Oh, The Horror – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

Well, everyone, I’ve survived yet another round of an NYC Midnight writing challenge…barely.

Let me rewind a little bit…

A few weeks before round one of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge 2015, I made a promise to myself: I wouldn’t start the competition until I finished the third draft of my novel. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts. I had to finish it. I had to!

I didn’t.

Despite my best efforts, I still had two more chapters to write when the first round kicked off on January 16th.

Yeah, I was a little stressed.

Thankfully, the first round of the Short Story Challenge was eight days long, so I had the ability to sacrifice a day to get those last two chapters of my novel finished.

Which I did!

Okay, there was no time to celebrate the fact I’d finished the third draft of my novel. I’d lost one of my eight precious days with the Short Story Challenge and needed to dive right into it. So–after a mini “I don’t wanna!” meltdown–I put aside my fatigue and desire to do nothing, and pulled up my assignment:

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 1.28.57 PM

First thought? WOO-HOO! I’d been praying to get drama, suspense, or horror since those are the genres I’m most comfortable with. Plus, with my low motivation and energy levels, I needed a genre I’d be enthusiastic about. And horror was just the ticket.

Second thought? What the hell is “medical (or health) tourism”? Seriously, I’d never heard of such a thing. Thank God for Google. After a quick search, I figured out medical tourism is when someone visits another country for a health treatment (mainly because it’s cheaper, or because it’s a treatment they can’t get in their home country). I wasn’t thrilled with this prompt. Medical stuff freaks me out and I’m not all that inspired by it.

Third thought? “Oh crap! Hugh from Hugh’s Views & News is in my group!”

Let me explain: A couple of months ago, I encouraged my friend Hugh from the blog Hugh’s Views & News to enter the Short Story Challenge. I assured him we wouldn’t be put in the same group. I mean, come on!  There are 1,400 people in the competition, broken down into 48 groups of 30. What were the chances we’d end up pitted against each other? Huh?

After I screamed, “NOOO!, I laughed and emailed Hugh, because, really, it was hilarious. And also kind of cool. Even though it stinks to have to compete directly against a friend, it’s nice to know someone in your group. It gives you someone other than yourself to cheer for. (“Goooo Hugh!”)

So, anyway. Once I stopped shaking my head over that, and I figured out what the heck “medical tourism” was, and I drank a lot of coffee, I got to work.

Luckily, my story’s concept came to me almost instantly…Don’t worry, it wasn’t about a Frankenstein surgery gone wrong.

As fun as that idea might’ve been, I had a feeling a lot of my competitors would take that kind of approach, so I went in a different direction…Hopefully it’s a direction others didn’t think of. *fingers crossed*

On Sunday, I started and finished a butt ugly first draft and sent it to my favorite and most critical beta reader: my Mom. As expected, she didn’t love it and she had a lot of issues with it–just as I did. So, we had a long brainstorming session to iron out the kinks and come up with some much needed solutions.

After that, I felt better about the general plot and my two main characters. I sat back down at my computer and started over. And I worked allllll week long writing, rewriting, revising, editing, tweaking…

To be honest, it was a downright painful process. Even though I love horror and I liked my idea, I had smashed into a wall and fallen beyond my breaking point.

Having worked non-stop on my novel for over a month, my willpower was close to zero. And everything hurt: my head, my eyes, my wrists/forearms. Every time I sat down in front of my computer, I’d make it a few words and then want to quit and go to bed.

To make matters worse, I decided to take on a subject I wasn’t prepared to. And it’s a subject I have deep personal convictions about, so…yeah. I was in a constant battle between me and my characters. I had to figure out how to word things that would  satisfy all of us.

By Wednesday night, I had a decent enough draft to send back to my Mom. I also sent it to my sister since she–after helping with a few of the kinks I struggled with most–wanted to give some input.

My sister’s feedback: “I LOVED the last line. Loved, loved.” I almost cried when I read that because I had no idea how to end the story. I’d written that last line on a whim. But after her enthusiasm for it, I knew I’d keep it and use it as my guide while trudging through the end’s fuzzy murk. Yippee for clarity!

And then I read my Mom’s feedback: “It doesn’t feel urgent enough. And I think you should change this and this and this…” I did cry then…Okay, not really. But her critique pushed me to the brink of an epic meltdown.

But, once again, I gave myself a mental slap and went back to work. And by Friday morning I felt confident enough to send my story to three more beta readers (all writing pals this time). Each one gave me incredible feedback and helped me chop down my 2,700 worded story to the word count limit of 2,500.

I’ll admit, a couple of my betas made some suggestions that would’ve required rewriting large portions of the story, and I ignored them. Because I just didn’t care.

Yep! Talk about a horrible attitude. And I’ll likely pay for it when I start getting my feedback from other readers. Oh well. I just didn’t have any fuel left in the tank to deal with those big changes.

On Saturday, I edited my story once more and then submitted it.

And CRASHED!

I spent the rest of the weekend napping on the couch and watching episodes of “The Good Wife”. It was pure bliss.

Now, as you might imagine, I’m not all that confident with my story and I don’t know if it’ll be good enough to advance me to the second round in March. But, whatever! I’m just proud of myself for not giving up, fighting through my exhaustion, and submitting something.

As usual, I’ll be posting my story here once we get the thumbs up from NYC Midnight (which should be today or tomorrow). For now, here is my title and synopsis!

The Ark

Brief Synopsis: When Becca picks her mom up at JFK Airport, she discovers she was diagnosed and treated for cancer while overseas. Their train ride home is fraught with bickering, accusations, and death.

Dun, dun, dun…

Yeah, okay. I know my synopsis is vague. But I’m stickler for spoilers and I didn’t want to spoil anything with this one 🙂

Did you participate in the Short Story Challenge 2015? If so, how’d you do?

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18 thoughts on “Oh, The Horror – Round 1 – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge

      1. I’m not 😦 I had a million and ten reasons not to sign up… and in reality, they are all valid reasons. I’m still bummed I didn’t sign up. LOL Already chomping at the bit for the next flash contest!!!

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  1. I’m certainly interested in reading. I had heard of medical tourism before. Some that worked out well, and some “horror stories.” It’s true that with these prompts, sometimes an obvious story presents itself, and the challenge is to think of something else. I hope mine stands out.

    I was in group 23 (historical/gambling debt/journalist). I spent the whole first day trying to figure out when and where to set the thing. Research, research, research… I wasn’t sure how to use the journalist for a while either, but I ended up liking how he was a big part of the story even though he didn’t appear until almost the end. I got some good input from people and had to re-write my poker scene to make it more authentic. It was a struggle, but I felt almost giddy as I submitted my story with 5 minutes to spare. I also binge-watched TV after turning it in 🙂

    Good luck, and congratulations on yet another creation 🙂

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    1. Historical fiction has to be such a pain! I know when I had to write a political satire last fall during the FFC, I had to spend a ton of time researching my topic. So I understand how that aspect definitely adds to the pressure. I’m sure you did great! Looking forward to reading it 🙂

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      1. There were a few things I pulled out of my butt, plus a few things that may not be right for the times, but I figure that will be the case for most of the others as well.

        Congrats on your novel, by the way 🙂

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  2. Wow, you really sound like you have been through hell and back. I thought I was having the week from hell, but no, mine was more “Gone with the Wind” compared to your “Hostel”.

    As soon as I saw the words “medical (or health) tourism, I immediately thought of the movie “Hostel”. Grisly stuff if you have seen the movie, it was more writing the horror which got me. At one point I thought I was writing a comedy, then a children’s movie, then a commercial for toothpaste, but I think I got there in the end. We’ll see, and I can’t wait to read your story.

    Thanks again for allowing me to bother you during your week from hell, Jen. You were of great support and I can not thank you enough for that.

    The very best of luck with the rest of the challenge as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You know, every time I told someone about my prompts, they’d say, “Well, that’s Hostel”. HA! I haven’t seen it, but I’m fairly certain my story isn’t anything like it.

      This competition can be a little overwhelming during your first round, so I was more than happy to help/support you. Always know the door is open and you can email me any other questions you might have 🙂

      We should be getting the confirmation email by tomorrow (if not today). Very excited to read everyone’s stories. Honestly, I’m not so eager to share mine, but oh well. Time to learn and grow from my mistakes 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve had the email now, so Ill be heading over to the forum today and checking out some of the stories. Then I’ll get around to publishing mine…OMG!! I’m as nervous now as I was when I had to press that submit button. All those people reading my story and wondering what they are going to think of it and say.

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      2. I completely understand how you feel. Even though this is my 8th story on the forum, I still get queasy with nerves. But, it’s okay! Everyone on the forum is nice and constructive with their feedback. In fact, in the hundreds of comments I’ve received over the past two years, only one has ever been on the “meaner” side (and it wasn’t even THAT mean, haha). So, don’t be too afraid. Just take the plunge and put your story out there 🙂

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  3. Okay, so I read your story prior to viewing the hell leading up to and during the writing process of The Ark. Thanks for having the diligence and pride in our rarified craft to persevere. Your short story is incredible! Not concidering the assignment trio, or the fact that you wrote the piece at your wits end. The story read so well, and was so captivating, the challenge it was for you to write is completely undetectable! Really Jen, I for one am in awe. Nice job! As for me, well, this was my first go. What an amazing experience! I have learned a ton, and I am thankful I jumped into the whole NYC mix. Comedy/Unemployment/Fitness instructor wasn’t easy. I had my own bouts of blocking neurosis for sure. I’m not sure I’m daring enough to share my piece amongst the forums, because reading pieces like yours only points out how much I need to grow as a writer… Again, wonderful job Jen, and thanks for the recommendation to join this year’s short story challenge.

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    1. Thank you 🙂 I’m pretty relieved right now and am happy to know all that pain and suffering was worth it (I think, lol!) :-p I’ll definitely be sure to read/critique your story on the forum when I get a chance. Good luck!

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