I made it, everyone! I survived Round 1 of the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge 2014. I was able to set aside my fatigue/laser focus with my YA manuscript, and spit out a 1,000 word story in 48-hours.
So, for those of you who don’t know how the contest works, here’s a quick overview: There are 25 heats, each with approximately 40 writers in it. Each heat is then assigned a genre (drama, comedy, fantasy, romance, horror, etc.), a location where the story must take place, and an object that must appear at least once. We then have 48-hours to write a 1,000 word story.
As usual, I refused to look at my assignment when it was emailed to me on Friday night. If I would’ve looked, I would’ve been up all night brainstorming. So I waited until Saturday morning.
I woke up at 4:30 a.m., turned on my computer, and looked at my prompts:
I can’t tell you how relieved I was. Suspense is my FAVORITE genre to write, and it’s where my mind has been with my YA manuscript, so I didn’t have to shift gears too hard. And the prompts didn’t seem difficult. A truck stop can be made creepy/dark, and a diamond ring can be thrown in all sorts of ways. Easy peasy.
I sat back, closed my eyes, and started brainstorming. Surprisingly, I came up with a concept within minutes (rare for me). I called my best/harshest/favorite writing critic, my mom, and pitched it to her.
“Oh! I like that!” she exclaimed.
So I got to work.
…And, yeah. It did not go well.
Okay, okay. It wasn’t horrible, but during my first draft I realized I was taking way too long to get the story up and running. By the time the action/suspense began to unfold, I was already at 2,000 words.
I started over. I jumped ahead in my plot to get to the “good stuff” sooner. Unfortunately by doing this, I cut out all the details that made my characters likable/believable. Now they were just mannequins going through the actions.
I decided to email the story to my mom anyway. I had to. It was already past 1 p.m. 15 hours of my precious 48 were gone. I couldn’t waste anymore time on a story that was potentially useless. As I waited for her feedback, I began revising.
Write…Delete-delete-delete. Write…Delete-delete-delete…GRRR! I couldn’t get the story started. Something was off about it. I just couldn’t figure out what.
This was about the time I smacked into my standard, “I suck and I hate this story!” wall. I forced myself to take a break and walk away to clear my head. As I ate a snack, my mom called with her thoughts. She liked it, but she had the same concern I did: the setup. It was off.
“I’m going to get DQ’d,” I muttered to her. “The story is supposed to take place at the truck stop, but most of it’s on the highway.”
“Then start it at the truck stop,” she replied. “Cut out the highway.”
Feeling kind of stupid, I made the change. And poof! Everything came together.
Within a few hours, I had a solid second draft. I liked my characters again and the suspense was there. Grateful I’d found a way to balance the two, I sent the updated version to my mom. She replied within minutes:
“I LOOOOOOVVVVEEE it!!!”
Ahhh, such sweet relief. I almost cried. Almost.
Of course, there was still a lot of work to do, and there was a major aspect of the story that bothered both of us. We brainstormed about it until we came up with a viable solution. I jotted it down and went to bed. It was almost 11 p.m., and I’d been up since dawn.
Seriously, my right eye wouldn’t stop twitching!
Yesterday was all about refining the story and chopping it down to the magical 1,000 word count. I screamed at one point, because with each revision, my word count went UP, not down: 1,300, 1,400, 1,500. I finally called my mom to come over and help me edit it. I learned from Round 3 of the Short Story Challenge that sometimes I need someone to sit with me and read my story out loud to find the flaws and unnecessary words/sentences.
After a few hours of debating, strategizing, and fine-tuning, we got the story down to 999 words. Wooooot! I sent it off to a handful of beta readers (thanks, Jess), tweaked a few things based off their feedback, and finally submitted it.
Then I collapsed!
Overall, I’m satisfied with the final outcome of my story. It’s not my favorite one, but I’m still proud of it. I promise I’ll post it for you all to read in a few days, after I receive confirmation from NYC Midnight it’s okay to share. Until then, here is the title and brief synopsis:
BRIEF SYNOPSIS: While coping with the tragic death of her husband, Kate travels to Jackson Hole with her son. Along the way, they learn the true meaning of inevitable when disaster strikes.
Did anyone else participate in this weekend’s Flash Fiction Challenge? If so, how’d it go for you?
…Okay, I’ve been debating about this all weekend, but I’m gonna do it. Remember that silly video I mentioned to you on Friday? Well, here it is. The photos I sent to my friend got lost in translation, but she used a couple of the video clips I recorded. It’s a little embarrassing, but whatever. More than anything, I wanted to show you what a wonderful/funny/weird/awesome writing community NYC Midnight has. I hope someday you can join in the fun. Enjoy!
…And, uh, feel free to laugh at me as much as you want. 😉