Tag Archives: competitions

Flash Fiction: The Best Money I Ever Spent

I’m mixing things up this week with a Flash Fiction written for Agent Courtney’s mini-competition. She didn’t specify a word limit, but since I’ve been working on short flash fic, I set myself one of 500 words. The prompt was: The Best Money I Ever Spent.

Pest Control

I wake up with a bad headache and I know the leprechauns are back. This happens every spring.

Yesterday, everything was fine. But last night the little green men took up residence under the house. Every night of spring, they’ll bang and clang as they mine for gold, or rainbows, or four-leaf clovers, or whatever it is they’re looking for. And every morning I’ll wake up with my head pounding.

I haven’t moved when Nathan wakes up, so he rolls over to give me a hug. He takes one look at my pained expression and frowns. “What’s wrong?”

“Just a headache,” I answer. He waits for more, but I keep my mouth shut. I’m not having him take me to a shrink the way he did last year.

“I’ll get you a cup of tea and some painkillers,” he says with a smile. I can see the tension around his eyes.

“We’re out,” I say after a moment.

“Of what?”

“Painkillers.”

He’s sitting on the edge of the bed, and I see the muscles across his back tighten. “Why didn’t you buy… Never mind.” He turns his head to shoot me another caring smile that doesn’t quite work. “I’ll run down to the store and get some. You wait here.”

I nod and smile. My cheekbones throb in time with my escalating heart rate.

Once Nathan’s gone, I climb out of bed and pull on my fluffy pink robe and slippers. I don’t have much time. In the hall closet, hidden behind the old photo albums and tax records, I find what I’m looking for. I grab the box and head outside.

At the southeast corner of the house, next to the old water heater, there’s a tunnel. It’s not very big. There’s just enough room for a copper pipe from the heater and a small party of leprechauns. I open the carton of Double Strength Pest Control Bombs and run my fingertips over the twelve canisters inside. They cost me half a week’s pay, but it was the best money I ever spent.

I pull the first one out and press the button to activate it. “Fire in the hole,” I say with a giggle, and push the hissing can as deep into the tunnel as my arm can reach.

I’ve just activated the last one when Nathan gets home. I think he says something, but I can’t hear him over the sound of the leprechauns coughing and wheezing as they die. I block the tunnel with dirt to stop them escaping and my headache starts to fade.

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Productive Procrastination and Subjectivity

My weekly writing wrap-up is 12 hours late. I know. But it’s still Wednesday, so I figure it’s not all bad. Besides, I’ve been busy… Okay, I don’t have any good excuses. Or even mediocre excuses. Mostly, I’ve got the kind of excuses that really add up to procrastination. But it’s all been completely justifiable, productive procrastination. Really.

This week, I was insanely excited to be the winner of Chuck Wendig‘s Friday Flash Fiction competition, with my story Wish You Were Here. The prize was one of Chuck’s ebooks, and I chose Confessions of a Freelance Penmonkey. I’ve been procrastinating reading it for much of the week, and getting a lot out of it. If you haven’t read any/much of Chuck’s website, I’d highly recommend either diving headlong into his past posts, or picking up a copy of this book. It’s full of epic win. Oh, and drop by and read the other stories from this competition. It’s well worth it.

Of course, the euphoria of being the winner quickly transformed into a dire need to produce another good story for this week’s Flash Fiction Comp, the theme of which is: That poor, poor protagonist. If not a better story, then certainly one of comparable quality. Or at least one that doesn’t completely suck. And so I’ve spent far more time working on this piece of flash than I have my actual WIP.

Hmmm… That wasn’t really the idea. But… reading about writing… writing short stories… they’re both productive. So they’re not really procrastination. Right? Maybe?

So, long story short, (“Too late!”) I didn’t actually add a lot of word count to my novel this week. In fact, I only added *cringe* 600 words. But I DID write every day (even if 3 of those days were working on my Flash Fiction), so I’m now up to day 30 of my 100 Words Challenge.

In other writing news, I have been inspired by Stephen Watkins to enter a story into this quarter’s Writers of the Future competition. I’ve been editing and re-editing the story over the last two weeks. I’d love to have four or five people read it and give me some feedback/critique on it. If you’d be interested, please let me know.

I’ve spent much of this week thinking about the reaction that we get from others when they read our work. I put forward this statement:

Writing is Art. Art is subjective.

As I mentioned last week, I had a story receive an honourable mention in the recent Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award, and it was thusly published in an anthology. I requested feedback on the story, and received it this week. Part of the feedback was that of the three judges, two really liked my story (and rated it quite highly), but the third didn’t like it and didn’t want it published because s/he didn’t think it was new or different, and “nothing much happened”.

Subjectivity.

There’s absolutely nothing I could have changed about my writing that would have made that judge rank my story any higher. S/he didn’t like the story. Not because it was badly written, or because the writing was weak,  but because s/he thought the idea had been done before. And probably done better. The other judges thought that my storytelling made an “old” idea fresh and interesting. This judge didn’t want to read another story about time/space portals.

Subjectivity.

Now, it would be really easy to get upset, to yell and scream, to complain that you can’t judge the merits of a story on what you do or don’t like. But… Really? Everyone does. Why should a writing competition be any different to a fiction market, or an agent, or a publisher? Or, for that matter, a reader?

John Steinbeck is, by all accounts, an amazing writer. But I don’t like his books. I really don’t like them. I wouldn’t spend money on them. If I was a publisher, I wouldn’t have published them. On the other hand, look at Stephanie Meyer. Her “merits as a writer” are far and few between, but she has a huge following because people like her books. They like the stories, regardless of her writing ability.

Subjectivity.

And, you know what? I think that’s okay.

What do you think?

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up 13

Is it that time of the week already? Are you sure? I’m pretty sure someone stole at least 2 days from my week…

If that didn’t give you a clue, let me spell it out. I really struggled to get any writing done this week. Really. I still did my 100 Words each day, but there were four days this week where that’s all I managed. Still, at least I could tick off a box on my 100 Words for 100 Days chart, and feel happy that I’d managed to do something. I’m now at day 30 of the challenge and going strong. I wrote a total of 1800 words this week, which takes my average daily word count to 337 (down from 363 last week). If I keep writing at that rate, I should have my first draft finished by the 15th of January.

Does anyone else track their progress like that, or is it just me?

In other writing news, I’ve also:

  • NOT been shortlisted on the competition I’ve been talking about. I’m not upset about it – I’m just glad to finally have an answer!
  • started working on a few revisions on said story in order to submit it elsewhere for publication.
  • edited/critiqued a short story for my critique-partner.
  • started work on a short story for my next writing group.
  • had a moment of excitement when I discovered that Emerald Barnes took my advice and started the 100 Words for 100 Days Challenge!

Quick question for you: Have you ever come up with an awesome premise for a novel, and then developed a great idea for a character and the basics of the plot, and then realised that it’s not the type of story that you can (or want to) write? Maybe it’s the wrong genre, or the wrong style, or maybe you just don’t like reading those books, and so can’t see yourself writing one. Is it just me? If it happens to you, what do you do with the idea?

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up 12

The most amazing thing happened this week. On Saturday morning, I woke up for my usual 4:00am wake-up call, looked after Baby, and then turned on my computer to check my email before going back to bed. An icon popped up, notifying me that I had 57 unread email.

“57 emails?” I said out loud. (For those non-parents out there, talking to yourself is perfectly normal. After hours each day of goo-goo and gaa-gaa, it’s nice to talk to an adult for a change.)

I opened my email browser to see what was going on, and discovered heaps of people had read my post and clicked ‘Like’. And I had 17 new comments that needed to be moderated.

 “Goodness!” I said. (Having children also robs you of the ability to swear convincingly.)

And there, waiting quietly amongst the Likes and Moderation Requireds, was an email from WordPress Admin congratulating me on my post being selected to be Freshly Pressed. I read that email several times. Then I logged into my WP account, and discovered that over 1100 people had viewed my page in the last 3 hours.

At first, I was stunned. Then I felt like a Rock star. I was far too excited to go back to bed. I just sat in front of my computer screen, refreshing the stats over and over, and watching the Total Page Views jump by 20 or 30 at a time.

Rock. Star.

People clicked like. Comments appeared, waiting to be moderated. More people subscribed to my blog. I had emails from people who wanted to contact me privately about my story. And as the day passed, I felt less and less like a rock star. By mid-afternoon, I just felt humbled and awed.

I was awed by the outpouring of support, love, compassion, and joy that was poured directly from the hearts and minds of people from all around the world, into the comments on my blog. I was humbled by the willingness of so many people to share their own stories; some were similar to my own, but many were more disturbing or traumatic. And as the total page views passed 3000 for the day, I was just astonished that so many people had taken the time to read my story, and touched by the number of people who had responded.

So let me say this: Thank you. Thank you for commenting, thank you for sharing, and thank you for sticking around.

But all of that attention made it a goodness-load harder to write my 100 words on Saturday. It was ten minutes to midnight, and I was sitting in a silent house, counting individual words in the hopes that I’d managed to come up with 100. “Damn it, only 87. Umm… Oh, I know. I’ll add some adverbs on to those dialogue tags. That’s bound to help. And maybe some extra adjectives. The car could be shiny, new, blue, clean, sporty, and environmentally friendly.”

I made it with 2 minutes to spare. And I deleted at least 65 of those words the next day, I’m sure. But the point is that I made it.

This means that I’m now on Day 23 of my 100 Words for 100 Days Challenge. This week, I managed to write 2500 words, which is nothing compared to the amazing efforts of Leanne Baldwin, who seems to be able to bust out that many in a lazy afternoon, but I’m thrilled. That brings my average daily word count up to 363 (from 360 last week), so at least I’m consistent. If I keep going at that rate, I should be finished my first draft on the 9th of January.

In other news, the writing competition I was whingeing about last week still hasn’t released their short list. However, they’ve issued a formal apology for the delay and advised that the list will be released by the end of the month. So if I don’t mention anything about it next week, you’ll know it’s because I didn’t place in the top 10.

Finally, I don’t know if any of you writers ever pop over to Janet Reid’s blog, but if you don’t, you should. She occasionally runs an interesting contest where she gives 5 words, and people write a 100 word story that includes those words. I entered her most reason one, and had a great time crafting out a story in such a tight word limit. The words for this competition were: lyrical, angst, conspiracy, reluctant, and swoop. My entry was as follows:

Vlad slammed the book closed and flung it across the room in disgust “Nothing!” he said, his fangs flashing. “Not a jot of lyrical prose. Just angst, angst, angst.”

“Those so-called authors must be reluctant to show you in your true glory, my Lord, for fear of inciting a panic,” Igor said as he arranged the evening meal on a velvet couch.

“Nonsense! It’s a conspiracy designed to make me look weak and ineffective,” Vlad said, stalking across to his prey. “Now hand me that rabbit. I’m hardly going to swoop down and get it myself, am I?”

Do you enjoy this kind of 100 word challenge as much as I do?

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up 11

I hate jogging. I really do. But I hate jogging less than I hate bike riding, swimming, Pilates, and team sports. So when I need to get out of my house and do some exercise (because, let’s face it, I’m not getting any skinnier sitting in front of my computer), it’s jogging that I turn to. In all honesty, once I get going it isn’t so bad. The pounding of my shoes on the pavement, the beating of my heart, the memories of childhood… At least for the first two minutes. Then I start wondering why I’m punishing myself.

To keep myself going, I set little targets — mini-goals, if you will. I say to myself, “If I can keep going to the next corner, I’ll stop and walk for thirty steps.” And then I push through it, reach the corner, and slow to a walk. And I feel great. Not because I’m walking (although that’s pretty great, too) but because I made it to my goal without giving up. Sure, I’m a long way from home, and I’m only taking a 30 step break before getting back into it, but that’s not the point. The feeling of sheer exhilaration when I make that mini-goal; the feeling that I’ve achieved some small measure of success: that’s what keeps me going.

This week in writing, I did this: Insert –> Break –> Page Break –> ALT+C –> ALT+U –> Chapter Two

Awesome. Pure awesomeness.

You know what? I was only 5000 words into my 80,000+ word novel, but reaching that first mini-goal was exhilarating. And after my 30 step break, I got back into it with a vengeance. The words are rolling off my brain, and I feel good. (Big wheel, keep on rolling…)

In other news, I’m LOVING the 100 Words for 100 Days challenge. Again, this is just a series of short, sharp goals to keep me focused. But it’s working. Today is Day 16. And I’ve written my 100 words every day — obviously, or I’d be back to the beginning. If you haven’t tried this, and you find it difficult to get motivated to write every day, I seriously suggest you give it a try. In the 15 days that I’ve been working on 100 Words for 100 Days challenge, I’ve written just over 5500 words. (If you work that out, that’s 360 words per day.)

Am I going to break speed records with that? No. But forcing myself to just reach that next corner then makes it possible to keep on truckin’ and I know that I’ll get to the end.

Finally, I’m feeling about seven million shades of frustrated with a particular writing competition who shall remain nameless. I entered a story into the competition, and then quickly regretted it and wished that I’d submitted the story to a fiction market instead. But I figured that I’d either place (and that’s worth it) or I wouldn’t, and I could submit after that. Problem sorted. Right? Well, it would be. And it will be. But right now, I’m frustrated. The deal was that the shortlist would be announced “early June” and the winners announced “mid to late June”. Now, I could be wrong here, but I would think that the 22nd of June counts as mid to late. But there’s still no shortlist.

Frustrating. But moving on.

I’ve been having great success writing longhand in a beautiful new notebook, and then typing (and doing vague edits as I go) into my WIP of an evening when my brain is a little fried. I’ve always said that I think better when typing rather than writing, and often that’s the case, but apparently it doesn’t need to be. With a little practice, I’ve found that I can actually get my brain in gear easier when I’m writing longhand. Perhaps because it’s a little slower, my brain has time to plan further ahead?

How are your projects tracking? I’d love to hear about any ways that you inspire yourself to reach your goals. Rewards? Threats? Punishments? Anything else?

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

Yes, I’m late. Again. In my defence, I typed this post on Wednesday, and then forgot to publish it. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than having an actual reason, but there you go.

This week in writing has been great. Firstly, I got back the various critiques on A Rose By Any Other Name, and used them to really tighten up the writing. I’ve submitted it to the Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award, which closes in a few days. I’m really happy with the story, and with the writing. Everything I write is just that little bit better than the last, which makes me feel really good about my abilities.

Secondly, I’m working on a story that I’m going to enter into the Brighton COW short story competition that closes on 31 May. I’m about halfway through it, so I’ve still got a lot of work to do. I’m practicing writing ‘hooks’ on my stories, so bear with me while I tell you what this one is about.

Twilight: Teenage girls think it’s a love story. Horror fans think it’s an abomination. But what do the real creatures of the night think?

Twelve, the latest in a long line of disposable minions working for Count Damien Frost, thinks it’s a health hazard. And it’s his health that’s in hazard. When his Master reads the book, Twelve finds himself dealing with emo tantrums, a misguided vampire hunter, and an over-ambitious minion. Can he overcome his rival while protecting his Master’s un-life and reputation? Or will he end up like so may of his minion predecessors: pumped full of poisonous venom, while nursing a broken leg at the bottom of a snake pit?

I haven’t got a title for this story yet, but will keep you posted.

Thirdly, I’ve had a piece of flash fiction accepted for publication in the winter edition of Art Gaze Magazine. It’s not my usual genre, being a 800 word coming-of-age story in the aftermath of the recent Queensland floods. I’m incredibly proud of the story, though. Although my family and I weren’t personally impacted by the floods( ie. we didn’t lose property, possessions, or loved ones), I don’t think anyone living in South-East Queensland was truly unaffected. This story was my way of getting my emotions out in a way that didn’t involve reading news stories, looking at horrific footage of devastation, and crying for hours at a time.

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Weekly Wednesday Writing Wrap-Up

It’s been quite a busy week for me this week. Firstly, I’ve spent a lot of time working on editing my story A Rose By Any Other Name in preparation for submitting it to the Stringybark Speculative Fiction Award. I’ve made some changes, tightened it up a bit, and then sent it to some trusted people for reading, reviewing & critiquing. I’m interested to see how similar the feedback from different people turns out to be. I’ve asked for a critique from (a) a published writer, (b) an unpublished writer, (c) an editor, and (d) a reader. I’m curious as to whether each of them find the same strong and weak points, or whether their different experiences and perspectives will mean that they have different viewpoints.

I also came up with an awesome idea (if I say so myself) for a Flash Fiction story. It came to me in the shower one day, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. Nor could I figure out a way to turn it into a full short story. I had decided to sit down and write it anyway, when I remembered that the Peter Cowan Writers’ Centre in W.A. have a Flash Fiction competition that closes this week. I checked out the details, determined that I had 600 words to work with, and wrote my story.

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away, he was Prince Charming. All was roses and clover until he offended a witch, and was cursed to live as a troll. But that was just the beginning of his troubles. I mean, how do you ever live down the fact that you’ve been beat up by a goat?

I’ve posted my entry in now, and will wait to see how it goes. Whether it gets noticed or not, I’m incredibly happy with the story I wrote.

Thirdly, I’ve reworked the start of my novel, and have changed some of the major details. My protagonist, Michael Storm, was originally going to be a PI working on normal cases in between getting mixed up with every supernatural threat in the city. But I’ve come to realise that every second Urban Fantasy novel being published right now has the same set-up. Seriously. How many magical PIs can there possibly be? Most of them seem to be female PIs, which at least gave my character a slight POD, but even still…

After rethinking things through, I’ve changed my mind. He’s no longer a PI. There are plenty of other, more interesting and original, ways for him to get involved with supernatural threats. I don’t have to actually change his personality, or the plot of the novel. I just need to start with a hook that’s different to the standard “I’m a PI and I’ll take this job because I need the money, even though I damn well know that it’s a bad idea” that every second Urban Fantasy novel seems to begin with these days.

Phew.

Finally, I suffered a mini-meltdown when I realised that at some point over the last 3 years, I’ve lost a HEAP of my writing. I’ve changed computers twice during that time (both times because my old one more or less died of old age), and somewhere in the process, I’ve lost quite a few short stories. Being an idiot, I didn’t have them in hard copy or on any back-up CD that I could find. So they’re just… gone.

One of the stories I lost was a vampire fiction that had been accepted for publication in an anthology, before the company printing it went out of business. A second was the only short story that I’ve had published AND been paid for. Sure, it was back in 2003, and it was only US$15. But payment is payment in this business, right? Fortunately, I was able to find my copy of the magazine it was published in, and retype it from there. But the other stories are lost forever. (For any fans of Jasper Fforde, you can find them in the Well of Lost Plots.)

On to my next major disappointment. In retyping my story, I realised that it was… crap. Okay, maybe not crap. But close. It may have been published, but the writing was horrendous compared to my writing now. I was initially mortified to know that something so badly written was out there in the ether for anybody to see. Then I realised that this is actually a good thing. Surely it means that I have an even better chance of being published now. Right?

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