One Hundred Words

If you follow agent blogs, you may already know about Janet Reid.  http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/

If you’re not familiar with her, she not only does the blog thing, she also provides help with query letters via the infamous Query Shark.  The Query Shark in of itself is an invaluable service, if you can stand being bitten by the Query Shark.   Being bitten means she might chomp on your query, tearing it to shreds, while using a “voice” reminiscent of Miss Manners.  It’s sort of like hitting your funny bone.  You kinda want to laugh, except it kinda hurts too, in a good way.   If she chooses your query, she will take you to task with a load of humor and that sharp edged toothiness well known by Query Shark followers.

Fair Warning:   She’s done hundreds of these and has kept them all in her archives.   She requires you read EVERY single one before sending her a query b/c she may have answered it in the past.

But, I’m actually not here to talk about her blog per se, or the Query Shark, that was just for openers to get myself going.  What I AM here to talk about are the flash fiction contests she holds on her site, although she’s not referred to them by that name.  She had one, and then I think everyone has so much fun, she decided to keep on.  Since then, we’ve had about five or so.   The basic rules are:

  • Five prompt words are provided, and there are specific rules about how to use the words,
  • The “story” must be 100 words or less
  • She generally gives notice of a contest on Friday’s
  • They generally start Saturday’s 9:00 a.m. EST (per Janet Reid, that’s Eastern SHARK time)
  • They end 9:00 a.m. EST on Sunday

At first, I was nervous entering…but, they have turned out to be a lot of fun!

As writers working on our craft, we always need extra practice.  Yes, revising and writing our current WIP’s can be considered that to some degree…,but for me, these contests have become a mini break from thinking and thinking some more about my current story.

What I love about her judging methodology is she has “special recognition” categories.  Even if you don’t win, you might get a special mention, and her categories are witty and apropos.  They might be for, “a great line,” or “great turn of phrase,” or “a memorable line”, or “names that cracked me up…” just to name a few.  The number of entries have ranged from mid forties to  mid eighties.  (And, here I am blogging about it, so I don’t know what she’d do if she ended up with more than she could handle…eek)

The main reason I wanted to blog about this is because of what it taught me inadvertently.  How to not waste words.  When you only have one hundred words to tell a story, you think twice about word choices.  You also quickly realize you can get a point across even after removing that great sentence you thought the story just had to have.  (yes, even in this you will kill many little darlings.)

Here’s an example of my last story entry from August 11 contest.  The word prompts are: slush, spade, hear, fiction, 262.  You’ll notice by how some of the words are used (heard for hear), there is some flexibility with word prompts:

The dog days of summer saw Dylan slurping a Slushy while sitting next to a boy named Spade.

He said, “Heard your mom’s still writing a book.”

Spade sighed, “Yeah.”

Fiction?”

“True story.”

“How many rejections she had?”

262.”

“Huh, must not be any good.  What’s it about?”

Spade stared into the distance, “Can’t tell, I’d have to kill you.”

Dylan snorted, “Yeah right.”

Spade reached under the park bench, pulling out a small gardening tool, the metal end gleaming.

Dylan’s eyes widened, “Hey, what’s that for?”

Spade inched closer, “The book’s about me, it needs a new chapter.”

I’ll admit, I’m sort of addicted to entering the contests.  They’ve really helped me think about the necessity of choosing words in my current WIP, and what I’ve come to realize (once again), when writing, that old adage, less is more can work really well.

What have you run across unexpectedly that’s helped you with your writing?


COMMENTS

  • helenmidgley

    August 15, 2013

    Reply

    I love these little bits of flash. I’ve committed myself to doing a prompt a day for August, a mix of flash, short stories and poetry (poetry is new for me). There great distraction pieces and I’ve collected little bits of inspiration for the longer stuff I hope to finish one day, lol. Loved your take on the prompt. I’ll check out the page there from 🙂

    • donnaeve

      August 15, 2013

      Reply

      Thanks Helen! It was the sort of thing, I thought, oh why not?? And now? I’m stalking her site every Friday to see if there’s a contest. 🙂 Addicted, like I said, and it is a nice break! Thanks for liking the post!!

  • Carolynnwith2Ns

    August 15, 2013

    Reply

    Hey Donna, I’m addicted too. Janet’s been doing these 100 word contests for quite some time. I’ve entered dozens, I think. One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that the writers who enter often are getting very good.
    You and I have been showing up in the ‘mentions’, lately, it’s a kick isn’t it? When you are slugging along on the same old tune, it’s nice to belt out a fresh jingle. Getting recognized for it, even if it’s simply a mention, keeps the synapses sparking.
    Hey, you were a finalist. One of these days we’re gonna’ win a book.

    • donnaeve

      August 16, 2013

      Reply

      Funny, after I wrote this post I thought, well, she’s been doing them longer than this, but I guess I was focusing on the fact she’s been doing the consistently for the summer.

      Anyway – yeah, it’s been a great way to turn the mind on to something else, just for a little while. Did you enter A.S. King’s contest she mentioned? I did, but there are so many good entries, I’m not expecting diddly from that, but it was still fun. Folks are gonna think I”m one twisted nut.

      • Carolynnwith2Ns

        August 16, 2013

        Reply

        Actually, no I did not enter Kings.

        Janet is great, the way she is matter of fact about info and takes no prisoners. At the end of a query to her some time ago , I told her that she scares the shit out of me…and I meant it.
        She was amused.
        Love that woman.

  • Averil Dean

    August 16, 2013

    Reply

    I recently found a wonderful book on writing by Jessica Page Morrell called Between the Lines. It addresses the subtleties of writing, beyond the basics. It’s been a huge help to me.

    • donnaeve

      August 16, 2013

      Reply

      Averil! I think I’ve heard about this book…now I HAVE to get it. Like the BIRD BY BIRD recommendation, I know you always land on the GREAT ones! Thanks for sharing!


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