This is the second year that I’ve participated in the NYC Midnight Short Story Contest. It’s a great way to get new story ideas. Each participant is assigned a genre and a topic to build their story around. There’s also a fairly tight timeframe, so it encourages “just get it done” writing… which, to be honest, is the way I like to write my first drafts. I find it much easier to revise when I’ve got something to work from.

In round one, participants are divided into heats… usually 30 heats, with 20 or so participants in each. Each heat is assigned a different genre and topic, then participants are given a week to write their 2500-word stories.

Round one first-place and second-place winners go on to compete in the final round. Everyone in the final round is given the same genre and topic, and has 24 hours to complete a story.

It’s a great way to end up with two seedling stories, and since the contest does not publish the winning stories and ownership stays with the writer, you’re free to revise and market them.

Last year my first-round entry (sci-fi, investment) turned into a story that I was able to sell to On Spec magazine. My second-round entry (ghost story, salesman) was terrible and shall never see the light of day.

This year, I was less happy with my first-round entry (action-adventure, hot air balloon), but my final-round entry (sci-fi, neighbours) won third place overall. Apparently I like to write grim sci-fi stories. Very strange. That’s not at all what I read.

Novel marathons and contests like this one have convinced me that constraints and time limits make it easier to write… first drafts, at least. I don’t write a lot of short stories, but I think next year I’ll sign up again and hope for the chance to write two more.

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