Smooth Sailing – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge

Let me start off by apologizing to my regular blog followers. I have been completely negligent of my blog the past few months due to some personal matters. But, my life is gradually returning to a new, steady rhythm and I hope to begin blogging again soon. Thanks for your patience!

For today, I’d like to share my most recent experience from the first round of this year’s NYC Midnight (NYCM) Flash Fiction Challenge (FFC). As a quick reminder, the NYCM FFC is a writing contest where writers are given three prompts (genre, location, and object), and then 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story. It’s always crazy! But fun.

Round one kicked off last Friday night at 10 p.m. (MST) when I received my assignment:

Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 10.34.05 PM

First impressions: 


A corporate conference room

A baby rattle


No joke, I wanted to go to bed right then and there. Talk about BORING! I’m used to off the wall prompts (like an action adventure that has to take place in an underwater cave and incorporate a dumbbell). I was also a touch nervous because drama tends to mean literary, and I’m much more of a commercial writer. Ugh.

I allowed myself about 15 minutes to absorb the prompts and get over my “I don’t wanna” attitude. Then I hunkered down with my favorite brainstorm buddy and personal Simon Cowell (my mom) and contemplated what to write about.


I instantly assumed many of my competitors would take the corporate conference room and baby rattle prompts and write a story about a custody battle. So, I wanted to stay as far away as possible from that sort of plot line. For a few minutes, I considered writing about a plane crash involving a woman who smuggled diamonds via baby rattles. But, even that wasn’t thrilling me.

Without knowing it, my eyes drifted to my nephew’s water bottle sitting next to my elbow. While gazing at its green space shuttles and yellow stars, a new idea struck me.


Space! Astronauts! Exploration! I pitched the idea to my mom, and she instantly said, “Yes! I love it.” Suddenly, my prompts were no longer boring.

After another hour of contemplating and brainstorming (about characters, conflict, plot, etc.), I packed up my computer and went home to get some much needed sleep.

On Saturday, I spent most of the morning watching documentaries about outer space, debating various routes to take with my characters, and helping fellow competitors (and friends) brainstorm ideas for their own prompts/stories. Around noon, I realized I better start actually writing. The clock was ticking!

I whipped out an ugly first draft in about an hour. After a quick break, I whipped out a second draft. Then a third. By 6 p.m., I was ready to share it with my first and most critical reader: my mom. I went over to her house and let her read it.

Her response? “It’s so good!”

I was stunned! It’s pretty rare for my mom to like my first attempt during these challenges (i.e. during last year’s first round of FFC, she basically told me to trash my entire concept and start over).

Filled with giddy relief, I proceeded to revise and edit my story until I had a beta worthy draft. Before bed, I sent it out with the hope I’d have more critical feedback by the time I woke up on Sunday.

To my delight and utter disbelief, I awoke to more positive reviews. Everyone really liked my story. Like, really liked it. I was shocked. In 15 rounds of NYCM, I’ve never had a story receive such a positive reception during its infancy.

Feeling calmer than I’ve ever felt during FFC, I decided to set aside my story and focus on helping other writers for a few hours. I beta read, assisted those still struggling to find their groove, and offered general support.

Around 11 a.m., I shifted my focus back to my story. Although my betas liked it, it still had quite a few problems. So, I called my mom and asked her to come over to help me polish things up.

By 3 p.m., I had a final draft and was ready to submit. Yay! I triple checked my story for errors, loopholes, and weak spots, and then sent it off to NYCM.

All in all, it was an exhausting, yet smooth weekend. By far the smoothest I’ve ever experienced during any NYCM competition…Hmm, I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad sign. But, whatever. I’m going to go ahead and celebrate the fact I survived and came out with a story I’m proud of!

In the past, I shared my story publicly. However, I’ve begun sending my work to publishers, so I’m no longer posting them here for any and all to read. Sorry! If you are interested in reading it, please send me a message and I’ll provide you with the password. For now, here’s my title and synopsis:

“The Blue Divide”

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: The countdown for Lorna to decide between her family and her dreams of deep space exploration has begun. Ten, nine, eight, seven…

Congrats to all those who participated and submitted a story for NYCM’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2016!

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Photo Credits: giphy


13 thoughts on “Smooth Sailing – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge

  1. Well done, Jen. You always seem to come out with ‘out of the box’ stories and I’m sure this one will be no different. I’d be delighted to read it.
    Good to hear you’re coming back to Blogging. I’m on a blogging break at the moment as I’m putting my first book of short stories together for publication. They are currently with the editor and proofreader. I’m hoping to publish the book on 10th Dec, but once all the work is done then I’ll be back to blogging.


  2. I love learning about other writers’ processes when it comes to these competitions. I’m always ALWAYS down to the wire. I waste so much time at the onset and don’t often come up with a concept until late Saturday. And I don’t use betas. I don’t know why. Thinking I should but I get too self-conscious. My assignment was SPY/A PLAYGROUND/LEATHER BOOTS.
    Good luck to you!


    1. Isn’t it interesting how we all deal with this competition differently? Ha!

      As scary as it is to share our work, it’s always worth learning and improving it. So, I’m a fan of beta readers. They help me take a step back and reexamine my stories.

      Good luck in the contest!


  3. Looking forward to reading this one, Jen! And your post solved a personal dilemma for me. I always post these stories publicly, too, but I think I’m going to password-protect mine as well. I just had another story picked up… so blog sharing is going to have to become a thing of the past.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, unless I know for a fact I won’t pursue publishing with a story, I’ll be putting a password on each one. It really stinks, because I like sharing my stories on my blog, but with publishers getting pickier and pickier, it’s just not worth the risk.

      I’m off to the forum to read your story now!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds fun! I look forward to seeing it on the forums. Glad you had a smooth weekend.

    I had Fairy Tale/Liquor Store/Clipboard (what? clipboard? trying to force a modern tale? I did classic anyway). First draft came pretty easily, but had to restructure quite a bit after the betas tore into it.


    1. Those are crazy prompts! I’m glad I didn’t get those when I got fairy tale. I struggled enough with traditional prompts, lol. Eager to see what you came up with!


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