WinningWriters.com is a great free site that offers timely resources and updates on a wide range of contests for poets, essayists, novelists, and short story writers. It also sponsors the Tom Howard/John H. Reid Fiction and Essay Contest:
• Top prizes: Best Story, $1500; Best Essay: $1500.
• Length Limit: 6,000 words
• Subject: Open
• Previous publication: OK
• Winning entries published on Winning Writers website
• Deadline: April 30
Arthur Powers, an award-winning author and the contest’s judge, offered some advice on fiction writing to entrants that I believe we may all find helpful:
“All the rules you have ever learned about writing are important. You should know them, master them, then work around them. People will tell you it is important to show, not tell; they are right—yet sometimes you should tell, not show. People will discuss whether to write in first or third person, from a specific or more omniscient viewpoint—all this is interesting but, in my experience, it is the story that tells the writer what viewpoint to write from, not the writer who tells the story. People (including me) will tell you never to write in the second person—yet I once wrote an entire novella in the second person and it worked (won an award and was published).
“In his wonderful novel, My Name Is Asher Lev, Chaim Potok says much the same thing about painting: “This is a tradition…Only one who has mastered a tradition has the right to add to it or to rebel against it.”
“I tell my students that character is the most important element in fiction. You should know and love your characters. Plot is what happens when characters interact with one another or situations. This is true not only of psychological and literary stories, but of science fiction, thrillers, westerns, even mysteries (where the temptation to distort characters to fit the plot is particularly strong).
“Atmosphere may also be important to a story—the way a place, a situation, and the story itself feel. Texture may be created through a few key phrases…
“Walter Pater said that all art strives toward music, and there is a great deal of truth in that. The rhythm of a story—pacing, timing, speed—is very important. I find it sometimes helps to think of my stories in terms of musical composition.
“Avoid clichés—not only in words, but in thoughts. Try not to be too self-absorbed—take your craft seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.”
Pointers to ponder as we all write on!