Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mother Doesn't Like Noise

That's the title of my story for the 24 hour contest. No, you won't read it here. You won't even get an excerpt.
When I read the topic, I was a little dismayed.

"The ocean water was warm, not offering much relief from the
relentless heat. It was July 23rd, an anniversary she always
honored by returning to the spot where her life had changed
so dramatically. She stepped on something hard and reached
down. She froze when she realized what she held in her hands..."

This was just so pure. So beautiful. So basket-full-of-puppies.
So easy for me to destroy. So easy to return a basket-full-of-severed-puppy-heads.
Sure, a part of me feels a bit bad about turning such an obvious love story into something macabre, but not much.
The limit was 1000 words. One thousand fucking words. Unless you write, you probably think that's easy. You have no idea how insanely hard that is. Every word has to matter. Every sentence, every paragraph, every scene. Every single one of those words has to tell a story. You think it's easy to tell a story in 1000 words? It took me four drafts, and I write a very clean first draft.
I managed to do it in 900. I don't know how. I cut half a paragraph that wasn't needed and added 3 more that were. And I did it all with 20 hours to spare. I admit that my wife was a help. She sat beside me as I revised, pointing out bits where the story wasn't coherent. But she also told me when I couldn't fix it any further, and that's where she's most helpful. I'd still be revising it tomorrow, trying to make perfect a story that could never be perfect.
It's 1000 fucking words. You're not getting "War and Peace".
In the end, I faced fear and it wasn't so scary. Sure, I've got writer's angst right now: Is it good? Could it have been better? Is it original or are there 499 entries with the same trope? Was the ending strong, or is it merely a relief? And, actually my biggest fear, will it overly offend the fine sensibilities of the judges?
But, despite my angst, the story is already entered. It cannot be recovered, revised, or withdrawn. It may take as much as a month for them to decide. 500 entries is a lot, and I have to assume that all are equally well-written, and will get equal time.
In the meantime, I have other things to write.

24 hour short story contest

The 24 hour short story contest at Writer's Weekly is about to begin in just 7 hours, and I haven't gone to sleep yet. With a bit of luck, the topic will be one I can work my dream around. The real challenge is going to be the word length, which tends to be short.
I'll note that this is the first writing contest I've ever entered. Realistically speaking, it's a hard way to make money. It's far easier - and cheaper - to stuff a story in an envelope and send it off to a magazine, where it will be read by one person who just found out his wife is cheating on him, laughed at by unpaid interns, and ultimately rejected. To a writer - one prepared for the realities of publishing at least - rejections are battle scars.
But this, this is far more difficult to handle. The stories will not be read by cynical editors wading through the aptly named slushpile. They will not be read by naive first readers hoping to discover the next Stephen King. No, they will be read by other writers, who are looking originality as opposed to publishability. The best written version of the topic doesn't have a prayer next to the most original twist.
And then there's the time limit. I do not work to a deadline. I have no idea how many pages it will take to tell a given story until I've seen how much story there is to tell.
On the whole, this contest is scary. But I'm a horror writer. Phobetor is my muse. Bring it on.