When I started running, one of the only ways that I could keep myself honest (because I really hated running when I first started) was to sign up for races every few months. When I knew I had to run in front of others, and because I’d paid (dammit!) I laced up my shoes and trained even when I didn’t really want to.

In a lot of ways, I jumped into the deep end when I finally started writing, starting with a novel rather than with shorter pieces. Three novels in, the skill I struggle with the most is editing, mostly because keeping track of all the pieces of a 40,000 word manuscript is overwhelming. I’ve thought for a while that I should dial back and work on some short stories, to practice my craft in a more manageable format. It’s also hard to stay motivated and come to the page with passion and energy when you work on a longer project. I have, like many writers, perfected the art of procrastination. I needed to find the writing equivalent to a five kilometre fun run.

In December, some of my writer pals shared the link to the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Every January, in three different rounds, writers are randomly assigned a heat, and then given a genre, object and character they must incorporate into a short story. The first round requires that a 2500 word story be written in eight days, with the chance to make it into the next two rounds, each with shrinking word counts and deadlines. A public forum, rules and entry fee? Sign me up! It was the challenge I was searching for.

I’m proud to say, I submitted my seven page story, The Kingdom of Wemma, with six hours to spare, and I had a blast writing it. Although it helped to be assigned a genre I’m really comfortable with, fantasy, I enjoyed the challenge of constructing a story and making it work in a short time frame. I hope that I make it through to the next round, but in the end if I don’t, I’ll still have a finished, polished short story manuscript.

It feels great to accomplish something. This definitely won’t be my last short story contest. If you’re looking to stretch and grow, check out the NYC Midnight website, http://www.nycmidnight.com/,  and find a contest that appeals to you.