Over Thanksgiving break, I received word of two story contests that were wrapping up. Both were cutting it close, but I figured break was a good time to tackle them. I learned two entirely different lessons from pursuing this.
First, B. Nagel tipped me off to Genre Wars. I was able to submit three stories in a couple of different categories. I hope I don't overlap with B. or any of you, but if I do, best of luck to you anyway. Unfortunately, I was way to sick over break to generate much original content worth a darn. That said, I have a huge stack of unpublished (largely unsubmitted, I'm ashamed to say) stories. The contest is for stories 1K to 2K in length. Most of my stories are probably between 2K and 3K. That meant it was time to trim.
I tell ya. I've submitted a couple of those sotires before and had thought they were pretty trim and tight. The fact that I managed to gut 400 words from one and 700 from another to get them down to 2,000 tells me that a lot of what I consider necessary and effective is still extra. And that means my writing still isn't as tight and punchy as I'd like.
The power of a word count can be an awesome thing, if you let your story just walk into the swinging blade.
The scecond contest was for travel stories. I don't write travel stories normally, but they defined the concept so loosely that I thought I could definitely wing something. After all, this is the practical stage of my career right? When I'm working at writing like a business, and that means sometimes I write things that will be easier to get published or recognized than certain other things. Except I just couldn't do it.
And there's the second lesson. Don't force it. Anything I thought of was so unnatural for me that it was just not clicking. And that's okay. It's good to be practical. It's good to not be a stuck-up artist. But you do still have to be yourself.
A baseball player isn't being a better professional by entering a critcket match just because it's a bat-and-ball sport.
Take from my lessons what you will. :)