Feedback from NYC Short Story Challenge

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It would seem that it was remiss of me to update you with how I went in the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge, considering the first round was at the end of January and I received my feedback mid-March. I was reminded of this fact when I saw on Twitter today that they have announced those who are going forward into the third and final round. Applause for those who made it!

While I knew that the story I submitted – A Fool Called Bob – was not of the best quality, I figured that seeing as I had paid the entry fee, it would be foolish (hehe) not to enter something. January ended up being a crappy month, and I didn’t get a chance to have my piece looked over by even a single beta-reader, as I pretty much finished it the day it was due.

That said, here is the feedback that I received:

WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR STORY

  • You do a nice job of mimicking Bob’s hazy goings on in the tone.
  • You’ve given Bob a strong voice. He is a distinct, memorable anti-hero. His series of failed petty crimes and the way he is caught in the end all fit together well to resolve the story.
  • A sympathetic protagonist, however misguided. He’s not ‘bad’ but he’s trying to help his parents. Well written/good description — can totally realize who ‘Bob’ is. Like it when he refers to his parents as “the oldies.” Funny how he tries to take off with the massage chair, only to be challenged.

WHAT THE JUDGE(S) FEEL NEEDS WORK

  • Consider using 3rd person to create a more naturalistic approach. Fewer scenes or more unified action would also help keep the reader immersed in the story.
  • The way Bob is described and the way he talks do not give the impression that he cares that much for his parents, yet he goes to great lengths to try to help his parents stave off bankruptcy. Consider developing the relationship between him and his parents just a little bit more so readers can get a better sense of what the family history is and what motivates him.
  • Maybe clarify the ending a bit more. Suggest that Bertie and May should be established early on (even a line or two — noting he’s a ‘strange’ neighbor). Lots of promise as a story.

Without heading back into the forum and searching around, this is what I remember other contestants had to say:

  • Tense changed throughout.
  • Use italics for his thoughts (which I normally do in all of my writing, but you know… didn’t do in this frigging competition!)
  • ‘Crime caper’ as a genre is probably be more about a single crime, not a number of smaller crimes.

So – what did I learn while participating in this challenge?

  1. To be given three set boundaries – genre (crime caper), subject (bankruptcy), character (gardener) – and to write within those boundaries is actually pretty hard, especially when I have never written anything to do with any of those things. It was interesting to say the least.
  2. Google is my friend. If ever my computer’s search engine is looked over for some reason, I would probably be reported and arrested on suspicion of many, many things. How to grow drugs. Quick and easy ways to make illegal money. And that’s just for this one story…
  3. Beta-readers are key. Of course they are. Because they would have told me the issues they told me in the forum, and I could have made changes and fixed it up. Alas, it didn’t happen and I am kicking myself at this lost opportunity.
  4. It was fun, even if I didn’t give it my all at the time.

Will I do it again? Absolutely. January will come around again quick enough, and I look forward to participating for a second time. Fingers crossed that I don’t draw the crime caper card again though!

Have you participated in the NYC Short Story Challenge? How did you go?

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