I have some exciting news! Well, exciting for me. Probably already known by you (this will make sense in a moment) or fairly irrelevant. Regardless! I am excited.
Not that excited, here let me just—
Well, more excited than that! She looks like she’s plotting to murder someone
You know what? Fine
So (before I get any more sidetracked) the news: I was recently featured in an article for being one of only a small group of people that has entered a writing competition every month since it opened. The writing competition is called Furious Fiction, it’s open internationally, runs every month and is free. ‘ll include a link at the end for anyone who’s interested in entering.
It isn’t news to me that I entered every month, the news is that anyone noticed/cared. I assumed winning was the sole point of the competition (it’s a competition after all1), but over the course of the ten competitions, I really did learn a lot. Most of it about the things able to be gained by entering a competition, even if you don’t take home the prize.
A lot of this I answered in the article, but this will be a more in-depth version of my answers there.
1 Just write until you’re done
I’m sure after NaNoWriMo you’re sick of hearing this, but it’s true, and I couldn’t write this list without including it: Convincing yourself that your idea will be better if you think about it longer, if you perfect it before you write, or if you just ‘research’2 some more is a trap! Don’t fall into it. Get your idea on the page, and worry about fixing it later. A first draft will never be perfect, no matter how long you wait. So don’t wait—write. But make sure you finish writing at some point, too. Endless planning and jotted down ideas do not a completed work make.
2 Writing doesn’t take long
Sure, good writing takes a while, but even that takes less and less time the more you practice. The first time I entered furious fiction I thought it would take the whole weekend. The competition runs for 55 hours, and I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to write and submit an entry in ‘just’ 55 hours. In the latest iteration of the competition, I researched, wrote edited and submitted my entry in about 5 hours3. Challenging yourself is the only way to improve, and with concerted, consistent effort you will be shocked at how much you are capable of.
The most time-consuming thing about writing (as always—in my experience etc etc) is the distractions. Doing your best to set aside time to work on a goal will be the best thing you can do for your productivity. If you (like I know I do) have issues with procrastination and self-defeating perfectionism, an external enforcement of a time-sensitive goal, like NaNoWriMo or a time-limited competition like Furious Fiction is a great way to start writing to a schedule.
3 Make a system… but don’t fret if you can’t use it
I’ll use Furious Fiction once again as my example for this, because I devloped a system that I only recently noticed. I try to brainstorm on Friday afternoons as soon as I receive the email with the furious fiction information, just to get some ideas down on paper so I don’t procrastinate on Saturday when I sit down to write.
Saturday I write a draft (or two, or three, or five4), I make any ideas that seemed to have potential into a short story, and I choose the one I think is the best. Sometimes I email my favourite version to my sister for feedback, or ask her to help me decide between two that I like.
On Sunday I read my short story through as a whole, edit and finetune, and then I submit my entry and hope.
The system evolved naturally, and generally it works pretty well, but of the eleven times I’ve submitted an entry, I’ve probably only followed the exact method I just laid out about five times. I don’t/can’t always stick to it. And that’s fine!
Systems, routines, competitions, writing targets5—their purpose is to help you be more productive, not force you to stick to a rigid plan.Sometimes I’m really inspired and I write my draft Friday night. Sometimes I’m busy on Friday and only get around to looking at the email on Saturday morning. Sometimes (like this weekend) I only manage to sit down and work on my entry on Sunday afternoon, stressing all the while that I’ll break my streak after I just learned that it was a thing.
The important thing is to write anyway, submit anyway, to work on your passions and dream career whether or not you think you’re making any headway. I assure you you are. And maybe someone will write an article just in time for you to have something to mention at Christmas when people won’t stop asking what you’ve ‘been up to’.
That seems like a natural end point, for now. I could babble on about a few more tips, but I think I’ve covered the main points above. Make a system, write it down, finish what you start.
If you’re interested in entering Furious Fiction (it’s free), go here.
If you’re interested in reading the article I appear in, go here.
And if you’re interested in following my Instagram, twitter, or goodreads accounts, go here and follow the links.
1 State the obvious? Me? Never
2 The official writer term for half-watching 16 Youtube videos, making a snack and drinking three caffeinated beverages of your choice, right?
3 I wasn’t procrastinating (this time), my family’s Christmas gathering just got changed to clash with the competition so I had less time to focus on my entry, but I’m still happy with what I came up with
4 I’ve only done that once, but I was very pleased with myself; hence the bragging-about-it-online six months later
5 Sometimes even blogs