Officer’s Guide: Un-fogging the Writing Challenge

Officer’s Guide: Un-fogging the Writing Challenge

Writing challenges are usually designed under the premise of being… well, challenging. As an Ensign, or as Commander Kells has shown us – a cadet, it may be more challenging than one might think at first. Knowing the ins and outs of the process and how the challenge works can be the key to getting started. LTJG Vid-Lotilija of the USS Apollo has compiled just the article for any prospective Challenge candidate. Take it away Lieutenant!
When I first joined UFOP: SB118, one of the first places that attracted my attention was the Writing Challenges Forum. The stories there were fantastic, and I wondered “with such great writers, can I even pass the Academy?” Reading previous winning entries in the Hall of Fame told me that if there is a place where I can learn, then it is here, go and read them, you may learn a lot.
Writing Challenges are bimonthly contests, so in every round you have enough time to prepare, write, edit or even redo your story until you’re sure it’s the best it can be. There are topics that may be hard to write for.  Maybe you don’t know enough about the topic or just plain don’t have idea how to develop the story. But again, the topic may strike the cord right away and make you write the masterpiece.
If it does, don’t be afraid to write your story and submit it. – One thing I would recommend to every new writer thinking of entering the contest, but fear they may be laughed at, is to read backward into the stories posted and the comments following them. Comments are always kind and civil, so no matter how well story is written you will get only proper recommendations on how to improve your writing.
Back to bi-monthly explanation. Basically it’s Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, May/Jun etc, but since it depends on both regular and round judges; and after they chose a winner also on winner choosing the next theme, the dates are flexible, but in any case there’s always more than a month of time for every round.
1. To can enter contest you have to start the topic in the Writing Challenges Forum and title it with the title of your story, absolutely be sure you chose from the “Topic Prefix” selection list current round.
2. You can post your story even if it is not finished, but be sure you make a note of that by adding “Work in Progress” at the start of the story post. Later when finish it, post it in the same Forum Topic, denoting it as finished entry. Be sure to do that before the deadline or your story will not be considered.
3. Your work must be completely original.
4. You must be the sole author of the work.
5. Your story must take place in the Star Trek universe, but may not center upon canon characters. (Canon characters are those from shows and films, mention them scarcely if absolutely can’t avoid it.)
6. Sign your final draft as you would a post on your ship.
7. Your story must be between 300 and 3000 words.
Some rules about Previous Winners:
1. A challenge winner may not participate in the challenge directly after the challenge they just won. Runners-up, or Honorable Mention recipients are exempt from this rule. (Challenge Winner is choosing the topic and is one of the judges for the round.)
2. Any entrant who wins two challenges in one calendar year will be considered the “Champion” for their year. If there is more than one, both will be considered “Champions.”
3. An entrant who wins their second challenge in one calendar year must wait three challenges before they may again enter their work.
When I offered to write this article I thought I already asked all the questions and knew everything I should know about the Writing Challenges, but then realized there is much I don’t know, but would like to, so I went to the source and asked current facilitator Commander Aron Kells few more questions.
Who are the permanent judges, and how were they chosen? Right now, the permanent judges are Toni Turner, Karynn Brice, Arden Cain, and I. All of them were in place when I took over the Writing Challenges, so I can’t say how they were chosen, but if I was going to chose a judge in the future, I would base it upon their experience with the Challenges — I’d expect that they’ve won once or twice and have participated before.
How is voting performed? Each of the judges reads all of the entries and then assigns them a number between 1 and however many entries there are — so between 1 and 4 if there were four entries, or 1 and 7 if there were seven — with 1 representing the story they believe is best, 2 the second best, and so forth. When everyone’s voted, I tally up the rankings and the story with the lowest total score wins.
What if there’s only one story? Can it be a winner? If that were to happen, then yeah, I think it would have to be the winner. I mean, the writer would’ve gone to the trouble to construct it, and it’s not his or her fault that no one else entered. I can’t think of any time that this has actually happened, though. A lot of entries come in at the last minute. What if two or more have equal numbers of votes? Then we’d have a tie for first or second place, and declare whoever tied co-winners, or co-runners-up. How to address it to someone who’s never entered the contest before: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Way back when, I first entered the contest as a cadet, not even as an ensign! (I’d been through my training cruise but I wanted something to do in the week before I was posted.) Then, for me, it was another attraction of the community: I was excited about simming on a ship, but I also liked the idea of the Writing Challenges, and I used it as an opportunity to dream big: For that first contest, I wrote about an insouciant member of the Q Continuum for a theme (“Devil in the Dark”) that most of the other entrants took as a deep, dark theme. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries and play around — because, after all, that’s how I think great stories come to life!
If all that is not enough to encourage you to enter the Writing Challenges, maybe this award may: The Data Artistic Award: Rewarded to any officer in the fleet who has made a consistent effort to enter each of the bi-monthly writing challenges. Most notably, the officer must have continued participation even if their submissions were not picked as the winner, thus sticking with the challenge and always giving other something exciting to read.
This has been a rather informative summation of what it takes to write for the Writing Challenge contest, brought to you by one of the up and coming writers in our community. Get out there Ensign, and conquer those fears. It’s only as challenging as you make it! For the ultimate idea on what it takes to win, take a look at some of these Writing Challenge Winners!

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