Just Keep Swimming

Attention All Aspiring Ontario Fiction Writers! It is the Annual Hype Time for the Toronto Star Short Story Contest

One thing that I am very aware of as a writer is that there are countless aspiring writers out there. People who tell me that they want to be a writer, but never appear to actually ever do any writing. 

I get it. Writing can be scary. You must devote daily time to it. And writing often demands that you're vulnerable as you open up to craft a personal story, and again when you must be brave enough to present it to an audience that could respond in various ways.

If you want to be a writer, then my best advice is that you got to write. Even if what you write turns out to be the worst thing ever written by humankind, at least it is way more words than you had before you started writing, and you will definitely get better the more you tackle this activity.

But maybe you need some motivation to really push you into writing something. It is January, so I have the best ever motivation for any aspiring writers who live in Ontario (which I admit is not the majority of my readers, but it is where I live, so. . .). Once again, it is time for the annual Toronto Star Short Story Contest where the winner not only gets their story printed in one of the biggest papers in the province and country, but also wins a sweet $5000.00. There is also cash prizes for the second and third places, and it is without doubt one of the biggest short story contests that I've known.

From my experience, it is the contest with the biggest cash prize that does not have an entry fee. There are several past winners that landed major book deals and it has been a major launching pad for many writing careers. If there is any time to start taking a shot at fiction writing then this the perfect moment. The maximum words is 2500, and the story must be submitted by March 1st at 5pm.

You can get all the details on the contest here.

In a move that is several years overdue, for the first time the contest is accepting digital submissions rather than a hard copy needing to be mailed. This is a great thing because it actually gives the writer a few extra weeks to perfect the story, since you don't need to leave the fate up to the postal service delivering it on time. Though my suggestion is to try to have the rough draft completed by February 1st, so you have plenty of time to polish it.

The biggest challenge for me with the short story contest has been keeping the word count below 2500. It is not a lot of words when trying to craft a compelling story. My advice is to not have a tale that is much more than a specific scene with very few characters, otherwise you're just going to be rattling off a series of events in order to fit it all into the word count. 

I've often started on a short story and within a few minutes realizes it is just going to make that word count, and I must brainstorm another short story idea. This year I do have an idea for a story that is based off something I wrote many years ago that I plan to rewrite and update. 

The plan is to provide a few updates on the progress of the short story over the next two months, and give some insight on my own writer's journey with the project that hopefully can be some inspiration and motivation for others. It may also spotlight some of the frustrations and challenges that can assault a writer during the process.

If fiction writing is one of your dreams and you live in Ontario, I really hope you will join me with the contest. Happy writing!