Hey, QSF’ers! A special return of Angel’s Bits this week to recap and take a sift through what we saw in this year’s competition.
When we started the Flash Fiction contest, it was on a lark. Oh, hey! This will be fun! We received 15 entries and gave out some prizes. Yay!
The second year, we decided it would be cool to do a book. What were we thinking? But we received 115 entries that year, enough for a respectable book, and with the help of the MCB folks, there was indeed one. Discovery.
The third year? We thought – what if we made this a contest contest? Writers submit entries and we pick the top 100 or so? We received 167 entries and picked the best of those that best fulfilled the criteria.
This year? We had 210 entries. 210. And picked 110. I was blown away and I have to start by saying thank you to everyone for sharing your stories. We gave you a theme, you all went crazy with it, and we got to read every single one. Thank you.
Writing a cohesive, complete 300-word story is hard. Picking the best out 210 of them is also quite a bit harder than I anticipated. There were so many amazing stories.
Some things that the judges and the final choice committee looked for? We’re hoping a quick rundown might assist in future years:
- Did the story fulfill all the criteria clearly? (queer, spec-fic, theme, complete story) There were several where one or more judge/committe member was heartbroken about a story that was beautiful but missed on one of those four criteria and had to be disqualified. Heartbroken, I tell you.
- Was there diverse representation in the story? While this wasn’t a qualifier, per se, we did look for stories that tried to represent more of our community and more of our world, in non-stereotypical ways.
- Was the use of theme creative? Daring? There are certain interpretations that come up almost as a default with every theme. We really love the ones that twist usual tropes into something new or give us an interpretation we weren’t expecting.
- Were those 300 words used to their best advantage? In other words, did each sentence serve the core story. There’s a tendency to want to begin with backstory, with explanation, or to give us an episode rather than a whole, complete story bite. While some of these still work, stories that take to heart that 300 word limit are given greater weight.
- Are you stretching genre? We tend to get a lot of science fiction. We tend to get a lot of gay science fiction. A number of these stories are going to be awfully similar by nature – so by comparison can suffer. Think about something that you maybe wouldn’t normally write – stretch.
Obviously, we’re going to be drawn to a good story and a well-crafted, well-written story. But it’s amazing what can and can’t be done in 300 words. We’re just gobsmacked every year we do this. Every entry was brave. Even if you weren’t chosen this year, especially if you weren’t, we challenge you to try again next year. Hone those words. Sharpen those concepts. We’re already in awe. Blow us away.