I was delighted to see the Blogable Ficton Marathon is here again for 2022! And I would encourage anyone thinking about it, to jump in with both feet and get involved.
Personally, I won’t be entering again this year. Mainly because I finished in second place last year and I doubt I would match or better that this year, so I would rather finish on a high! However, that does fill me with a tinge of regret as I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think it definitely improved my style of writing.
I really enjoyed the excitement of the whole competition. I enjoyed the mail arriving in my inbox, seeing what the latest challenge entailed. Now, I will admit on some occasions I was delighted by the challenge and on other occasions I did curse the Blogable Babes! Generally, I would then spend the next few days letting ideas play in my mind as I considered what to write. Then came the thrill of submitting my piece and ultimately seeing the scores and the feedback.
Despite cursing the choice of challenge on some occasions – one of the biggest benefits of entering the competition was that it encouraged me to write outside my comfort zone. Sometimes this was in relation to the topic itself, but also to the style or the length of piece.
Make Every Word Matter
Each writing challenge has a set (and strictly enforced) word count. The initial pieces are shorter, and they grow in length over the course of the competition. At the beginning this meant I was writing shorter pieces than I am used to, but it also means you really have to make every word justify its place in the story. And this was a useful learning for later in the competition. Although the later pieces had a longer word count, it was also becoming more competitive, so I continued that focus on ensuring each word earned its inclusion in my story.
For me, this element also worked my editing skills. Rereading pieces, reviewing them, working out what needed to be cut or where I needed to build on a point. I also used a tip I had previously been given – reading the story out loud to myself – and I think this really helps to ensure the story flows effectively.
One of the pieces I found most challenging to write was Round 3.
We were given a topic, a word count AND a percentage of the content that needed to be written as speech.
I found this a really tricky one. Partly just keeping track of my words in speech marks versus my total word count! It also meant I had to rely heavily on the speech to put across not just the words, but also the emotions I wanted to convey behind it. I know when I finished my first draft, I was short on actual speech, and I really struggled editing it to increase this whilst not losing the essence and power of the story. But it has increased my confidence, and hopefully skill, in including speech in my stories.
Out of Comfort Zone
To make this piece even harder (what was I thinking) – I also ventured away from my usual genre of writing. As you may already know, kinky, smutty, erotica is usually where my stories lie – and this is where my writing started in this competition. Nobody made me write about a different topic. In each round you receive a prompt or a theme, but it is down to you how you interpret this.
However, I read some of the pieces from the other competition entrants and I was wowed by the variety of topics they covered. It made me feel I needed to step away from just my usual smut. In this round I wrote a piece about an abusive relationship. It was a completely new area for me to write about and one that hosts some personal demons, so it took some bravery on my part. It was definitely a positive stretch to my writing skills and as a result I am currently exploring some new ideas on this theme.
Finally, the feedback. One of the key points to emphasis here is that the feedback is almost unanimously constructive. The judges and the other entrants and competition fans are not looking to criticise your work, they are looking to help you improve. So, take it on board and work with what people are telling you.
I found it useful to look at my own feedback but also to read other entries and their feedback – especially where a story I had not been as impressed by scored really well, or a piece I loved did badly. It provided a beneficial alternative perspective and helped me to critique my own work more effectively.
Not only was The Fiction Marathon fun, it also improved my style of writing and forced me out of my comfort zone. But this year, I am looking forward to just reading everyone else’s entries!