Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2015

I know many people don’t want to take the time or spend the money on entering writing contests. I was in the same boat up until a year ago. Then I took the plunge and entered the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2013, and whoa! My entire attitude changed.

Before I began entering the NYC Midnight writing challenges, I assumed my writing skills were at their best…wrong! In just two Flash Fiction Challenges and one Short Story Challenge (FFC 2013, SSC 2014, FFC 2014), my abilities have grown exponentially. I’m actually kind of embarrassed by what I considered to be my “best”. I won’t even let my friends or colleagues look at my old work. Yuck…

So, what has writing flash fiction and short stories taught me, exactly? Well, I’ll tell you:

  • Write a complete story. To make a story truly shine, all facets of it must be developed and balanced equally. Plot, characters, scenery, etc. If you miss or lax on one, it stands out to readers.
  • Characters count. Characters carry a large portion of a story’s weight. Making them as 3D and likable as possible is a must. Also, too many of them tend to be confusing/burdensome for a reader. So, make each one count, and make each one memorable.
  • Keep it simple! Chop, chop, chop. Do you really need that character? Do you really need to talk about that fact? With their limited word count, short stories force you to take a step back and consider what’s vital to a plot. If it’s not pushing it forward or making it deeper, get rid of it.
  • Take the road less traveled. Go outside the box. Be creative! Ask yourself, “Is this different? Will it make me stand out?” Example: In round one of the Short Story Challenge 2014, I received these prompts: Suspense, wedding, chef. My first impulse? Write a story about a bride and groom who are trying to off each other, and in the end the bride poisons the groom with the help of the chef. I immediately tossed it out and forced myself to dig deeper and think beyond the obvious. And I’m glad I did. Most of my competitors wrote stories about poisoned food and vindictive brides and grooms. Mine, “Chasing Monsters,” was nothing of the sort. And because of that, I landed myself a 2nd place finish.

Those are just a few things I’ve learned while participating in these challenges. To list all of them would take a decade. I will, however, point out some specific benefits of participating in an NYC Midnight Challenge. The main one is their private forum. NYC Midnight offers competitors a location to interact and share their stories with each other. And I love it! The forum helps you:

  • Overcome your fear of sharing your work with others.
  • Discover what you do well. Positive feedback is always nice to hear, right?
  • Learn to open yourself up to constructive criticism. If you’re planning to enter the Harsh Land of Publishing, you will need to know how to do this. Trust me.
  • Critique other stories. You wouldn’t believe how much you can learn about the art of storytelling by reading and critiquing other people’s work. When you (tactfully) explain to someone what you liked and did not like about their story, you will likely apply those observations to your own work (whether you realize it or not).
  • Meet other writers! While doing these challenges, I have gained a lot of friends and colleagues. I’ve also found a few trustworthy beta readers to help me with my future work.

So, with all of that said, registration has officially opened for the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2015. I strongly–strongly–encourage you to consider entering it. Yes, it costs some money, and yes, the actual challenge is, well, a challenge. But I promise, if you go into it with the right attitude and participate on the forum, every penny and every stressful second will be worth it. Plus, the manuscript you’re working on now (or in the future) will thank you for doing this. I know the one I’m working on is thanking me.

10734194_10152421763496776_3321341572966777122_nOf course, the NYC Midnight writing challenges aren’t the only ones out there. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge, or aren’t in a position to spend the moola, then I still encourage you to look into a blog or website that hosts free weekly challenges. My favorite is Chuck Wendig’s, terribleminds.

 You have until December 11th to take advantage of the early entry fee. There’s also a Twitter discount, so be sure to use that to lower the cost even more. Final deadline is January 15th.

Hope to see you all on the forum!

To learn more about the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2015, click here!

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23 thoughts on “Why You Should Enter the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2015

  1. Thanks for sharing, Jen. The Flash Challenge this year is my first contest of any kind, and worth every penny. It forced me to think out of the box, write, and actually *complete* a story. Giving and receiving feedback has been invaluable.

    I have been on the fence about the short story challenge. Partly because you only get one guaranteed opportunity to write. Is the judge’s feedback on the longer story a little more thorough? I think the official feedback I’ve gotten has had some good points, but was also pretty sparse. I think I have gotten more insight from the other writers.


    1. Honestly, I had a better experience in the Short Story Challenge than I did Flash. I’m not sure if it’s the added pressure of only getting that one chance to advance that pushed me harder, or the extra words/days (2,500 words/8 days in R1, 2,000 words/3 days in R2, 1,500 words/24 hours in R3). I would say the judge’s feedback is sparse in round 1, very much like it is in the first round of the Flash Fiction Challenge. But if you advance, you start to get a lot more. By round 3, I received almost a full page of notes from the judges. Which makes sense. They only had 40 writers, not 1,000, to respond to, haha.

      Personally, I think it’s worth the risk of not advancing after round 1. I figure even if I get knocked out early, I still get the chance to write a story, have it critiqued by a lot of writers (and those helpful/unhelpful judges, lol), and make new connections/friends. And I always learn something new about my writing to improve upon.

      Hope that helps you make your decision. It is scary to think you can get knocked out early, but it never hurts to try. And, hey, you never know. You might win! 🙂


  2. Thank you so much for this post! I am about to sign up for the Short Story Challenge and before paying I did a quick web search and landed on your site. Didn’t know whether NYC Midnight was legit and was suddenly worried my credit card details would be broadcast to a select group of cyber thieves. Thank you, thank you! I’ve never done anything like this before, so if you’re reading this, please wish me luck!

    Best regards,


    1. It’s legit! You’re good to go 🙂

      And good luck! I strongly recommend you participate on the forum. You’ll get more bang for your buck! My username on there is JensPenDen (shocker, I know, lol). Hope to see you on there! Have fun!


      1. Thanks again, I just signed up for the forum on your advice (same username as here, PanamaVeggie) and am excited to sift through it while I wait for the first prompt on Jan 16!


  3. So I was debating entering this and your blog pushed me over the edge… I was a bit worried that it wouldn’t be worth the fee, but it seems like a pretty good deal. Thank you for posting such a thoughtful review of the contest, and I’ll see you in the forums!


    1. So glad my blog post helped! And yes, definitely use the forum. If you don’t, then I’m not sure if the fee IS worth it. Also, just a forum tip: Be sure to read/review other people’s stories. That’ll draw more attention to yours and you’ll get more feedback 🙂

      Good luck! Hope you get some great prompts to work with.


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