Since joining Vocal in January 2022, I’ve entered many challenges. I even won runner-up in the “After the Parade” challenge. Each challenge has had its merits. The timing of “After the Parade” complemented my coming out as omnisexual, “The Fantasy Prologue” gave me an excuse to write in my favorite genre, and “Christopher Paolini’s Fantasy Fiction” had the best prize I’ve seen so far. Others, such as “The Mystery Box,” “The Runaway Train,” and “Under Purple Clouds” have allowed me to experiment with style, genre, or both. However, there’s something about “Microfiction Magic” that has caused it to stand out from all the others as my favorite challenge thus far.
Actually, there are two things that make it my favorite challenge:
1. It makes me write, no matter how little time I have to do so.
I’m not going to lie, the biggest excuse that I give for not writing is that I simply don’t have the time, even for short stories, blog posts, and articles. Even writing this article took an act of God because I thought that I didn’t have the time for it for days. Microfiction, though, is short. It gets me past that mental block of “oh, 600…1,000…5,000 words, who has the time?” Only 100 words, or less, allows me to squeeze the writing in when I have the time—and inspiration. I can jot down what I’m thinking right before I go to bed, before I start working on my current freelancing project, or before I go see what the heck the dogs have gotten into this time. Does it mean that it’s perfect? Oh, heck no. I’ll definitely need to check it a few thousand times before I enter it into the challenge, and even then, it’s probably not any good (at the very least, not by my standards). Still, at least I wrote something that I can consider “complete.”
2. It helps me to work on my writing in a much more concise fashion.
I’m a verbose person. Sometimes, that can cause me to lose track of some of the more important elements of fiction, such as characterization and plot. Microfiction does not allow for excessive language. Everything must be precise and have meaning. It must all work toward characterization and plot, no matter how subtly that might be. Writing microfiction for this challenge has forced me to think of my writing in different ways, in ways that I have not since I graduated from my master’s program. I have to think about the different layers that the words might convey, what exactly defines a plot, how to portray a character’s traits without going into too much detail, etc. It’s a huge pain in the butt—and just the challenge that I needed to spark my love of writing again.
Will any of my stories win one of the coveted winners’ slots for this challenge? I don’t know. There are a lot of great contenders this round, as there are with every challenge. Regardless, I don’t think that I will be quite as disappointed if I don’t win this time around. Obviously, I would like to have the money and validation that come with winning, but that’s not all that I’m getting from entering this challenge. I am truly getting a challenge out of this challenge, a challenge to write and improve my writing like I haven’t done for a few years now. I might even continue to write microfiction after the challenge is over. I probably won’t be able to publish any of it here, depending on what Vocal does with the minimum word count for fiction following this challenge, but I would continue to write it just to try and hone my skills. I guess that’s why Vocal calls them “challenges” instead of “contests” or “competitions”—they are meant to challenge us, not just for the possibility of a prize but to make us better writers.
Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
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