It was the best of weeks, it was the worst of weeks
Phew. Microprose, amirite? I’m not kidding when I say it’s our hardest challenge, both from the writer’s end and ours. Like every week, we keep an eye on the grid. We read (yes, even when we don’t comment – that’s how the roundup happens!), we check word count and submission guidelines, and on the micro grid we also confirm that the elusive prompt (or three) was included.
The good news? For the first time since we restarted the micro challenge I didn’t have to reject anyone’s perfectly good story because they didn’t read the wordcount rules! Then there’s the bad news. I know it’s been almost exactly three years since Arden wrote this post but we still monitor the vote and it still applies, so I thought I’d remind everyone this week about that. And about the days when Pryvate Parts had her old blog, we called the micro challenge “the gargleblaster,” and I wrote a Rapunzel story, apparently. I forgot about that one. Ah, nostalgia. Anyway, if you’re wondering what happened with the vote numbers, after we took care of the cheating votes we had to review the rest and do a few tiebreaks (the fiction|poetry grid was tight this week!).
What was I talking about? Oh, right: I know your friends love you. They don’t have to prove it. So remember, as the community grows – because you want to know if you’re really the best writer, right? and you don’t want to lose the vote to someone who just has a bigger social media platform when you did write the best post – remind your friends to read every entry on the grid and to only vote for yours if they genuinely think you’re one of the top three. We won’t tattle on them, and you’ll really feel like you earned that 200x200 pixel badge some folks seem willing to cheat for.
Hooboy, that was an awkward post to write in a week when I topped the popular vote. Look, we know accidents happen. Heck, we had to pull one of my votes this week, too, and I had to send a quick message to a friend who lives two thousand miles away about how I’d rather earn a win with my writing than feel popular. And honestly, we’re going to pull your self-votes whether you fess up or not, and we’ll definitely think less of you if you don’t fess up, so go ahead, admit you didn’t read the rules or bumped the mouse, and send that embarrassing email. (Still less embarrassing than the time I left my computer on to run errands and my dog got on the keyboard and voted. For me. And two other people. Those were some interesting DMs from the vote monitors – “Rowan, you’re an editor, you know better.” “What? I’m trying to buy eggs and butter, what’s happening?”)
But it’s not all about the popular vote at YeahWrite, folks. We also have our editorial staff picks to hand out, and I’d almost rather have one of those (if I were still eligible, that is). See, while there’s a popular vote winner every week, we don’t always give out a staff pick. Our editors comb the grids to find, not just the best writing on our grid this week, but what we think is pretty darn great writing anywhere anytime. Picks are based on writing quality, how successful the author is in conveying information, and just plain style. If you got a staff pick this week, grab your badge from the sidebar and wear it with pride! The great part is that we don’t have a finite number of picks to hand out. That means that if two, three, five, or even all the works on one grid are fantastic, we can give them all kudos.
The other benefit of the editors’ pick, of course, is that unlike the popular vote we’ll tell you why we liked that post. So don’t just skip reading the blurb if it’s not about your post; you’ll pick up some handy pointers about what makes good writing great that you can apply to your own work. For more of that critical feedback, keep an eye on our Roundup for a quick rundown of trends we see each week. We try to highlight the good stuff and point out problems that more than one writer is struggling with. There’s probably a handy tip in there for you right now, so check it out!
Once you’re done reading through the Editorial Staff Picks and Roundup (and congratulating the winners in the comments), keep scrolling down to check out who won the popular vote on both grids. If you earned the highest number of votes in any challenge, you are this week’s Crowd Favorite! If you came in first, second or third, you get “Top Three” honors. Grab your badge from our sidebar!
Looking for your badge? All three grids have the same Winner, Editorial Staff Pick, and Top Three badges. It doesn’t clutter up our sidebar, and they’ll still look pretty on yours!
YeahWrite #329 Weekly Writing Challenge Staff Picks:
Blah blah “show don’t tell” blah. You’ve heard it before. But this essay is exactly what I’m talking about when I say it. Instead of repeating how tiresome it is to be constantly told you’re lesser based on your gender, Sara uses techniques like repetition and time jumps to show the reader how tiring it really is to hear that on all sides, when you’re just trying to live your life and take care of business. Ultimately this is a story about grief, but one about power, too, about what it takes to get through a day when you should be supported by the people who instead constantly question your worth and ability, what it takes to prove, again and again, that you can do simple tasks like buying medicine even when you know that you’re a perfectly capable human. By the end of the essay my jaw was set and my teeth were gritted in a real, physical reaction to the constant stream of microaggressions she laid out for us without asking for sympathy or telling us what she was writing about. And that’s what we want to do as essayists: put our readers so deeply in our own shoes that they share our emotions without us having to explain what we’re feeling.
YeahWrite #329 Weekly Writing Challenge Staff Picks:
It’s my last month (really this time) as solo micro editor and it was a pleasure to see some of the stories on this week’s grid, but none more than Anusha’s piece. Why? Well, like Rowan wrote in this month’s tech post, it kept the prompts front and center, made them integral to the story being told, and told a simple story thoroughly. This month, a lot of folks either tried to pack too much into their 48 words (I knew letting y’all get used to having more than 50 was dangerous) or edited the story right out of their microstory trying to save an image instead. It’s not a coincidence that all three of the top three stories had a setting, characters, and plot. By plot, I mean the characters were trying to do something; we had a sense of their motivation. But none of those stories were handled as well as Anusha’s, which took us through years and desires in a few short, image-packed sentences that depended on the prompts to move the story forward.
Rowan’s Roundup: YeahWrite Weekly Writing Challenge #329
This week’s nonfiction grid reminded me that it’s probably time to remind you about the difference between a personal essay and a diary entry. A diary entry is a list of events with no reason for the reader to connect to them. If you’ve got a diary entry, it doesn’t matter how much lush description you pack into that list of events, the reader will still feel like they’re reading your calendar. A personal essay, on the other hand, is a story: your character, you, is trying to do something, for a reason, and probably needs to overcome an obstacle or two to do it. In order to turn a diary entry into a personal essay you have to be willing to look at each event that happened that day and ask yourself “does this move the story forward, or am I just including it because it happened?” Not everything that happens to you is important just because it happened at the same time as the story you’re telling. You already edit your personal essays when you don’t tell the reader all the times you went to the bathroom that day. It’s ok to cut out the rest of the poop from your essay too!
Once you’ve written a story, it’s a good idea to take a step back from it and ask yourself “what happened in my story?” Sometimes the answer is “nothing” and then it’s probably time to go back and put some story in your story. If you get done writing and your main character hasn’t moved from their place in a chair, hasn’t made it out the door, or hasn’t even had the conversation they were thinking about having, you don’t have much of a story, and the reader doesn’t have much of a reason to keep reading. If you’re close to wordcount and you still don’t have a story, it’s time to go back in with that red pen and start cutting out some thinky thoughts and observations (that’s an editing note my co-author left me once: this chapter is nothing but thinky thoughts and observations) in favor of putting in some plot.
I opened this post by saying something nice about how everyone made wordcount this week, so I guess I’ll close it with the mean half of that statement: a lot of folks made wordcount by leaving things out of their story. Sometimes that was the story itself. Sometimes that was, well, words. I’ve already done two roundups about remembering to put the story in your story, so this one will focus on putting the words in.
I know it’s tempting to delete that “the” or “and” but the challenge to microprose is to use complete grammar to tell a complete story. Sometimes that means reaching for complex constructions to write our way around a lengthy group of words like “but when the” and sometimes it means changing verb tense because English likes to jam a whole lot of extra words into tenses like the conditional perfect to make sentences like “If we had known it [pluperfect subjunctive], we would have been able [conditional perfect] to prevent it.” You could work around this by starting the sentence “Had we known…” but not by dropping words to make “If known it….” (Known is starting to look very weird to me by now, since I’ve edited this five times.)
See the difference? One is still grammatically correct but shorter; the other is just missing words. Don’t just drop words to make your wordcount in microprose. Your story will suffer for it both in the telling and in the vote.
That’s it for this week! Remember, we don’t always give out a pick on all three grids; if we were impressed by several posts on one grid we’ll give them all picks, and if nothing really stood out for us we’ll hold off. If you didn’t get a pick this week, read back through the Roundup to see if you can use some of this week’s tips and tricks.
If you’re lost in the middle of the grid and wondering how you can get a little more feedback on your posts, check out our membership perks!
Everybody: before you go, please take some time to leave your favorites a little love in the comments, and don’t forget, the Weekend Writing Showcase opens tonight at 6pm Eastern US Time!
Congratulations to the Crowd Favorites at YeahWrite #329
The thumbnails are now sorted in order of most votes to fewest. Ties in the overall number of votes are broken by number of editor votes.
Congratulations if you’re at or near the top! Writing well is hard work, and we’re honored you’ve chosen us this week to showcase your entry. We return the favor by monitoring the vote to make sure our top writers have earned their place.
If you’re at or near the bottom, don’t be discouraged. You’re in the right community for learning and growing as a writer, and we are always available with resources for those who ask nicely.
To our readers and voters: thank you! See you next week.
About the author:
Rowan submitted exactly one piece of microfiction to YeahWrite before being consumed by the editorial darkside. She spent some time working hard as our Submissions Editor before becoming YeahWrite’s Managing Editor in 2016. In real life she’s been at various times an attorney, aerialist, professional knitter, artist, graphic designer (yes, they’re different things), editor, secretary, tailor, and martial artist. It bothers her vaguely that the preceding list isn’t alphabetized, but the Oxford comma makes up for it. She lives in Portlandia with a menagerie which includes at least one other human. She blogs at textwall and CrossKnit.