2017-07-13 / Arts & Entertainment News

Prepare yourself for the Writing Challenge (hacks included)

It’s that time for the annual Florida Weekly Writing Challenge.

If you’re thinking of participating, you might be the kind of writer whose words seem to pour from your fingertips … whose keyboard can’t keep up with the proliferation of ideas bubbling forth from your imagination.

Or you might be the kind who stares at a blank screen for hours in a panic … sweat on your brow … jotting down a sentence or two, only to rearrange them entirely before, finally, erasing them completely. By God, you know you have the words in you — you just can’t seem to get them onto the page.

If you’re the former type of writer, you’re most likely well on your way toward your submission. If you’re the latter, you’re probably hoping, praying for a bit of advice or encouragement.

Novelist Paul Gallico would tell you, “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact with your reader.”

This photo is the prompt for your story in Florida Weekly’s 2017 Writing Challenge. 
BETTY WELLS / FLORIDA WEEKLY This photo is the prompt for your story in Florida Weekly’s 2017 Writing Challenge. BETTY WELLS / FLORIDA WEEKLY That seems a little severe to us. Instead, we take the approach of award-winning journalist Christopher “Chip” Scanlan: “Good writing may be magical, but it’s not magic. It is the by- product of a rational series of decisions and actions. Fortunately for those of us struggling to write well, that process can be observed, understood, and, on the best days, repeated.”

With that in mind, we offer a few online hacks — no, not “hacks” as in “bad writers,” but tips, shortcuts and suggestions — to help you to be able to craft and polish and, finally, submit your best work.

But first, the contest, itself.

Here’s how it works:

We want your original narrative fiction using the photo prompt at right as the starting point. Keep it to 750 words, please, and no poetry, thank you.

Run your masterpiece through Spellcheck, give it a title and send it, either attached as a Word document or simply pasted into the body of the email, to writing@floridaweekly.com. Snail mail offerings will not be considered, nor will any entry that does not contain your full name, the city/state you live in and a phone number where we can reach you.

You have until 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 13, to submit your story.

We’ll publish a new photo prompt in our Aug. 16 issue. If you are so inspired, you’ll have until 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 1, to send us another story based on that image. Only one entry per photo prompt, for a total of two entries permitted per person.

Florida Weekly editors will review the entries and vote for our favorite, whose author will receive a ticket to the 12th annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference (value: $500). With keynote speaker Alice Hoffman, the conference is set for Nov. 2-5 on Sanibel Island.

The 2017 Florida Weekly Writing Challenge winner will be notified by Oct. 15, and the winning entry will be published in all our editions.

Questions? Email writing@floridaweekly.com and we’ll get back to you.


Here are just a few websites that will cover some of the basics. You might want to look at them before you write your story, and maybe again afterward — just to make sure you’ve covered all the bases.

While most of these cover novel writing, their lessons are certainly applicable to all types of fiction.

• Stephen King’s “Everything You Need to Know About Writing Successfully — in Ten Minutes”

When this was originally published in a 1986 issue of The Writer magazine, Mr. King had not yet become the household name he is today. Yet, with only a couple of very successful novels under his belt, he was still in a position to offer sage advice to others in his craft.

Mr. King admits that his advice his nothing new. However, “I am going to tell you these things again because often people will only listen — really listen — to someone who makes a lot of money doing the thing he’s talking about.” www.aerogrammestudio.com/2015/02/24/stephen-king-everything you-need-to-know-about-writing-successfully/

• 20 Writing Tips from Fiction Authors

“Writing success boils down to hard work, imagination and passion — and then some more hard work.” With that introduction, iUniverse Publishing presents a few snippets of wisdom from well-known writers. www.iuniverse.com/Resources/WritingEditing/20WritingTipsfrom12FictionAut...

• 101 of the Best Fiction-Writing Tips

Are 20 tips not enough for you? This should do the trick. It might seem like overkill, but these are mostly one-liners, with a few gems scattered throughout. In four parts. https://writeitsideways.com/101-of-the-best-fiction-writing-tips-part-i

• Ten Rules for Writing Fiction (parts one and two)

This is a novel (no pun intended) idea. Using notables such as Elmore Leonard, Joyce Carol Oates, Jonathan Franzen and others, The Guardian has culled 10 writing rules from each. www.theguardian.com/books/2010/feb/20/ten-rules-for-writing-fiction-part...

• 6 of the Best Pieces of Advice from Successful Writers

The first piece of advice is filed under “The best ways to get over the “blank page hurdle,” with advice from Anne Lamott on allowing yourself to produce crappy first drafts. Need we say more? blog.bufferapp.com/6-of-the-most-important-aspects-of-successful-writing

• 30 Indispensable Writing Tips From Famous Authors

Presented as memes, each with the photo of the author and his or her quote about writing, you glean from the experience of Hemingway, Elmore Leonard, Anton Chekhov, Toni Morrison, John Steinbeck, Maya Angelou and more. www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/writing-advice-from-famous-authors

Journalist Will Haygood said, “Writing is physical work. It’s sweaty work. You just can’t will yourself to become a good writer. You really have to work at it.” The accumulated knowledge from these few websites should arm you to the teeth in what author Steven Pressfield termed “The War of Art,” and help you create a stellar bit of writing. We look forward to reading what emerges from your struggle. Oh, and we hope you have fun in the process.

Good luck. ¦

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