a writer over the past 14ish months. The confidence gained through these comps and the FEEDBACK from this forum also helped me pound out a ROUGH first draft for the first book of my planned three-book fantasy series during NaNoWriMo in November.

EDIT: I came back today to add - for every round of comp here, I have written for ME. I've read some debate in the forum, about whether you should write for you, or write to impress the judges. I vote write for you. It's served me well so far. And I can stand behind everything I've written.



Edited by chrissie0707 - 07 Feb 2019 at 10:59pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote nod1v1ng Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 6:49pm
Once upon a time, I hadn’t done any creative writing since high school. A few years ago I suddenly found myself pushing 40 & struggling through the aftermath of an ugly divorce. And so the angry divorced lady blog was formed. Therapy, I say. It garnered a good handful of readers- not because the writing was any good but because, sheltered by the illusion of anonymity, I didn’t pull any punches. 

A reader suggested I try the FF comp & I thought, what the heck, could be fun. I was also in that very liberated post-divorce stage where I was willing to try lots of things. 15 years in a controlling relationship & I was trying to figure out who I was. 

My first assignment was a ghost story (surprise!) which I had no idea how to write. But I submitted, no beta readers—didn’t even know what they were. Somehow ended up in the top of my group. Second challenge, third. 

Drunk on my success, I submitted my 2nd round story to The NYer. (This is where you pat me on the head & say, aw cute). It was a lesson in humility. But it did make me look at some of the forum feedback with a more critical eye.  I realized how valuable it was, even when it stung the ego. I was pretty much hooked. 

The forums led me to a writing group that I value beyond measure. I feel like in the past three years I have grown exponentially as a writer. Last year I started submitting work in earnest, and published 14 shorts. Made enough cash to take myself on a nice vacation. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without the lessons I’ve learned from forumites & the support of the writing group I would have never met if I hadn’t joined NYCm. Not to mention gaining friendships with some cool, likeminded folk. 

All that keeps me pretty loyal to the comps. But also I respond well to prompts & deadlines. And it’s pretty much the cheapest writing workshop on the interwebs. It’s also exciting to me to see others grow as well and to have access to writing of some individuals I really admire. 

Testify! 



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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote thesaura73 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 7:09pm
I was just tempted to see if anyone else thought I was OK at writing, and it seems some people agree! I really enjoy the feedback and as a procrastinator enjoy the deadline and trying to come up a story out of three random prompts (though I don't always do well). It's made me finally think about "really" writing and I'm now putting things on my to-do list I wouldn't have done a year ago (website, blog, headshot, other contests, three novels, maybe brushing off some old screenplays).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Suave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 7:44pm
I have always been in love with reading, and from an early age decided that one day I was going to write a book and be rich - little did I know.  A brain injury has hampered my abilities, but I am not a quitter and get a lot of satisfaction from my stories - at least until I do a reread some weeks down the road, and every few weeks after that.  I have written all my life, took long periods of not writing, kept scribblers of ideas.  Then a friend turned me onto this contest!  Have not been the same since!  The challenge draws me back each time, and the chance that maybe this time I will get it right and advance, not win, just advance.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Random Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 8:02pm
I started reading when I was three years old.  In Mrs. Shupe's second grade at Deephaven Elementary in Wyzata, MN, she'd send me to the library to pick out a book I liked, so while everyone else stumbled over Jack and Jill I was reading The History of Art.

Then we moved to Iowa, and everything went south.  You really don't want to know, but books were my only escape, and I'd read two or three a day.  I was fifteen when I escaped, but the damage was done and I barely graduated high school.

I never took a class in writing, ever, so anything I know about it is purely from reading (and it shows).  In 2002 or 2003 I attended Robert McKee's "Story" Seminar, though.  Met Faye Dunaway there.  Interesting woman.

This is the only writing 'class' I've ever taken.  There are two people here who have probably had the greatest impact on my ability to tell a story, and in both cases it was the insight they provided doing a beta review. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (3) Thanks(3)   Quote sootfoot5 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 8:04pm
I was a high school dropout who went to law school and became a successful attorney.  I truly had the perfect  carrer —I loved my job and “did well by doing good.” 

Then I took sick and injured my back at the same time. For a while it seemed mt life was over. I have a wonderful husband, but I needed something that was solely mine.  I learned beading which helped some of the neurological problems I was experiencing, but it wasn’t enough. I started screenwriting because it looked interesting.  Then I saw an ad for the NYCM writing comps. 

Everyone needs to feel successful and to socialize with others. NYCM gave me both. I had become so depressed about not being able to practice law that I mostly stayed at home with the drapes pulled shut. But making an Honorable Mention in my first comp was like yanking those drapes open and letting sunshine flood my soul. It wasn’t long before my stories were getting published. My social life bloomed in that I joined online writer groups and have even had one online writer friend visit me for more than a week in my home. 

Participating in these competitions have changed my life. I only hope I can help some other writers. Helping is what I did as an attorney and before that as a teacher.  For me, that is the best part of participation at NYCM but of course, with my health problems, I can’t do much. But it is so gratifying to take one or two fledgling writers each comp and help them build their confidence so they can fly..... 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote AngofWords Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06 Feb 2019 at 8:06pm
I've considered myself a writer since sixth grade. Over the years I wrote and wrote, and I'm glad to say I steadily improved. Fast forward thirty years. I'm still writing, but have never been able to stick with any attempted novel long enough to finish. I'm easily distracted and I really love writing fanfiction,  so while I'm always dreaming of being a novelist, I tend to settle for the instant gratification of AO3. 

Last summer I heard of the Flash Fiction Challenge.  I'd been writing 100-word drabbles for ages, so I gave it a shot. I'd never participated in a writing contest, nor had I tested myself against serious writers, and yet I finished with an honorable mention.  That felt amazing! Now I'm in the Short Story Challenge and I'm starting to take my work seriously.  Seriously enough to finally try submitting work for publication,  and maybe even enough to finish a novel one day soon.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote nixie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2019 at 12:46am
I saw the ad for FFC and used it as a self-challenge to learn to write more concisely. I had never heard of flash before, and thought it looked like a terrific way to force myself to 'distill down to the essence.' 

's Working.
See you next FFC!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Lucie-Bee Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07 Feb 2019 at 2:28am
Thanks for this, Stephen. This is what I value most: the sense of community, collaboration and support that this forum offers. It’s quite overwhelming.

I have been writing for most of my life... for myself. My childhood dream was to write like Enid Blyton when I grew up! Life presented many forks in the road, as it does for everyone, and after many zigs and zags, I found myself many (many) decades later wondering if it was too late. 

My best friend (aka my husband) asked me a simple, timeless question just after midnight on NYE last year, “If not now, when?” His question was prompted by my comment about entering this writing contest. So, inspired by his words, I bit the bullet last year and entered the SSC. Somehow I managed to get an HM in round 1, which absolutely blew my mind. That acknowledgment/recognition buoyed me up for months, no — who am I kidding? — it still is! It gave me enough confidence to dust off some old manuscripts and dedicate some time to writing again. 

At the top I said that the most valuable aspect of this competition IMO is the forum. I’ve heard folks mention that the peer reviews can offer far better insight than the feedback from the judges. I agree. I respect and take to heart the insights offered by fellow writers, folks who are generous enough to take the time to read my stories and comment on them. And I believe it is a privilege to read the work of others; there are stories here that we might otherwise never have access to — it’s like our own private library. A library where we can explore the writing process, marvel at the prompt interpretations and relish the myriad of styles that exist here. Some of us may never be officially “published”, but right here in this private space, we are being read by someone. Our stories live here. That’s special.

I feel fortunate to be a part of this community. I’m still learning how to participate, I’m still timid about offering critiques, but I’m finding my way. More than anything, I’m grateful for what I’m learning here and for the impact it has had on my writing, and on me.

Testify! 

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