Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cool contests, an issue of inspiration and then the key to success

First off, it's fun to see some competitions that aren't taken too seriously. Here are a few that might pique anyone's interest:

5 Fun Writing Contests You Can Enter (And Win)

1. Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest

This is the perfect contest for bad writers. Being bad is actually the point of the competition. In one sentence, write the worst opening to a novel you can think of. There’s no entrance fee and there’s no limit to the amount of times you can enter.

This contest was started in 1982 by a professor at San Jose State University. It “honors” the nineteenth century writer Edward George Bulwer-Lytton. He is known for writing one of the worst openings to a novel in his book Paul Clifford. His opening is familiar to any Peanuts fan.

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”

Make your opening worse than this and you have a shot of winning.

2. National Novel Writing Month

It’s said that everyone has a novel inside of them just waiting to come out. This competition gives you that chance to get it out. Every November the non-profit organization The Office of Letters and Light hold this competition (also known as NaNoWriMo) where people start and finish a novel.

It’s 30 days to reach 50,000 words. That’s 1667 words every day for 30 days. That is a very demanding schedule, but the competition has exploded in participants since 1999. When it first began, it had only 21 people. Last year it had 170,000.

Participants can use any genre and in any language. You don’t even need an ending as long as it reaches 50,000 words. To put it in perspective, The Great Gatsby is about 50,000 words.

No official prizes are awarded. If you reach the 50,000 words, you are declared a winner. If you want, you can submit your novel to receive a printable certificate, an icon you can display on the web and get included on a list of winners.

3. Three Day Novel Contest

If one month is too long to dedicate to writing, you can try just three days in this competition. Mercifully, there’s no word limits; however, you’re expected in this competition to have an ending. You’re also allowed to have a general outline before you start writing, but you’re not allowed to write anything until the traditional start date of Labor Day.

The competition started in a bar in Vancouver, Canada. Writers gathered there bragged about their abilities. This bragging lead to the three day competition that lives on today.

There is an entry fee of $50, but it is open to anyone in the world in any genre or subject. More than one person can even work on the novel since the registration fee is per novel not per person. The novels are written using the honor system; however, a witness is asked to sign confirming your adherence to the rules.

Unlike the month long novel contest, there is a first place winner who has their novel published. Second and third place winners get cash prizes. The rest receive certificates of participation.

4. Why Mom Deserves a Diamond Contest

The only contest on this list specifically designed for children – and also the only writing contest (or any contest I can think of) where the winner’s mom actually gets a diamond. It’s the largest mothers writing contest in the country.

It started in 1993 when founder Michael C. Watson, owner of a jewelry store, decided to honor mothers across the country. He asked children to write essays explaining why their mother deserves a diamond. The first year saw 250 entrants. Today there are 250,000 entrants. In 17 years of the contest, 48 diamonds have been awarded. In addition, other precious stones are awarded to runners up.

Entering is easy. Children need to write a poem saying why their mom deserves a diamond in 25 words or less. The poems are then judged on creativity, originality and sincerity.

5. Script Frenzy

This competition is similar to the National Novel Writing Month. In fact, it is run by the same organization. This time, participants are asked to put themselves into a “screnzy” (nickname of the event) and write a screenplay, stage play, TV series, graphic novel or anything else that requires a script.

The rules are just about the same as the National Novel Writing Month.

People are given one month to write 100 pages of a script (or multiple scripts depending on what they’re writing). However, they’re allowed to collaborate with others to reach their goal. In this competition, people often communicate with each other through Facebook and Twitter to participate in “page wars” (a timed challenge to write a certain amount of pages).

Every person who finishes their script is declared a winner and receives a certificate and web icon they can display.
Michelle Rodriguez Writing a Screenplay

Actress Michelle Rodriguez is writing a screenplay about women breaking out of prison.

The Avatar star is putting pen to paper to draft a remake of 1997 German movie Bandits, about four female convicts on the run, and hopes the script will impress Hollywood bosses.

To be honest, if I were trying my hand at a new craft, even if I were simply writing an adaptation of an existing story - I wouldn't start with a film that was already made by someone else. Honestly, how hard will it be for her to take each scene, rewrite some new dialogue to 'modern it up' and then submit this to an exec? I seriously doubt this will see the light of day on a professional level - it just lacks far too much effort on her part.

Where might Rodriguez find inspiration for an original screenplay? ...

The Screenwriter's Guide to Finding Inspiration

The screenwriter's guide can help you to find inspiration where you least expect it. Will writers block have you down within the dumps, stumbling over the empty page with nothing to say? Like an artist gazing [at] a blank canvas, the empty words on a blank page can haunt a writer, and keep you up at night. It can be frustrating when words elude you. When [after] all, you are a screenwriter, and words are your business.

Whoa! Let's stop there - I had no idea this was written so poorly. It's a little embarrassing. Check out this next paragraph of atrocity:

Generally all you wish may be a very little respiration space to work out inspiration a lot of clearly [what?]. Clearing your head will [do] the trick sometimes. Therefore go ahead and take the weekend off and just have fun. Head to the park and play. Or go to the beach and play within the sand and surf. What ever you opt to try to to [ holy shit], create certain to spend your time unwinding and actually relaxing [hang on, maybe English isn't this writer's given language]. You're trying to clear your head and realize inspiration around you [it's this simple?]. Therefore leave all the cares and woes of your screenplay behind. You'll go back to to writing and re-writing your screenplay on another day. Except for currently, you are merely taking in a breathe [breath, perhaps?] of contemporary air and enjoying your surroundings. You will be amazed at the inspiration you may find, simply by clearing your head and taking every day or two off. [To be inspired, stop working every day or two - great advise for success, pally.]
Yikes, pretty awful. The rest of the article is shite - so forget about it. Sorry to have brought it up.

You want good writing advise? 'Cut The Crap and WRITE THAT DAMN SCREENPLAY!'

Pretty much like anything in the whole world that takes more than 45 seconds to do - you have to put in the time and just do it. Staining the deck - I've been dragging my feet on it for a month - if I just did it - it'd be done.

That being said, this book focuses on the idea that there are too many books that help writers write that have way too much detail and instruction:

Books on writing are driving writers away from the craft of writing and turning them into authors of "stereo instructions" or causing them not to write at all. The state of writing instruction in the modern era focuses too highly on generating a massive amount of supporting material (little of which will ever be used in the final draft) and sucks all of the excitement for writing out of the would-be scribe. The passion for writing has been lost in a sea of technical outlining that pervades every aspect of writing from fiction to marketing. What is worse is that most wannabe writers get so frustrated with the entire mandated minutia surrounding the art that they abandon their efforts altogether.
Indeed - my advise is do it. Just take time, whenever you've got time, to just do it. BAM you're on your way. If you can make a habit of doing it often, you'll get things done. No secret to success, if you ask me.

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