Survived Round 2 – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

I made it. I survived round 2 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Let’s all give one big “Woo-hoo!” cheer. And, what the hell, let’s throw in an “Oh yeah, I rock!” dance.

The challenge got off to a rocky start (in a good way). My sister gave birth to my newest nephew early Thursday morning, the day before the contest kicked off. So, not only was I 100% distracted, but I was exhausted. I was awake almost 24 straight hours helping/supporting/worrying about my sister and the arrival of Cy (a late night phone call, an early morning text, a mad dash to the hospital, etc.). I was so emotionally and physically tired by Thursday night, I was worried I wouldn’t have the mental sharpness or preparedeness I needed to take on the writing contest. Thankfully, I was able to get a good night’s sleep, and I woke up Friday morning fresh and ready to go. More than ready–excited!

So, holding my breath, I opened “The Email” with my round 2 assignment:

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First thought? “Thank you, Lord! No political satire or rom-com.” Second thought? “Oh, oh. I’ve never written a mystery before.” Not only that, but I don’t read many mystery novels, nor do I watch any mystery/crime shows, like Law & Order or CSI. I asked myself, “What’s a ‘mystery’? Do I have to have a detective? Do I have to follow a “whodunit” standard? Are those requirements in this genre? Or are they a cliche?” I didn’t know. So I did what I always do. I said, “Whatever! I’m doin’ what I want!”

Surprisingly, I came up with a basic concept fast. Well, I figured out a location and a title, Over the Edge. I built the story from there–er, slowly. By Friday evening, I finished a butt-ugly rough draft and sent it to my harshest/best critic: my mom. She liked the skeleton of the story, but she said it was “missing something”. To figure out what that “something” was, we brainstormed together for a couple of hours. During those hours, I went from cool, calm, and collected, to “I suck. My story sucks. This all sucks!” I was certain the skeleton of Over the Edge was useless and I needed to toss it out and start alllll the way over.

Then my mom made a simple suggestion about the ending, and voila! I knew what I needed to do. I woke up on Saturday with a clear (well, clear-ish) plan in my head. Using my story’s skeleton structure, I recreated my main character and reshaped the plot to fit the ending my mom had suggested. Things came together quickly, and by noon, I had a sturdy draft. Only problem? It was 1,000 words over the 2,000 word count limit.

Hence began The Great Chop. I spent the rest of the day cutting and slashing and revising; hiyah’ing and punching and kicking. I did everything I could to chop out those extra 1,000 words…It was horrible. And ridiculous! Every draft, I only managed to delete about 100 words (2,902…2,787…2,625…). No matter what I did, I couldn’t condense the story. I couldn’t edit it down to the golden 2,000 mark.

As I pulled my hair out–er, I mean, wrote, I tried to ignore the clock. I could feel time ticking away. I could feel my Sunday deadline approaching, closer and closer, faster and faster. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock…

By Saturday evening, I had a “good enough” draft to send to my beta readers. Now, I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous to send my story to them. Like Chasing Monsters, Over the Edge ended up being rather intense. I’m not sure if it’s the genres, characters, or subjects I’m assigned during these contests, but when my fingers start typing, they take me to places I’m not prepared to go. However, I’ve become a strong believer in writing stories that demand to be told. I can’t let my fears hold me back.

So, I swallowed my anxiety and sent my story off. A little while later, my beta readers’ feedback returned. Overall, they liked it! Minus a few nitpicks and a couple of confusing parts, I had a solid story on my hands. I went to bed feeling calmer and better than I had since first opening my assignment email on Friday morning.

I spent Sunday morning making a few final tweaks and re-reading my final draft of Over the Edge about five times (two times out loud). Then, I hit the submit button and collapsed.

So, there you go! I’m exhausted, but exhilarated I finished another crazy round in a NYC Midnight writing challenge. I still don’t know if Over the Edge is a “mystery”, but I did my best with it.

I won’t know until late April how it officially does in the competition. Like round 1, my chances are pretty slim to advance to the final round. Only the top 5 in each heat are chosen, so that means out of the 200 remaining competitors, only 40 move on…Yeah, not holding my breath.

Once I receive confirmation it’s okay to publicly share our stories, I’ll post Over the Edge here. If you have a chance to stop by and read it, I’d love your feedback.  

11 thoughts on “Survived Round 2 – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

      1. Thank you! I’m pretty sure it won’t get me to the next round, since it sounds like nearly everyone else I’ve talked to in my heat took a “detective” approach. Oh well. C’est la vie! Hopefully the story will be up tomorrow (still waiting on confirmation from the competition).

        Ha! Gotta love auto-correct. Thankfully, Cy doesn’t “cry” too much. However, if he begins wailing, I’ve got a new name lined up for him 😉

        Thanks again!

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  1. Congrats on the nephew! Very exciting!

    In terms of mystery, I say if you’ve got a mystery without the standard mold that’s awesome! Make’s your story stand apart. That’s what I tried to do in the flash contest with my mystery… Of course, I didn’t get top 5 so…. Who knows!

    Also The Great Chop.. Funny! I’ve recently tried to think up ideas that are more like scenes than full stories, in hopes of avoiding large chops… Worked this time around.

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    1. Well, I decided a mystery should make the reader ask questions the whole time (who/what/why/where/HUH?). No idea if that’s gonna fly with the judges, but whatever. I did my best.

      I normally like to write novels ranging in the 100k+ range, so these short stories are serious challenges for me. I think you’re spot on with focusing more on a “scene” rather than a “full story”. And, for me, it’s best to write from one character’s POV, and also in one fluid timeline. Makes the story crisper/clearer/smoother.

      Hopefully we get to post these tomorrow. I thought it would happen today, but I guess not.

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  2. I feel the same way about mysteries. I have not read a lot of them and it is a bit scary to think of writing one, but if I did I also think the whole detective, who dunit is way over done and would try to do something else.

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    1. Glad I’m not the only one out there who feels that way.

      It’s funny, because I received my official feedback from the judges for “Over the Edge”, and it seems I had too many questions/mysteries threaded throughout it. But I don’t understand. If I took those questions/mysteries out, how would it be a “mystery”?…Ahhh! So confusing. I don’t even know how I made it to round 3. Talk about stumbling around in the dark!

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