The Hidden Prize


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I recently received an e-mail notifying me of a short short story contest, less than 1,000 words in length. So I searched through my files of begun-but-not-completed stories, and found a likely entry. 

Boy! For a novelist, such short stories can be really tough. Every word must count – and I mean that. You must find a way to define your characters, let them act out the story – from opening to denouement – without having the story seem unbalanced and without rushing to an all-too-implied crisis point-climax.

You have to imply a lot in such stories, and there are techniques for that. Still, why bother, if your meat and potatoes passion is for long fiction? My answer: It keeps you sharp, reminds you how easy it is to drift into worthless or dead words, phrases, etc., i.e., it keeps you from waltzing your creativity into dead-end side trips. 

Contests are difficult to win; there are too many variables, and any judging is always subjective. But making a serious stab at one occasionally is a way to keep from drifting into lazy writing. For that reason alone, contests should be a part of your writing discipline.

Now back to the novel.

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