This weekend, I submitted three short stories to various competitions, with two more prepared and ready to be entered next week. Before you get excited, they were stories that had been long or short-listed in previous competitions, so I decided to re-hash them. However, it wasn’t until I read the rules that I realised the word count was too large for two of them — one by 500 words. I set about resecting the unnecessary verbiage, and when I’d reduced it down to the required amount it read as a much tighter and less verbose piece of writing. Why didn’t I do that in the first place? No wonder it wasn’t placed.
We’re always being told to streamline our work, and we think we have. It’s only when we’re forced to cut it further that we understand how stringent we could be, should we choose. Therefore, in future, I intend to try and write much more than the required word count, then condense it to within an inch of its life. Hopefully, this will only leave the desired words necessary to tell the story, without any excess baggage.
If we’re talking brevity, Bath Flash Fiction Award has a rolling competition that started in February and ends at 1000 entrants, before starting up again. The entry fee is steep at £9 — £4 for members — but offers a first prize of £1000. However, there is an opportunity to waver the entry fee with its anonymous Ad Hoc Fiction competition, which is run weekly and the winner voted for by the general public. Of course, this is open to abuse if the writer secretly asks people to vote for them, but then they’re only kidding themselves. The competition ends at midnight on Tuesday, with voting and a new competition starting the following day. Your story should be approximately 120 words including a featured prompt word, which this week is steam. Why not try it yourself? It’s a good way to have your work judged without waiting weeks to discover the outcome. Good luck!