TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part Two

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

October 12, 2020

Welcome back TUFF, rodeo writers!

By now, you’ve figured out you have an entire month to work on your flash fiction entry to TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction). That might lull you into complacency. It might tempt you to disregard the contest until the very end (October 26 when the submission form goes live with the final part). Let me convince you otherwise.

Mastering TUFF in its flash fiction form teaches you the skills every fiction writer needs. We all have to draft and we all have to revise. TUFF can be a tool to work on your story with progressive word constraints.

Last week, in TUFF Part One, you drafted a 99-word story. Do. Not. Touch. It. A raw draft is a raw draft. Let it be. What comes next are the tools of your writing craft. Use the next two constraints to revise your final 99-word story. You can write that final 99-word revision 99 times if you’d like. But you can only turn in one, of course. This is where we start exploring and experimenting — with 59-words.


For this week’s addition to the TUFF contest, you will write TWO 59-word stories, reducing your original draft. In one 59-word story, reduce it using the original point of view. In the other 59-word story change the point of view.

It’s the same story, just smaller. You are tasked with picking and choosing the strongest elements from your 99-word draft. This makes you consider what is working, where your story’s focus is, and how to tell it.

Here is an example:

Saving Grace by Charl Mills (99-word draft)

Grace looped her right leg into the padded hook of her sidesaddle. Her long skirts without hoops nearly touched the ground. With war coming to New Mexico, camp guards eyed her skirts critically. If Grace felt threatened, she straightened her back and spoke her family name. But it wasn’t to her grandfather’s quarters she rode. A man in riding boots met her behind the row of soldiers’ tents. Rory O’Bannon. Her lips parted. He approached her skirts, reached beneath to touch her left ankle. She nearly swooned. Though her skirts were big enough to hide ammunition, she smuggled love-letters.

59-word Same POV

Grace rode sidesaddle into camp. Without hoops, her skirts hung low, catching the critical eye of guards. She straightened. “You dare touch the General’s granddaughter?” They let her pass. Before tea with Grandpa, she rode past the soldiers’ tents. Rory O’Bannon reached where guards dared not. He touched her ankle and her lips parted. Her skirts smuggled love letters.

59-word Different POV

I had to elude the guards with my contraband. Everyone knew who I was, but with war coming to New Mexico, suspicions grew. They couldn’t know I was meeting a Confederate soldier. Dressed in Union colors, Rory emerged from the tents near the woods. His touch beneath my skirts electrified me. I headed to Grandfather. My love letter delivered.

Notice how I used or omitted different details in each. That’s how you can use the POV tool. Often writers instinctually write in a POV that feels familiar. Maybe it’s what you read, or common to your genre. When you switch POV, the closeness to the character changes. First-person is more intimate but also limited. What I found interesting is that when I switch POVs, I had different ideas about the story pop into my head. You can use the 59-word constraint to explore different ideas, different POVs, or even different craft elements (notice that I added dialog to one of the reductions).

You can play with this story all month! Don’t touch the original draft, change up the final revision. And if you are just getting started, that’s fine — everyone has until November 1 (11:59 p.m. EST) to enter. There is no entry form yet. This is your time to process and be working on your final revision, using the reduction tools. Use the 59-word reduction as often or as differently as you want, but be prepared to only turn in TWO different 59-word POV reductions of your original draft.

Have fun! Check back next week for TUFF Part Three.

We are not accepting challenges, only contest entries. Weekly challenges continue every Friday at CarrotRanch.com/blog.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Colleen Chesebro’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.


  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. You must turn in TWO 59-word count reductions of your story (one in the original POV, and one in a different POV).
  5. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  6. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  7. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.


  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.


Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

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  1. Liz H

    Remind me again what TUFF

    • Liz H

      Remind me again, please, what the acronym TUFf signifies? I wanna say “Tighten Up your Flash Fiction”, but that can’t be right. ????????????

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Actually, I like that, Liz. It’s The Ultimate Flash Fiction. Like scales for operatic writers.

  2. ellenbest24

    This is TUFF two 59 word stories … best get my breakfast while donning my thinking dearstalker.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s still your original story, just reduced from 99 to 59 words. One version uses the original POV, the second version gives you a chance to experiment how your story could be with a different POV.

      • ellenbest24

        I will give it my best.

  3. H.R.R. Gorman

    Whew – I was sitting here worrying we’d need to do something like “include a game show” haha

    • H.R.R. Gorman

      Oh! And silly question – when you say point of view, do you just mean a 1st-3rd person switch, or can we jump to focus on a different character entirely?

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Not yet…

      Good question! You can switch 1st, 2nd, third-person point of view OR you can switch POV character. It’s an exercise to see the story through different eyes. Experiencing the shift that occurs is what’s important.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Echoing this question for extra clarity: it doesn’t have to be 1st person?

      • Charli Mills

        No, it does not have to be first-person.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        Nice. With a romance, there’s always a second person… unless I guess you’re in love with the voices in your head?

  4. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Well, I’m managing to keep up so far, although my 59ers aren’t as strong as yours.

    • Charli Mills

      At the 59-word reduction, it’s affordable for a writer to play with different perspectives and ideas.

  5. Sherri Matthews

    Fun with this, Charli!

    • Charli Mills

      I hope it is fun! It helps me break through sticky spots when I can’t seem to develop a scene.

      • Sherri Matthews

        And you know the rest…! Thanks, Charli <3

  6. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:

    And the TUFF Carrot Ranch contest continues …
    Have you already written your first draft 99-word flash fiction? If not, there’s still time. And now Charli presents us with the second part of the TUFF contest – to write two 59-word reductions, each from a different POV. Pop over to the Carrot Ranch to find out more.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah!

  7. Hugh W. Roberts

    I’ve had great fun with this today, Charli. I could have gone on, but I think I’ll now stick with the two 59 -word versions I’ve come up with. I certainly found the different POV story a challenge to write, but I like what I’ve come up with, and will definitely use writing from a different POV in future stories.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you tried it, Hugh, and found it useful. It’s interesting how changing the POV can lead to different insights we can take back to our original POV.

  8. Marsha

    Reblogged this on Marsha Ingrao – Always Write and commented:
    Did you take up the TuFF Challenge last week. If so you’ve already started writing your 99 word romance. This week adds another challenge. So exciting. Let’s get started!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Marsha!

      • Marsha

        Of course! 🙂

  9. denmaniacs4

    Okay, stupid question. Do we submit the 59 x 2 tales this week? And if so, do we preface them with the original? We had morning fog here on the West Coast a few days ago and it has hung in my brain ever since.


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