The Short Story Challenge 2015 is an international creative writing competition, now in its 9th year, that challenges participants to create original short stories in as little as 24 hours. The event is organized by NYC Midnight Movie Making Madness, an organization founded in 2002 with the mission to discover and promote a new wave of talented storytellers. Through inspiring and challenging writing competitions, NYC Midnight aims to provide the prizes and exposure necessary for writers to take their next big step towards writing professionally.
I was feeling bold back in November of 2014, while I was pounding out tens of thousands of words for NaNoWriMo. I decided to actually pay money to enter this short story contest. I had been considering entering for some time and I decided to take the plunge during that very productive month of writing. If I recall, I actually thought something along the lines of, “Hey, I routinely write a thousand or two words a day for NaNo… how hard can it be to write 2,500 words in a week?”
If anyone ever manages to travel through time, will you do me the massive favor of visiting me during November of 2014 and punching me in the face?
Like, hard. Really give it to me.
You see, it’s not hard to write 2,500 words. Not at all. Not a bit.
What’s hard… what’s incredibly, excruciatingly difficult… is telling an actual STORY in those 2,500 words. A COMPLETE story that has a beginning, and a middle, and yes… even an end. It doesn’t have to be perfect, mind… but it does have to be a complete story.
I cut close to 5,000 words before I was finished with my Round 1 story. Yes, I said cut. I had pounded out 3,000 words before I even got to the meat of the story. That was a smidge over my word count limit so I had to revise. I had to edit.
I had to revise and edit some more. A lot more.
I had to edit my revisions, and then revise my edits.
Words, which I use in spades to pad my count during NaNo (and to pen these overly wordy blog posts), became extremely valuable. Adjectives got the ax, commas took the place of SO MANY WORDS. You end up with entire conversations sans phrases like ‘he said’ and ‘she replied’. It makes the storytelling process… interesting. And did I mention how goddamn hard it was?
It’s so hard!
Every SINGLE word counts when writing a short story. Every single word matters SO very much. Every single word needs to be IMPERATIVE to that story. It needs to make SENSE. It needs to ADD to the story, to enhance it. Occasionally, it needs to be ALL CAPS. Oh, wait…
If that word doesn’t do all of those things, sometimes you just have to cut it.
It’s frustrating, upsetting even. Maybe you love that word… the way it’s spelled, the way it sounds, the way it highlights that sentence so beautifully, the way it adds oomph and/or packs a punch. It’s one of your favorites. It’s perfect… the perfect word for this sentence, this paragraph, this story.
Oh hey, look at that, I’m a word over my limit. Sorry perfect additional word, you put me over my limit and this is a contest that I paid money to enter… you’re out. Go on, scoot. Chin up kid, there’s always next time.
Did I mention that short stories are hard to write? Well, they are. For real.
After eight days of writing and being lazy and revising and getting advice and such… I submitted my Round 1 story on January 24th.
Then I waited.
Waiting is also hard.
I learned on March 10th that I was one of 240 (out of 1,440) writers who had advanced to Round 2. I sat in my bedroom and cried happy tears as I laughed.
No, it wasn’t maniacal laughter. Shut up.
Three days later, I started on my Round 2 story, which was a bit shorter and even more difficult to write. I had only three days this time. No lazy happened in that three days, beLIEVE me. I was frenzied. I was focused. I was frenzilied focused. Yes, frenzilied is too a word.
I bugged all of my friends to HELP ME FOR GOD’S SAKE! Ahem. That was a total exaggeration. I didn’t cry, either.
I submitted my Round 2 story on March 15th and I settled in for another long wait.
I should hear sometime around the third week of April if I’m lucky enough to advance to the 3rd and final round… in which there are PRIZES to be had!
Wish me luck, yeah?