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Words of wisdom for first-timers?

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Honco Mynco View Drop Down
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    Posted: 29 Dec 2017 at 3:32pm
I’ve read all of the blurb on the site landing page and the Eventbrite email confirmation, but in addition to the suggestions given in those (e.g. set your alarm for one minute to the witching hour... which will actually be horribly early ‘o’ clock on 27 January for me) does anyone have any words of wisdom for someone undertaking this competition for the first time?

I’m prepared to do the usual things - turn off the lights, refuse all social invitations, save and then re-save my work in a paranoid cycle every five minutes, develop a staggering case of ‘writer’s expanding posterior’ from the many hours sent sat hunched, dropping crumbs or dripping wine over the keyboard in the pursuit of the perfect closing line.

But does anyone have any specifics which they would be happy to share? Something along the lines of: “If only I have known this when I started..?”

Thanks in advance.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Zelda Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Dec 2017 at 4:54pm
Is writers' expanding posterior really a thing? Yikes!! Confused

Have a ready staff of beta readers on hand. Family members are good, and fellow writers are even better. A lot of people on this forum are really nice and will offer to beta for you. You wouldn't want to do or receive betaing from someone who was also assigned to your group, but a lot of other people are always available. Check the forum for posts from people looking for betas or offering to beta. 

Also, have fun and go for glory! The first round gives eight days (I think?) for your short story to be written. That's actually a long time. Everyone who's been doing the latest flash competition is going to feel as if eight days is a luxury. (The flash competition gives two days per round. The short story competition starts with an eight-day round, and each subsequent round is a few days shorter.) So don't sweat it too much!! You can write a great tale in eight days. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Honco Mynco Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Dec 2017 at 5:14pm
Sadly for this writer it is - the apostrophe is all my own! - hence I’ve just shelled out for some intensive lunchtime yoga sessions at the start of 2018... even if I don’t get buns of steel, then I’m bound to pick up some magpie writing material.

I’m curious about the beta thing - it makes perfect sense but I was wondering how to go about it as most of the people I would usually choose are back in the UK and there are challenges here with different time zones and a less than reliable internet connection (I’ve already steeled myself for the likelihood of having to go into work each time I need to upload a piece of finished work and send it off). But I like the idea of the forums as a community who can support with this - I think I will need to test the water once things get going. I’m more than willing to reciprocate too of course.

‘Have fun and go for glory’ - excellent motto, I like that! I think the deadline part is the bit that won’t actually phase me too much as I am generally someone who works to the wire, so that suits my style. All that said - if you see a forum post from me in the future that begins: “Why oh why did I go out for a drive to the mountains when I should have been writing and now there are 30 minutes to go...” you have every right to give me a cyber smack on the wrist with a virtual ruler!

Thanks Zelda - I’m really looking forward to the starter pistol!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Joni Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Dec 2017 at 7:48pm
Flash fiction was my first time here. It's an incredible forum with a lot of awesome people and you learn a ton through the critiques (seriously cheapest workshop ever). If you make a post on here when you have a draft for a beta, you'll likely get a lot of responses, and they are invaluable in seeing things about your story you may have missed. A lot are experienced with the judging here, so their words of advice can help in that aspect too.

Also - don't panic when you see the prompts. They will most likely be stranger than anything you've conjured up in your head, but they have a way of bringing out creativity. And a word of warning - this place and these competitions are addictive. Even if you don't do well (I bombed). After flash, I did short screenplay, and will be doing short story too. Welcome! :)
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MattrickBT Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Dec 2017 at 8:01pm
Just write.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote nixie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Dec 2017 at 1:15am
All the best advice has already been given. :)  There is no substitute for beta readers - the prompts will seem impossible for the first hour but will then spur you to write something you never would have done otherwise. Your chances are equal to everyone else's regardless of experience. (Many writers will be forced to write in a genre they don't know, for example - so it is as even a playing field as you will find).

The one thing I would add - pick an element of your prompt - a single element - and start there.  Obsess over it for an hour or so - 'how can I do something unique with this [location/character/etc]?"  The judges will read 3 dozen stories written to the same prompts - so *start by deciding how yours will be different/stand out.  Once you have done that - when you have a very clear picture of how you are going to use this element differently than all the other writers - you'll find that the other prompt elements tend to fall into place. (then, in the end, most of the time, 3 other people will have done something similar.  We're just never as unique as we think we are!   But you will have a possibly-unique element with a story strongly built around it as a solid foundation).

Most of all - enjoy yourself and hang in the forums.  As Joni pointed out, this is the best value you will ever get for a writer's workshop. 

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Trond24 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 31 Dec 2017 at 1:25pm
One thing that I have not seen mentioned yet is the genre. Because we tend to get things that are new to us, spend the earliest part of your challenge period googling the tropes of the genre.

A lot of us do mashups, especially with a "hard" genre. Don't be scared of putting elements of your best genre into your story, you'll write better when you feel comfortable. But that is why I stress researching the tropes - the assigned genre has to be there in full force, as well.

I'll echo the beta-reader advice. Don't worry about time-zone as much - halfway-around-the-world actually works out better because when you are sleeping, they'll have a chance to look at it. :-) 
And you'll always find help here in the forums. Just be aware - people's strengths differ. Some are great at line-edits, but won't offer plot or character-strengthening input, for example. And others are BRUTAL but spot-on. Check your ego, consider it all, but end up with your own vision.

Since you say you are "good at deadline" I will assume you are like me and fritter time until "hey, this NEEDS to happen." Really, really, try to schedule some early time for a first draft. Eight days sounds like so much to a procrastinator. :-/

SS is slightly different from the FF. Make sure you re-read all the rules the week before. Surprises <> good.

There is a great free tool at ProWritingAid.com where you can paste in a section of prose and it'll tell you info about pacing, overused words, and a half-dozen other useful items. Well worth putting your near-final draft through that wringer before submitting.

Most of all, have fun. Good luck!


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Suave Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jan 2018 at 12:19pm
As a former extream sports instructor I was quite good at putting terror into people to try an keep them alive.  Over the years I have heard that there are still some of them not able to use a fork to eat.  Well, I am not going to do that here.  I just write for myself, or my target audience - that way if I don't place or win I have a story that I like, not some jumbled mess that was sposed to please a judge.  But, thats just me, and I have never won or even come close!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Random Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 08 Jan 2018 at 3:58pm
I'm still a little bit hung up on the forums, wondering if there's subliminal messaging going on. 

Story writers are creative and hang out in the corner of Cafe Zimmermann, busily composing linguistic brilliance while sipping tea and listening to the local chamber orchestra try out the latest orchestrations, while screenwriters are pounding down shots at the bar, watching some never-was in a powder-blue polyester leisure suit telling inappropriate jokes, smoking cigarettes, and singing off key?

It does rather imply a completely different kind of society on this side of the aisle.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote Stephaleph22 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Jan 2018 at 4:14pm
I would say that, first and foremost, take advice with a grain of salt. I used to crave advice like a desert nomad for water, and I treated it just as precious. But having too many points of view can make things confusing, and distract from who you are as a writer. Competitions like this are a good place to try new things, mix up routines, and force yourself from your comfort zone. 

That said, I find what works for me is actually taking the first day as a brainstorm/breathing day. It's easy to throw your thoughts into a whirlwind as soon as the prompt is up, and that can be dangerous because you fall so desperately in love with your first cool sounding idea. Write all these ideas down, but don't jump right into a rough draft. Mull everything over, go for a walk, really think about how you can remold and reshape what you've been given. 

If you haven't done so already, you may want to clean up your documents or google drive, or even create a brand new folder to save your story for each round. Nothing is worse than having clutter and sending in the wrong copy or story at the end of all your hard work! If you decide halfway through writing to try a new direction, open another folder so you don't have "document 1" and "document 2" to confuse you. Many have fallen from simple errors like these.  

Also, at the end of the rounds, take the results with grace. I placed 7th in the finals of the FFC, but was ejected in the first round of the SSC. Where you place does not determine how good a writer you are, so don't be discouraged. 

That's all I can think of from my experience! I hope you find a helpful nugget buried somewhere in this thread. But like I said, don't think too hard about it. Too much overthinking creates "worry walls" and blocks any good content from getting out. 
Good luck!!!
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