Winning to me does not necessarily mean coming first, although that would be nice. It’s more about being recognised i.e. making it onto the long or short list of a big competition, and just as being rejected can make me feel rather flat for a good chunk of that day (although it’s definitely getting easier to manage), achieving any level of success can feel wonderful.
I think I’ve reached the stage where I’m able to recognise good writing, certainly writing that’s more deserving of mine to win, and this is great as it only makes me want to improve.
However, it can get slightly disheartening when you feel your story is as good as the winners (I find this more with magazine stories), especially when you’re not sure exactly what you need to do to get better. I think it’s sometimes down to luck or simply the fact that the judge or fiction editor has already read something similar or prefers another style of writing to yours.
The thing I find difficult is that you hardly ever know what the problem was or how close (or far!) you were to/from the winners. That can be frustrating. I suppose the answer is just to get on with another piece of writing. Not giving up can take you one step closer to winning.
I haven’t been well the last couple of days so I’m catching up on the challenge today. I’ll post my entry for ‘W’ a little later on 🙂
Since I’ve started writing more flash fiction, I’ve become aware of the importance of using the right vocabulary. The pieces which win flash competitions tend to be those containing images that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading, and although it’s important as a writer to have a wide vocabulary, what matters more is the ability to use the most appropriate word which will enable the reader to truly ‘see’ the image or scene.
I always keep a ‘word bank’ of words and phrases that I particularly like, but when I first started writing, I used to chuck in words that I thought sounded good – the kinds of words that I thought would impress the reader. However, I quickly learned that this was the worst thing I could do. The most important thing when writing creatively is to be able to tell a story and by using a word that’s likely to be unfamiliar to the reader, all this will do is stem the flow of reading, and in effect break the connection between writer and reader as they’ll have to stop to look the word up in a dictionary.
In order to expand my vocabulary and add effective words to my word bank, I write down any that I’ve come across in short stories and flash fiction pieces that resonated with me. In particular, I look out for onomatopoeia and vivid verbs. I also read and re-read good examples of figurative language such as particularly apt metaphors and similes. I think about why they work so well and after which, try to create my own.