Seeing Your Work in a Different Light

Thursday, December 14, 2017
Yesterday I received an e-mail about an upcoming writing contest. After taking a break from submitting to contests for a while, I have begun dusting off some of my work and taking a chance. This contest caught my eye because it is a Cinematic Short Story Contest—meaning, you submit short fiction that may have cinematic appeal.

I sat back and thought about this. Some of the doubt I have about my own writing ability revolves around me sometimes making things a little too bland—I think my pacing and character development are okay, but there are times I feel a piece may seem more like it’s written for a TV series, or even a play. It lacks the beautiful prose and literary devices I admire in other writers. I thought that perhaps this sort of contest could is a place where some of my writing projects would have a better fit? The fact that the judges are from film and TV production company and two magazines (one mainstream and one literary) also provides a good breadth of professionals examining the work. Two of my projects (one a flash fiction piece and the other a short story around 2,000 words) popped into my mind, and writers can submit anything up to 20,000-word novellas for this competition. I think sometimes you have take a step back and consider possibilities for your writing that you’ve never thought of before—see things in a different light. Contests can really help with this.

When interviewing one of the winners of WOW’s Summer 2017 Flash Fiction Contest I came across this topic (the interview will run on Dec. 26, so don’t miss it)! The author told me her entry was originally part of a feature script that she was working on in order to use it in representation pitches. In trying to complete the script in a month she grew burned out on the project and frustrated. She put it away for a few weeks and when she revisited it, she decided to try it as a much shorter prose piece, which ended up winning second place in our contest. If she hadn’t decided to take a different direction, that story/feature script could still be sitting on her hard drive.

The first novel I ever wrote was part of the “Book in a Month” Challenge (similar to NaNoWriMo). It couldn’t figure out what it wanted to be. It was third person, part in the present, part in the past, during a time period I was in high school. There were multiple characters and backstories woven together that weren’t really necessary. So a few years later I decided to pare it down and tell it from the POV of one teenage character and have it be a young adult novel. I think it worked a lot better (it still needs help to this day) but I had to put it away for a time before finding it a much different home.

Do you have any projects that took a detour from your original plan? Or do you have something sitting on your hard drive that may need a fresh approach? I’d love to hear about it!

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also works as a marketing and development director at a nonprofit theatre company. Visit her website at


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--My NaNo-No! No! from several years ago (ooh--a bit of poetry there) took a left turn in the middle of the plot. I thought I knew how it would end-- but fortunately--the characters took over and dictated where the plot headed next. Unfortunately, it still stunk, and is now collecting dust.

My 2016 NaNoWriMo was in its beginning stages, and a writing colleague asked me a question. Will both parents survive? That had not even occurred to me, but it ended up being a thread that helped bring the story to a conclusion.

Good luck with the contest. I'll cross my fingers and my eyes.

Margo Dill said...

My entire career right now is a different writing plan! LOL. I started off as a writer of children's stuff and now I mostly write self-help blog posts or writing blog posts. It just happens, right?

Mary Horner said...

It's fun to find new life in an old piece of writing - It's like a gift!

Angela Mackintosh said...

It's so refreshing (and important) to take a step back and look at your work in a different light and possibly a different genre. That's the difference between having your work sitting on your hard drive and finding a home. Great advice, Renee!

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