Writing Challenge: Round 2

If you’ve been keeping up with my writing challenge updates, you know that I got the results of my NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge Round 1 story on Wednesday and then feedback from the judges on Thursday. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, go read this and this first.)

Round 2 then started at midnight EDT Saturday when I received the email informing me of my next assigned genre, location, and item.

(The nice thing about living on the west coast is that email arrived 9pm my time, so I had several hours to think about it before heading to bed.)

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Writing Challenge: Receiving Feedback

The results came in for the first round of NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2019. (Catch up on my writing adventure here.) But in short, writers have 48 hours to write a maximum 1000-word story in a specific-assigned genre.

Yep, 1000 words. 48-hours.

And can you believe NYC Midnight does a micro-fiction contest where the word limit is 250?

Me neither. Needless to say, I’m not signing up for that one.

While I didn’t expect to place in a writing challenge where 3,500+ writers enter, I had at least hoped to at least make it into the bottom 10-15. But sadly, not to be. Needless to say, I’m still disappointed.

NYC Midnight also sent us feedback from the judges (via email). I received feedback from 3 anonymous judges that included both what they liked and what they thought needed work.

Overall, the feedback I received is good. Feedback is always a bit of a tough pill to swallow, particularly when you’ve worked hard to create something. Luckily, I’ve had enough experience now and some excellent mentors who have helped me learn to accept feedback.

For me, I’ve found it’s a two-step process to deal with feedback.

First, I have to get out of my own way. I have to take a deep breath and realize that feedback (and I’m speaking of constructive feedback here) is not a personal attack. It’s not a comment on my person and that I’m still awesome no matter what.

I’ll stop here to say that if you ever receive “feedback” that personally attacks you, says some derogatory about you, or insults you on a personal level, then that’s not feedback. That’s just unacceptable rudeness masquerading as feedback. And you shouldn’t take it.

But I digress.

Second, I have to look at the feedback with a critical eye. Just because someone gave feedback, even if it’s valid feedback, it doesn’t mean I must follow it.

But this is where it gets tricky.

In order to judge the feedback, I have to be honest with myself. I have to look at my product (in this case my short story) and honestly evaluate it with a critical eye, as if I were reading it for the first time. In this case, it helps that I haven’t looked at the story since I submitted it.

Once I got out of my own way (I may have had a little pity party when I read the results), I took a deep breath and with fresh eyes re-read my story and the feedback. More tweaking, a little tightening, a bit more explanation and maybe I would have made the top 15 in my group.

All things I will keep in mind for the next round. Because at the end of the day, that’s what feedback should do—make you a better writer (or artist or musician or electrical engineer or whatever).

But while I felt I received overall great feedback, I’m not necessarily going to use all of it. For example, here are two snippets from the feedback I received:

I would generally advise against using all caps for sound effects – find other ways to get these across.

Tighten the dream sequence. Use it to clarify: why would mercenaries be after her and Mark? Let that fear percolate and color her dream.

Both provide valid feedback. But I view the first one (against using all caps) as more subjective. How many times have you read a story where a sound effect was all caps? Or italicized? Or some other kind of font stylization? While this is valid feedback, it addresses style rather than substance. Where one person dislikes all caps for sound effects, another reader will not see any problem with it.

And really, at the end of the day, all caps versus not all caps is minor point. It won’t help make the story stronger. It wouldn’t have propelled me into the top 15 (I wouldn’t think).

In comparison, the second one provides specific feedback going to the substance of the story. It identifies a weakness in the story and provides me something to consider to make the story stronger. For me, that’s constructive feedback—it’s specific and useful.

Now I still get to go on to Round 2 (which starts at midnight EDT tonight). Everyone who entered gets to do Round 2. But the odds of me making it to Round 3 are rather low at this point since I’m going into Round 2 with 0 points.

But that’s okay for several reasons. First, I actually took a chance and entered and most importantly, submitted a story. I consider that a huge win for me.

Second, I’m actually pretty happy with the story I wrote. The genre was completely out of my comfort zone. I’m not a thriller writer. I don’t even usually read thrillers. So the fact that I wrote a thriller short story (in less than 48 hours) is a win for me.

Third, I completely acknowledge the story is what I’d call a second draft. It’s a bit more than a rough draft, but it really did need someone else to read it and point out the flaws. It would’ve been nice had I been able to have someone else read it and provide that feedback before I had to submit it, but like I said upbove, I will definitely internalize the feedback to make my Round 2 entry stronger.

I won’t know until midnight EDT tonight (9pm for us west coasters) what my Round 2 assigned genre, location, and item are. Let’s hope I get a genre I’m much more comfortable with. Fingers crossed!

Where I Enter a Short Story Writing Challenge

A couple months ago, I saw an advertisement for a writing contest by NYCMidnightThe Flash Fiction Challenge. It cost a little money to enter, but winners receive prizes (first place receives $5,000!).

Like the impulse buyer I am, I immediately signed up. Who can resist a writing challenge? But I promptly had buyers remorse. I’ll never win. What was I thinking? And then I proceeded to forget about all it.

Until two days ago.

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