Tis the season for Susana Leonard Hill's Holiday Contest! It began right before Thanksgiving. Every time I enter her contests, I am pleased with a new fun story. It's not always about winning, it's the challenge and the stretching which makes a writer better. Possibly a story may be used for a magazine or an idea for another story comes. The best time to start writing is when it first opens. She announces the contest theme and the details about two weeks before it is due. Why should you write for contests? Many reasons. I am so glad I said yes, this season.
Here is how my story "unfurled." I began paying attention to Christmas songs. This word came from a newer Christmas Carol, Joy Has Dawned. I also wrote some lyrics down that helped me with my theme. I added some of the words to my story. It began when I was out to lunch with a friend before Thanksgiving, I saw a card in a gift shop that made me chuckle. It was about Humbugs at Christmas. Then we started watching Christmas shows. The first Christmas show this season my son picked out one of my favorites, The Man Who Invented Christmas, a story about Charles Dickens and how he pondered the ideas and wrote the story of Scrooge in The Christmas Carol.
This year's theme is "Holiday Bad Guys." I am pretty sure I would not have started a story like this because I like to write more friendly stories. I love my story! A huge thank you to Susana for creating such a challenge and helping writers burst forth with something NEW!
There are some great stories, so check them out Here.
Next, the word count is 250 words or less. This is a great tool for writers to enter contests because having a specific target word count helps to carve your story. How did this help me? Well, I probably would have been satisfied with my story at 326 words! The extra shaving off of words really helped my story pop like a sculptor or an artist with fine detail. Especially when I got down to 20 words then 6.
Quality of story. The story will be judged on how well it tells a good story with an arc and not just descriptions or mood. This is something I have learned about my earlier work which were more of the latter. I have looked back at my writing and now I see it. Now I pay attention. Do my character(s) evolve? This is a great tool to focus on.
Proof reading! Don't send without it! Get some extra eyes to help you. Check for spelling and other details. My husband said I needed a transition at the end of my story, I had no room for any extra words but I fit in one key word that helped to make the story better. One thing I am working on is formatting and figuring out how many words to include on a line. This can be tricky too. So try a few different formats. I have sometimes forgotten this one and when I look back at the finalists, I see their formatting really has a nice flow and structure.
Last is a DEADLINE! Yep, every writer needs it. There is just something about it, when the deadline nears you are either ready or you get yourself ready! Otherwise you may just put that start to a story back into the drawer until next year and then you may forget. Contests help with managing your time or getting you to finish! Enter, and good luck!
So here is my Christmas Bad Guys story for Susana Leonard Hill's Contest
The Humbug Family Christmas
By Amy LaMae Brewer
word count 250
Every year the Humbug family turned a little, more rotten.
Downright mean every one, except for Tiny Limb.
All year long the Humbug family tried to be grumpier than the last.
Brother Humbug ate more than his share, every crumb.
He sang their happy humbug song,
“Bah-humbug…bah-humbug I’m the only one,
I won’t share, Bah-hum-bug. I’m the only one.”
Sister Humbug always took the last rug
and Tiny Limb never slept snug.
“Bah-humbug…bah-humbug” she sang,
“I’m the only one, I won’t share,
Bah-hum-bug. I’m the only one.”
Even Mrs. Humbug shared bitterness everywhere.
While Mr. Humbug made everyone work harder,
And never gave a bonus.
“Bah-humbug…Bah-humbug…I’m the only one,
I don’t give any more than none.”
Surely, they could change their lowly state, but how?
Tiny Limb thought bringing cheer with a song, “Fa-la-la-la…”
“BAH!” interrupts Brother.
He made cookies but Sister wrecked every, one.
Still, Tiny Limb wanted them to care,
he wanted them to share.
What’s this manger thing? A lowly stable.
A rotten space. A musty, dirty, stink.
No place a baby should be.
No place at all.
How is this fit for a King?
But Mr. Humbug began to smile.
“It looks just right to me.
I’m not so good.
I’m no better.
This is surely the King for me.
A humble King who shares a lowly state.
Perhaps I can be a humble bug for Thee, who cares for me.”
Tiny Limb saw their hearts begin to glow.
“God bless us, everyone!”