It all started when my writer friend S. participated in a multi-phase short-story contest called #Project REUTSway. It was all about retelling mythological tales, and each of its four stages was about a different region of the world. One was Egyptian mythology, one was Celtic mythology, and so on.
I was a little bummed out from the repeated revisions I had done on my middle-grade novel Kings and Pawns, a seemingly never-ending task, and decided I needed a break. My friend was having so much fun writing these stories that I jumped in, in the last week of the contest, which was Eastern European mythology... and something happened that I hadn't expected: I loved every second of it.
I found out several things: First, that it's a lot easier to write a story when someone gives you a topic. Like when you were four and asked your mom: "What should I draw now?" Second, I found out that I have a penchant for the dark and macabre. No wonder, really, since I love Edgar Allen Poe and Roald Dahl's short stories with the surprising twists at the end.
The ideas were flowing, and I finished the whole story, titled "The Night of the Lark Moon," in just a few days. (You can read an excerpt here.) What a relief compared to the Sisyphus work of novel revision!
Aside from the good feeling to actually finish something (and fast), short stories can give you something else: the accolades and credentials that look so posh in your query letters. Some of your stories may be published in anthologies or magazines, others might win prizes.
So go and write a short story today. I have by no means researched the entire market on writing contests, but let me share with you a few things to get you started.
- Project REUTSway - an annual short-story contest from REUTS Publications. No cash prizes, but if you are one of the winners, your story will be included in their annual anthology.
- Bath Short Story Award, UK - an international short-story contest. First prize (cash): 1,000 British pounds.
- Bristol Short Story Prize, UK - an international short-story contest. Winners are included in the anthology.
- Writing Contest Directory: if you want to do your own research, this directory on the Poets & Writers website looks pretty comprehensive.
In the next installment, I'll provide a list of literary magazines you can sell your stories to.