azchallenge winnerA short post today just to share that last week I found out that I am the overall winner in The Write Practice’s Spring Writing Contest! I’m so thrilled, especially as the standard of stories submitted was, as always, very high. I’ve been given an honourable mention in previous contests but never won. I let out an involuntary whoop in a hotel restaurant when I found out last week, and then grinned through the entire meal.

My winning story appears on the front page of Short Fiction Break today – please check it out and let me know what you think. As I’m writing this ahead of time, I’ll include this separate link in case the guys at SFB move things around before Tuesday.

A couple of things about The Write Practice and why their community and their contests are so great:

To enter, you must first submit your story in the workshop for feedback. Yes, that’s right – unless you go through this step, your work will not be accepted. This is so important as it teaches writers – some for the first time – to share their work and receive feedback. You don’t have to accept the suggestions made by those in your workshop group, but I’ve found that readers pick up on so many things I’ve missed: not just typos etc, but where a story doesn’t slow, or where a sentence scans awkwardly, for example. Fresh eyes on your story are invaluable for improving it, ahead of submitting to a contest.

It’s also part of the deal that you give feedback on the stories of others in your workshop group. Again, this is valuable practice for all writers – learning to read critically and identify parts of a story which aren’t working for you. The Write Practice has a tradition of careful and constructive feedback (one-worders and dismissive feedback are strongly discouraged) so the critique you give and get focuses on an aspect which worked, and an aspect which could be stronger.

Everyone who enters can have their work published. I don’t know of another contest that does this. If you agree, then your story – winning or not – will be published on Short Fiction Break and seen by their readership. What a great incentive, for those of us building up our writing CVs! Your work will have passed through the workshop, and has now been published – great for your resume. (Writers can opt out of publication if they wish. I didn’t wish.)

It might seem weird that in the workshop,  you would be helping other competitors improve their chances against you – but honestly, this works. When you read a story and think This is great! you want to make it even better. And likewise, I’ve received so many helpful comments that have highlighted my weak points – and what readers enjoy.

I encourage everyone to join a critique group like the Write Practice – a regular writing deadline and consistent, helpful feedback are the most valuable tools for improving your writing.

Many thanks to The Write Practice and Short Fiction Break, and I hope you all like my story. Woohoo!

The Write Practice: the contest workshops only exist during competitions, but the weekly writing group membership runs all year. There’s also an online cafe where we chat about relevant – and irrelevant – things, and a forum for getting feedback on story ideas. And if that wasn’t enough, there are focused courses, such as Write a Novel in 100 Days. Find out more here.

Today’s post was out of alphabetical order. I’m back with N- No ideas but still need blog content? tomorrow.