Short Stories – Good things in small packages…

So last Saturday was the deadline for the Writers and Artists 2014 short story competition. True to form, I submitted my entry with just over two minutes to spare. Where would I be without deadlines??
This was the first writing competition I’ve entered since I left school, and it was a little strange to be honest. I’ve written two first draft novels with the aid of NaNoWriMo, and although there’s a very real sense of pressure, getting that rough draft done within 30 days, that’s where it ends. Theoretically I could leave those drafts on the shelf, where they would never be read. Theoretically, I could spend an eternity polishing them up, trimming an adjective here, expanding some dialogue there. But there’s something rather scary about submitting something that you know is going to be read, and read critically.
The only people I’ve let read my drafts have been people I know. Now a complete stranger is going to read 2,000 words of mine and decide if they’re any good or not. All of a sudden it doesn’t seem enough. 2,000 words to introduce, develop and conclude a story. 2,000 words to make you care about characters, as though they were real people, to make you cheer for the heroes and boo the villains. It’s a tall order. Every word has to count, has to add something.
Whether I succeeded or not in my lofty aims remains to be seen, but I’ve found the whole experience to be worthwhile. Writing the first drafts with NaNoWriMo has been fantastic, and has really helped me reach a stage I never thought I would, but short story competitions have an important place. Because it turns out that 2,000 words that are read are worth 50,000 on the shelf.

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