“Beware of advice. Even this.” ~~Carl Sandburg
Advice from Flash Contest Judges
You’re on your 7th draft of the perfect Flash Fiction Story—you hope. Will the judges like it? You’re too familiar to know, your writing partner has given her feedback, and besides, isn’t the whole thing subjective?
Yes and no. While it is subjective I’m delighted to share what affected some of our judges in the last flash fiction and flash memoir contests. Hopefully these comments will show you what does and doesn’t work for judges. Use it wisely and it might help tip a contest in your favor.
This is not a recipe or a formula. It’s a collection of comments that applied to other people’s stories. Frankly I’d use it to make a check list so I could get a sense of whether my story is working or not.
Believable? Authentic? Written from the heart?
You just might grab one or more judges. Let us feel what your characters feel. Don’t tell us what they feel. Show us, so we can feel it too.
Detailed? Filled with imagery?
Judges notice what works. They also catch on quickly. Avoid overusing adjectives.
Deeply moving? Insightful? Suspenseful? Tightly-written? Surprising? Uniquely structured? Strong voice? Playful tone?
These comments show how and why a piece worked. Note the variety. Try imagining what a judge who’s never met you might say about your work.
Brief suggestions and a few concerns, directly quoted from one or more past judges:
Tighten your writing.
Start later in the story.
Characters seem distant.
Ending is predictable or feels rushed.
More of a moment in time than a story. NOTE: It’s possible to create a story that takes place in a particular moment in time, but in a story something changes for a character.
Vary sentence lengths.
Vary sentence beginnings.
What is the story telling us?
Very good—but not quite compelling enough.
That last one is heartbreaking, I know. You control your story, but not your competition. If a piece doesn’t work for Writer Advice and you agree with the suggestions you’re given, use them to improve the story and submit it elsewhere. Use our comments to make your story better. Let us know if it gets placed. That becomes a win-win.
We want to read your stories and we encourage you to send your best work. We hope you’ll gain insight from our process. The current contest expectations are listed under “Current Contest Guidelines.” Go to the home page and click on the box for information.