As the parent of a toddler, I have a huge appreciation for writing (and reading) flash fiction. When one can never be guaranteed thirty consecutive minutes of writing time, focusing on a novel is an exercise in frustration for everyone involved. I’ve developed an even greater appreciation for deadlines. So, I try to get involved with as many flash fiction contests as I can.
Shock Totem was one of the first venues I waded into, back when the little squid was fresh and had slurped up virtually all writing time and energy.
Every other month on the forums, Shock Totem puts on a flash fiction contest. On or around the first of the month, Editor K. Allen Wood sets up a private forum for participants and gives us a prompt. We have one week to create a story under 1000 words using the prompt. When the seven days are up (EASTERN time–the lesson hard-learned after my second attempt bounced back), Ken compiles them all and posts them for critique and voting. We have three weeks to submit feedback and votes for the top three. If that second deadline is missed, the story is disqualified.
Besides sequestering time from the squid, who sleeps in chaotic spurts, the biggest challenge has been keeping my entries under 1000 words. Coming from years of word-churning NaNoWriMos, I’m lucky if my first drafts are only twice that. This month’s prompt had to do with people who film travesties without doing anything to help. In an effort to make sense–or at least an engaging narrative–of what seems the most repulsive human behavior, 29 of us managed to complete the task.
The top three get bragging rights, their names posted on the main website. The six winners for the year get judged at the end of the year and the top story of the six gets published in Shock Totem. Mine tend to place somewhere in the top 5, and the lone first place of last year didn’t get the coveted publication, but I did end the year with six finished stories that are now making second-round readings in the market rounds.
I’m not sure how this month’s piece is going to do. I’m really happy with the result, but there are several strong pieces and it’s really hard to gauge reader tastes. In any case, I’m pretty confident that it will find a happy home.
The next contest is in September. Hope to see you there.