I tend to gravitate toward things that provide instant gratification—hence my struggles with growing vegetables from seeds and writing novel-length books.
Given my impatient nature, the ‘Very Short Story Contest’ sponsored by the Gotham Writers’ Workshop caught my attention. (If you’ve never checked out the Gotham Writers’ Workshop –GWW—you should! There’s lots of helpful information on their website for aspiring writers, even if you don’t live in New York City.) Last year, one of the GWW’s contests called for stories of 25 words or less- including the title. When I saw that, I (quite mistakenly) thought, “Hey! That doesn’t sound too hard! I can whip out a 25 word story this afternoon, enter the contest, and feel quite good and productive.”
Oh, I was so young and naïve last year. Of course, as most rational and/or experienced writers know, there’s nothing particularly easy about crafting a short piece of writing. In fact, the shorter the story – the more significant every word and every punctuation mark becomes. Even each syllable becomes important, if you are going for rhythm and flow in your writing. The longer and wordier something is, the more forgiving it can be—leaving some room for the stray thought or meandering sentence. (Thank goodness there’s no word limit on this blog post!)
Well, needless to say, I spent hours and hours coming up with my 25 word story– way more time that I thought I’d spend. I tried to find a copy of the final version of my 25 word story to include here, but I could only find my drafts. Just to give you a sense of it, though—it involved a clue uttered in a dying breath, a hint of a found key, something about a hero and the approaching apocalypse, etc. Unsurprisingly, I did not win the contest. But I’m going to give it another whirl this year when the contest pops up on GWW’s website.
If you are interested in doing some very (extremely!) short story writing, the GWW currently has another “Very Short Story Contest” running—this one for a story of TEN words or less. As an example of an impressive, very, very short story, they mention the well-known work that is attributed to Ernest Hemingway: “For sale: Baby Shoes. Never worn.” Think you can top that? Click here— the GWW’s ten word story contest is open until April 23rd.
Of course- the “short-bit-of-writing” contest that I would MOST love to win is The New Yorker’s cartoon caption contest. Every week the good folks at the The New Yorker put up a cartoon online and await a brilliant and hilarious caption to be submitted by someone… it could be you! Here’s the scoop on that contest, in case you want to give it a try: http://contest.newyorker.com/CaptionContest.aspx?affiliate=ny-caption
Do you have any interest in venturing into the very, very,very short story arena? Do you think writing short pieces is more or less challenging than longer pieces? Do you know of any other fun contests out there that you think I should enter?