Welcome back to Writing Wednesday! Today I’m talking about my first submission to a writing competition.
The last four Mondays in October, I took a class on writing sci-fi and fantasy at my favorite local writers’ space, StoryStudio Chicago. Each week we developed a different aspect of our world, both setting and characters, and our final assignment for this past Monday was a 2,000 word short story that incorporated all of our elements.
I’ve never written a short story before. I’m not good with succinct phrasing. My plotting skills could use some work. I panicked about creating a believable arc in only 2,000 words. I must have drafted 15 different story ideas while pounding away on the treadmill last week. But which one to choose?
Eventually, I ran out of time. I had a deadline, and I was up against the wall. I sat down and just started typing. I worked with it for several hours, teasing out certain plot points and randomly steering this crazy ship to some kind of conclusion. When I ran out of words, I tied things up, then went back and edited it down to what I hoped would pass as a first draft.
In class, I got some excellent feedback, and our instructor, Robyn Okrant, pushed us to consider submitting our work to the Writer’s Digest Popular Fiction Awards Competition, which had an extended deadline through 10/31. Today.
Although the class was over, she offered to take another look at anyone’s work before the deadline. Never one to miss an opportunity, I emailed her a draft last night after a round of revisions, and she got back to me right away with comments. All of the feedback from Robyn and my classmates helped me make some important changes to the story that made it stronger. The emotional arc of my protagonist was coming through much clearer and because the competition has a longer word limit, I was able to go back and fill in some areas of the plot.
So after making my final revisions last night, I submitted it to the competition. Even the act of formatting it into something resembling a professional submission made me feel accomplished. After laboring so long with two different novels that keep stalling, this class and short story exercise pushed me to create a full beginning, middle, and end – and to do it quickly. Though my chances are slim, I’m proud that I took the step to even try entering. I feel like I’ve added a notch to my writing belt.
The joy of creating a new world without the pressure of filling hundreds of pages or needing all of the answers was incredibly freeing. In a short story, you don’t have to answer every question. There’s no time. I am struggling to find the words to describe how revived I feel with my writing. I still have a lot to learn, but I plan to write more short fiction and see where it takes me. I’d love to submit some pieces to sci-fi magazines and see if I can get published. If I sell three stories, I can join the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Plus, it’ll help me build an audience. Wicked awesome.
In the spirit of freeing my creative subconscious, I’ll also be embarking on NaNoWriMo tomorrow. I think to keep me going, I’ll post funny snippets on this blog so you can see what terribly bad things I come up with during the month. Look for that each Wednesday in November.
As for the contest, I won’t know anything until after the end of the year, but I’ll keep you posted. Fingers crossed!
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