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Your writing talent and the contest

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Jdeweese View Drop Down
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    Posted: 09 May 2018 at 2:34pm
Hi all, 

Here’s my question: how much do you think this contest reflects your overall writing talent/skill? 

I’ve noticed that several of the finalists have mentioned in other threads that they have books and multiple short stories already published. Therefore, I’m trying to figure out if making it to the finals = pro level talent (and vice versa). Or is there enough subjectivity and quite frankly luck involved to say it’s not that cut and dry? By luck I mean getting a prompt that really clicks with you or getting a genre you know well.

I’m asking because I’m a  non-fiction writer who has been trying to break into fiction for a couple years now. I was super excited that I rocked the first round in fantay, as it’s one of my favorite genres. However, I got wiped in the second round which makes me wonder if I just got lucky the first time and I’m not really close to selling my first short story or book.

Anyhow, I  would love to hear from finalists who are amateur fiction writers, or for that matter published writers who didn’t win but can still give some insight. It’s also ok if the hard truth is this contest is a very accurate measure of where you’re at as a writer. That just means I will need to redouble my efforts. 


 PS - I really hope this post doesn’t come across as being too neurotic or sour grapes. I’m at least proud that I could crank out a story in 2 days as it usually takes me several weeks to finish one.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chrissie0707 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 2:44pm
This has been my first time participating. I've been writing (moderately popular) fanfiction for thirteen years, since college, and have always wanted to be and considered myself a writer. I made a resolution this year to move toward original work, am outlining a novel now, and decided to give it a go in this contest. It's been a great experience getting feedback from a new crowd that hasn't been following my work. It's definitely been a confidence booster to place first in my heat in the first round, and to make it to the final round.

All that being said, I mean, yeah, there's no denying that in some ways this is a roll of the dice. There are genres out there that would have had me crapping my pants (historical fiction and political satire are HELLA intimidating for me) but at the end of the day, it's going to boil down to creativity, originality, how well you work under pressure and time constraints (professional procrastinator here, so I've got that going for me) and, yeah, talent. Each story is judged individually, right? And the ranking comes from the individual scores? So I think the best way to think about NOT moving on, and the approach I would have had and planned to have, would be to think about your own stories that way, too. Individually. If it was your best effort given the circumstances, then good on ya. It's a hell of an accomplishment to get anything out in three days.

I stand firm that every single participant should be proud of what they did.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote mstracho Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 2:50pm
I feel like it isn't super reflective for an array of reasons, including
1. we often have to write genre and subject we have never done.
2. time and word constraints.

Some writers may be better at producing fast, working on the fly. Maybe that isn't in some people's wheel house and that doesn't make them a bad writer it makes them a bad fast writer. Also one or two stories doesn't make a whole person's talent. Maybe your story was not good, or good but not good enough, that doesn't mean you are not good enough. Not to mention that writing--any art--is ALWAYS subjective. What a judge may not have liked, or may not have spent enough time on, may be the best thing in a different judge's eyes. Much of it is the luck of the draw, though it is also talent, a mix of the two I guess. just think, how many times did J.K. Rowling get rejected? How many people don't care for Stephen King? And is their success defined by that? Hardly. 

More than anything, I think this is a super great learning opportunity. We should always be getting better at our craft. If you feel even a modicum better, it was worth it.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chrissie0707 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 2:54pm
Originally posted by mstracho mstracho wrote:

I feel like it isn't super reflective for an array of reasons, including
1. we often have to write genre and subject we have never done.
2. time and word constraints.

Some writers may be better at producing fast, working on the fly. Maybe that isn't in some people's wheel house and that doesn't make them a bad writer it makes them a bad fast writer. Also one or two stories doesn't make a whole person's talent. Maybe your story was not good, or good but not good enough, that doesn't mean you are not good enough. Not to mention that writing--any art--is ALWAYS subjective. What a judge may not have liked, or may not have spent enough time on, may be the best thing in a different judge's eyes. Much of it is the luck of the draw, though it is also talent, a mix of the two I guess. just think, how many times did J.K. Rowling get rejected? How many people don't care for Stephen King? And is their success defined by that? Hardly. 

More than anything, I think this is a super great learning opportunity. We should always be getting better at our craft. If you feel even a modicum better, it was worth it.  


It's definitely a fantastic learning opportunity! And you're completely right about this contest being subjective, as all writing is!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote chrissie0707 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 3:11pm
it's also important to remember that being a professional, published writer does not inherently mean you're more talented than the unpublished, amateur writer standing next to you. Publishing is about someone seeing the potential for profit in what you've written, and not determined by talent. 

The advice I give everyone is to have at least one writer friend who loves to read your work, but also isn't afraid to point out a lackluster sentence and say "write this better."
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote nod1v1ng Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 3:31pm

I have now participated in 2 Flash and 2 Short comps here (with the Flash 2 yrs ago my very first ever attempt at creative writing.) 

I certainly do not consider myself a "professional" - but I have published & have forthcoming several short pieces, both fiction & non. I have washed out in the semi-finals every time. 

Do I believe that those who make it to the finals have skill? Indeed. Are there lots of additional factors that contribute beyond skill/talent? Absolutely.  Genre, pressure, life stuff, technical stuff, off/good days, experience, good judge ju-ju all can totally trump talent.

Look at it this way. In each round you do not necessarily have to be more talented than 6000 entrants. You just need to produce a piece that the judges feel is better executed than your 30-some heatmates. 

And sometimes it's just that those finalists have mad skillz. But IMHO I wouldn't make yourself crazy in thinking that a contest like this is an objective measure of talent!

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (1) Thanks(1)   Quote roccapia Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 3:32pm

Here's how I approach this:

 
This is a game. They're giving you a time limit and prompts. So this has as much to do with writing skills as it has to do with being able to manage your time and edit. And it also has to do with getting thrown in a genre you might be strong at, or know nothing about.
 
So the people who usually get eliminated in the first round are people who are really working on their writing skills and don't have it down yet, or people who got thrown in a genre they don't do well in. Or people who ended up having a zillion things to do that week and couldn't put the time into it. All sorts of reasons. They took the top 5 for that round.
 
Then it got harder. 3 days, new prompts, the folks you're competing against now have stronger writing and time management skills than a lot of the folks in the first round, and the competition is going to be harder. Plus, they only take the top 3 to move on.
 
And the last round is even tougher, of course.
 
The first two years I did this competition, I never made it past the first round. Then last year, I got all the way up to the finals but didn't place. This year, got to the second round but am not moving on to the finals. But I'm not too disappointed. Because this competition forces me to work on not only time management, but in genres I'm uncomfortable with (I never get fantasy, dang it, always horror and suspense, it seems).
 
Anyway, there are a lot of factors besides writing talent in this type of competition, as opposed to a standard writing contest, where you turn in your best story that you might've worked months on. You can't really compare the two. This is more of an exploration into trying different styles and lengths and timeframes. And by the time you get to the final round, you have authors that have not only managed their time well but have managed to crank out some great writing.
 
As far as why some great stories don't make it...well, any judging is going to be subjective. They have 3 judges and they take the combined scores (I assume), and one judge might not like something that another judge thinks is brilliant.
 
I think of NYC Midnight as a place to hone my skills, get great feedback, and read some cool stories. Sure, winning would be nice. But that isn't my main driver. I'm participating in the Screenwriting Challenge this year, and since I've never written a screenplay, I totally expect to get slammed out of this round, but it was fun to do, and the more I do it, the better I'll get.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote nod1v1ng Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 3:53pm
Originally posted by Jdeweese Jdeweese wrote:

Here’s my question: how much do you think this contest reflects your overall writing talent/skill? 


One other thought - talent and skill are two different things. Sure, some folks are innately talented - it's like getting a cheat code. They start the game further along, don't have to work as hard. But writing is still a skill that requires developing.

Story Time:
One of my college professors told our class about a student whose writing was poor. Not lacking in the basic how-to's & technicalities but not inspiring or engaging, etc. Not talented, no innate spark. By the end of the semester she was one of his favorite writers. He asked her what had changed for her and she told him she got up an hour earlier every day to write. Daily practice honed her skill. She went on to publish several successful novels. 

Smile




Edited by nod1v1ng - 09 May 2018 at 4:01pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Lord Xoon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 3:58pm
I think it tracks fairly well. I did well enough in flash fiction (HM), but I also got good genre draws, so luck plays in, but on average I think the cream rises. I anticipate I'll flame out this round and that's probably fair. I'm not top tier, but I usually have a few good things in there somewhere.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote WyrdSyster Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 May 2018 at 5:01pm
My two cents:

I'm 54 years old, and last year I decided to give myself one year to figure out if this 'writing urge' was a dream worth pursuing, or if I was just in it because I'm a total recluse and having to write would be a good excuse for that.
It turns out it is a dream worth pursuing.
(With the added bonus, of course, to be an "acceptable" recluse ;) )

This short story challenge was the first I ever entered.
I made it through round one and round two. First round, the genre, was "crime caper". I had to look it up because I never heard of it.
(I'm also Dutch, moved to the US in 2009, my English is okay but there are phrases and stuff I'm not at all familiar with.)

I agree with someone up here mentioning that if someone is published, this doesn't mean this person has more talent. I'd consider that person lucky, for that matter. I am sure there are huge talents out there that haven't had a chance of getting published. Yet.

No, I don't think you got lucky that you made it to the second round. You were s.o.o.l. that you didn't make it through to the final round.

Keep writing. :)
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