It’s no secret that I have dreams of making the New York Times Bestseller List. I’m also grounded enough to know this will require practice, practice and more practice and writing, writing and more writing. And that’s why I participated in a 24-hour short story competition this past weekend to help me hone my craft.
It works like this: you pay a minimal fee and register to participate ahead of time, the contest organizers secretly choose a topic and a word count (varying from year to year); at a previously specified time (geared to North American time zones of course), participants are sent an email detailing the topic and word count, this signals the contest start; then, everyone has exactly 24 hours from that time to write their story, polish it, name it and then submit it.
While the topic was decidedly “darker” than I usually gravitate toward, it was a terrific experience. Once I decided that I wouldn’t require 24 whole hours to put together a decent 700-1500 story, I was okay with not bounding out of bed at 3 am, the scheduled start time. I did rise rather excitedly at 7am though.
I grabbed my laptop, sat in bed, checked my in-box and read, then re-read, the topic to Chris. I had an idea for my story straight away. I considred a few others, but kept coming back to my first thought. This part was the obstacle for Chris. He had originally thought he’d participate, but with a non-fiction book deadline looming and a bad case of fiction block, he bowed out after a valiant attempt. He got over 1,000 words written for his book though, so it was probably a good long term decision. Plus, between you and me, it prevented the awkward situation of me beating him in the contest!
I let my thoughts float and form and did some plot brainstorming while I had my morning coffee and hung the laundry on the line. At 9 am-ish I sat down to write and the story came fast and furiously. I had my first draft down before 1PM. I left it for a while, then came back and edited and edited some more. I left it one more time, edited it one more time, shared it with Chris, got some great suggestions and then implemented them.
My story, entitled Mountain Time was completed and submitted by 9PM. I was happy with it. I was proud of myself for exercising my writing and editing muscles and I felt it was a day well spent.
Judging will take a month or so, but I promise to let you know what the judges thought and even share it at that point as well.
For you writers out there, I’d highly recommend this timed competition format. It forces you to make some tough decisions and makes you far more efficient at your craft. Hey, you could even try it on your own if you wish. It’s not as hard OR as easy at it looks!
If you want to try, here’s the topic they provided:
She thought she heard water trickling over rocks and turned toward the sound, ignoring the thorns that sliced her short, chubby legs. She sat down, drinking as fast as she could. She jumped up when she once again heard all those strangers calling her name, somewhere behind her, higher up. She wasn’t sure. She quickly stepped back and her hair got tangled on a low branch. She wrenched it free, her panic having dulled all pain hours ago. The forest canopy swallowed her as she sobbed and stumbled, repeatedly whispering to herself…
WORD COUNT Stories for today’s topic must not exceed 1000 words.