Finding Inspiration in Writing Contests

So, sometimes I find there is a lull in my writing. A empty, shallow time that is void of any and all inspiration and desire. Nothing I come up with sounds right, my plot is going in circles, and I’m tired of my stupid book and how crazy it is making me. I am starting to forget why I wanted to be a writer in the first place.

And then, a contest is announced. Now, not just ANY contest, mind you. The winner of this contest gets to have a 30-45 minute writing workshop with MAGGIE STIEFVATER. Yes, you heard me right. The NY Times best- selling author of YA novels (the genre I am trying to break into). She also happens to be my favorite author so, no bigs.

But no seriously, BIG bigs. Huge deal. I’m freaking out just thinking about winning. I’ve already drafted my opening line for my workshop with her. Okay, I haven’t gotten that far but I am sure I will before the contest deadline arrives.

The prompt: Submit a story about two people who have become the way they are because of their close relationship with each other: either as best friends or worst enemies – or both. Write it in 500 words or less without using either the words “friend” or “enemy.

The problem? Only 500 words??? Ok, let’s back up. Do you want to know why I feel I need to be a novelist? Because I can never stop writing more details about a story. I am incapable of writing a short story for this very reason – it just keeps going on and on in my head, scene after scene. So HOW ON EARTH, Maggie, am I supposed to write a complete and compelling story in 500 words?

Challenge accepted.

And just like that, inspiration flood. I have already written two short stories for this contest and might write a third just to really get going. I have found that with a specific prompt and word limit, it makes the process that much faster in discovering where you can take a story in that short amount of words.


Tip: In both stories, I started to think of what these two kinds of people would be like and once I had an idea, I wrote the ending. THEN, I worked towards that ending and tried to be efficient in my word count.

I caught myself trying to add too much back story and details which threw my word count for a loop-dee-do. I had to cut, cut, cut and really get down to the raw facts of the story. You aren’t really going to be able to get to know a whole lot about the characters in 500 words so the focus has to really be basic but precise enough to get the point across successfully.

To win this contest would mean the world to me but I know the world won’t end if I don’t. And neither will my writing career. But I may pout just a little. Either way, it got me writing when I was down and that alone was worth the effort.

Do you have any go-to exercises or remedies when you just can’t seem to get anywhere with your writing?

3 thoughts on “Finding Inspiration in Writing Contests

  1. I hate the word amateur, but I’d have to describe myself as an amateur writer as well 🙂 although I’d prefer blossoming or something similar Haha. Are you working on any YA novels at this time? I started one recently and I’m excited to see where it leads. Also, this writing contest is intriguing. Do you know of any other good ones?

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