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  • Jonathan Josephson

NYC Midnight Round One: "Rocky and Hank" Preview

So I entered another short story contest, and of course, I picked the most expensive one on the planet with the most entrants. Fun! NYC Midnight has been around a while and I've read some of their contest winners - they find and promote really great writers and some excellent short fiction. And every entrant receives feedback which is especially important to me as I venture into this new world with my fledgling pages. And unlike my other post about a different contest I, will share the story that I submitted for the opportunity. But not quite yet. First, my take on the contest.



It seems like well run competition by sincere folks, but there are a few things that bug about this contest, reflective of a lot of problematic things I see out there on the interwebs targeting aspiring writers. There is nothing predatory about NYC Midnight's Challenges (there are some bad actors out there and NYC Midnight is definitely NOT one of them). But consider these few things: The early bird submission fee is $49. Yikes. The regular submission fee is $59. Yikes plus 20% more Yikes! I've never paid that much for a playwriting submission. The most I have paid is $35 for the O'Neill Playwright's Conference, but if selected, that comes with an all-expense paid month of development and workshops, plus the contacts and cred that goes with the selection (even being a Finalist for the O'Neill has helped me get plays produced, and being a Semi-Finalist is bio-worthy for many, and that designation is provided for something like 15% of entrants). From what I see and read, NYC Midnight doesn't carry nearly that kind of cred, but a win is still a big deal, and Top 10 or a Finalist nod is considered quite excellent in the Short Story Challenge. But here's why the challenge is so daunting: this year, there are over 6,200 entries.


Whoa. I don't think I've ever been in a pool larger than 3,000, and fortunately I've been plucked out of said pools for collections like Smith and Kraus' Best 10-Minute Plays annuals, and submission for those publications is free, On the other hand, the prize from S&K is no where near what this opportunity provides. They also publish 50 plays, NYC Midnight makes no promise to publish anything.


On the other, other hand, for NYC Midnight - the grand prize pool is... $12,500. Winner gets $6,500, all the way to 10th place getting $150.


Interesting. I mean yay, money, but think of the money going in. At 6,200 entrants x $50 (assuming most folks do the earlybird price)... that's $310,000 in fees. It feels like there's room to throw a few more bones to those taking part. Here's how the contest works (abridged from NYC Midnight's site)

  • There are 4 rounds of competition. In the 1st Round writers are placed randomly in groups and are assigned a genre, subject, and character assignment. Writers have 8 days to write an original story no longer than 2,500 words.

  • Roughly 20% of writers advance. Those writers get new parameters, a shorter deadline, and a 2,000 word limit.

  • 20ish% advance again, new parameters, and just 2 days to write a 1,500 word story.

  • Final 50 writers create a 1,250 word story with new parameters in 24 hours

  • Feedback from the judges is provided for every submission

So to win, a writer needs to create four killer short stories under tight time constraints over the course of several months. There is no promise of publication (though NYC Midnight may make a publication offer if they choose). That is asking A LOT. Any the payoff? Challenging, very challenging.

Okay, gotta do the obligatory... "you don't like the fees or the rules or the whatever - don't enter." Yeah, buddy, got it. Like, you're super smart for thinking of that - good on you. All I'm saying is that there is obviously plenty of money here to make this whole venture more advantageous for the participants. What incentive do the producers of the contest have to give more money away? None! They have 6,200+ entrants already, so who needs to think of the inequity of it all when the population seems happy with their lottery ticket, because who knows - even you could win, even I could win. At the same time, say they upped the prize pool to just 20% of the total entry fees, that would make the grand prize something like $30,000. Now this whole thing seems a lot more reasonable - that grand prize would be life-affecting money for most entrants, and life-changing for some. And in the always observant words of my mother, "then some real writers might enter." Thanks Mom.


Okay, wanna read the story? Here's a link to "Rocky and Hank Know Fake Alice is a Fake." My assignment was to write a crime caper on the subject of plastic surgery with with a drunkard as a featured character. Enjoy!

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