Yesterday at 11:59 pm the deadline for the first round of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge concluded. I and thousands of other writers toiled for eight days to successfully, or by the 11th hour mark, complete said challenge. There are various heats where writers are placed in and you must do your best. Genres range from comedy to historical to political satire to horror to suspense to romance and so on. My designation was romantic comedy and the subject I had to write about was 'a first impression.' When I first saw my heat I was a bit disappointed, but then figured this wouldn't be so hard after all. I write about relationships and have snippets of comedy in said pieces so how could I fail?
Well, day one brought me several ideas I scribed down and for more than two hours I started an idea I thought would work. But after said two hours (and those following me on Twitter can attest) I was not feeling said story and started another one. When this second piece didn't gel I took a break and did a virus scan on my computer and watched television. (Haha the perfect procrastination method.) After all was said and done I thought about taking snippets from a novella I wrote as my graduate school thesis and cut and paste some pieces to look at later.
Day two had me looking at the novella and creating a situation with two characters from this piece who had a romantic flirtation going on. Again, a few hours went into working on said piece and again there was no love for it. Yet another draft put aside.
Day three had me start something completely different this was draft four if memory serves and after a few pages this wasn't working either.
Now, by day four I had given up and decided to just wallow in sugar and Modern Familyand get some rest. I'd been carbo-loading all week so energy was low as was morale.
Day five had me consider my options as things were swiftly coming to a close. Reading and connecting and commiserating with other challengers who were still attempting to finish a draft let alone piece together their own ideas I realized that while I had great hopes of getting to the second round and showing off my, what in my mind are, superb writing skills I may just have to get used to the fact that what I submit may not be something I'm happy with. It's kind of like being all those people in the marathon who prepare for it knowing they won't win but just need to finish. Well, on days six and seven consider me on of them. Those people who run across the finish line by the time the television cameras stop paying attention to who passes that big ING (or whoever sponsored the event) arch.
The last day I woke up with an idea. Something I figured would work and I actually liked. I wrote said piece in a couple of hours and was over the limit. After letting it marinate for another couple of hours I cut it down to the requisite 2500 words then submitted. After that I rewarded myself by watching Paranormal Activity on Netflix.
Well, I was not happy with what I submitted. I knew it was subpar and not all that funny or romantic but at least was in the realm of what I was designated to do. I tweeted with a few other participants--cool people might I add--and realized that we probably aren't all too happy with our end result. Never having been in a writing challenge I knew it'd be difficult to create something based on specific designations. Working with prompts I've sometimes gotten my best work, I think, but being told what genre and subject to write about narrows down the field quite a bit and forces us writers to get out of our comfort zones.
I'm an avid watcher of romantic comedies and appreciate ones that really hit the nail on the head. As a writer of dramatic events I realized romantic comedy isn't that far off from drama. You take a dramatic situation and add some funny elements. Does it have to be funny throughout? Not necessarily, but it has to make the reader chuckle more than cry. I think I definitely came to appreciate those who consistently take to these challenges and also the thought process overall. When I write I tend to take an idea and just scribe and scribe and scribe and see what happens. It'll flow eventually or it won't. If it doesn't flow than it goes to the writing graveyard, that place where you may save items you'll never look at again or may delete into that nice trash can icon. But when it does flow man you get something going! You ask others to look and let you know what they think if it works and soon you want the whole public to see it! When it flows you love it and want to nurture it like a child until it flourishes into that piece of art you want it to be. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, in my case months if not years. But in the form of the NYC Midnight challenge you get a little over a week if not less.
I look forward to the feedback I'll receive for this challenge and think that the story I submitted is one I may go back to and try to tighten because I do like it. At best it's the stepchild I may consider nurturing as my own if not the one I gave birth to and feel a strong affinity for. So, we'll see. I know I'm not headed to the second round for sure, but look forward to other challenges and seeing how I may progress or stay still. We'll see what the genre fairy deems fit to give me next time around.
Good luck to everybody and I can't wait to see what goes to round 2!