Well, it was a slow and painful crawl to the finish line, but I did it. I survived the third and final round of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge (SSC).
As some of you read last week, I was not excited about participating in this last leg of the writing contest. Honored, yes, but not excited. I knew it was going to be difficult, stressful, and downright miserable.
And it was.
Once again, the 24-hour deadline kicked my butt. By the time I submitted my story on Saturday night, I was in tears. I was so tired! And so, so, so relieved I’d survived the hellish day.
I ended up spending most of Sunday staring into space, moving around like a zombie, and reacting to things at a snail’s pace. Even my four-year old nephew asked me, “Are you okay?”–HA! I told him I was; just very, very sleepy.
The torture all began at 10 p.m. (MST) on Friday. I did my best to prepare for it, but even with my battle plan and giant bag of Peanut M&M’s, I felt ill-equipped, reluctant, and terrified.
Somehow, I was able to quiet the butterflies and sleep for about an hour before the round kicked off. Then I was up and looking at my final assignment:
This was probably the brightest moment of the 24-hour period. I really liked the prompts. Not only were they interesting, but they easily fit the basic concept I’d thought of beforehand. So, after a quick happy dance, I went to work.
Around 2 a.m. I smacked into a wall and went to bed. Well, tried. It’s hard to sleep when you can hear the clock ticking down, down, down…
By 5 a.m. I was up and writing again.
Now, you’d think since I’d been thinking about my story’s general plot for a few weeks that I would’ve been able to whip something up really fast…But, nope! In a nutshell, words were not my friend on Saturday. Each one had to be ripped out of me, and once on paper they looked battered and bruised.
Panic set in around 11 a.m.
By this point, I should’ve had at least an ugly first draft. But all I had was a handful of ugly paragraphs.
Thankfully my mom arrived at noon to offer her support and help me edit…Well, that had been our plan, but I laughed (somewhat hysterically) when she walked through the front door because I didn’t have anything to edit! She quickly calmed me down with a simple, “Well, let’s just read what you’ve got and go from there, okay?”
So, we did…for the next four hours.
I’d write a couple of paragraphs, send the updated version to my mom, read it out loud, debate about it, edit, and then repeat the process–over and over and over. It was awful! More than anything, I wanted to slam my laptop shut, throw my hands up in defeat, and go to bed.
Even my mom began to lose her cool around 4 p.m. Instead of calmly telling me everything would be okay, she started snapping:
I’m pretty sure she wanted slap me a few times, especially since I kept growling at her to stop eating my M&M’s…No, it wasn’t because I was being possessive (okay, maybe I was a little 😉 ), but because I’d never realized how loud M&M’s were! The crunch, crunch, crunch kept shattering my precious focus. (Sorry for being such a pill, Mom.)
At last, around 5 p.m., I completed a first draft. With great reluctance, I sent it to my beta readers, fully aware their reactions would be something like this:
Honestly, in any other situation, I would never have sent this version to them. More likely, I would’ve thrown it out and started over. I always do that with my first drafts. They’re not meant to be seen. They’re meant to help me figure out the right story, characters, angles, twists and turns, etc. But that stupid clock was ticking. I had no choice.
So, I swallowed my pride–and mortification–and sent it to them. Within an hour, their feedback trickled in. It wasn’t horrible, but I could tell they were disappointed.
Unfortunately, I only had a few hours left before the deadline, so I couldn’t do anything but take their advice and try to make my blah story as non-blah as possible.
Around 9 p.m., just under the 24-hour mark, I finished my “final” draft, whipped up a title and synopsis, and submitted everything.
Then I collapsed and cried.
I didn’t know which I felt more: exhausted or disappointed. I know I did my best in the amount of time I had, but I wanted to do better. This was a story I’d had high hopes for and it fell apart on me…Perhaps someday, when I’m not racing against the clock, I’ll return to it and write it the right way.
Despite my disappointment, I am proud of myself. Writing a story in 24-hours isn’t easy, especially for someone who usually takes 24-hours just to think about a story. Furthermore, even if my story takes last place, I still finished in the top 40 (out of 1,440), and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to celebrate!
As usual, I’ll post my story here for review once I get the thumbs up from NYC Midnight. I don’t really want to, but I’ve come this far, so I may as well. For now, here is my title and synopsis:
The Accidental Fall
Brief Synopsis: How could two happy accidents lead to one so tragic? That is a question Beth Haynes must answer.
Did you participate in the final round of the Short Story Challenge 2015? If so, how’d you do?