Winning and Worrying

by Jackie Houchin

In my last post (August 30), I wrote about The Write Practice and their Fall Writing Contest which I entered. It was the first contest I’d entered in 20 years. The theme was “Let’s Fall in Love” with the emphasis on FALL and LOVE.

AutumnGold paintingFrame2.I wrote a 1,500 word short story titled AUTUMN GOLD about a couple of young artists having a hard time making ends meet when a huge “windfall” arrives (literally) at their feet.  What they conspire to do about it is the gist of the story, with the climax happening on the first day of fall five years later.

If you wish to read the story, I’ve posted it here:

With over four hundred entries I had no thought of winning, and indeed placed the story in yet another contest. It was a good experience and I’d gotten some valuable help in crafting a good story.

Autumn-Gold, SFB cover photoTwo weeks later I was informed that AUTUMN GOLD was among the five Honorable Mentions (after first, second, and third places).  I was totally surprised.  Wow.  A week later they featured it – with the other winners – in their online magazine, Short Fiction Break with a jacket cover that, well, didn’t quite show what I had in mind, but which brought many readers and good comments.

So, I basked in the light of that glory, amazed still at the story winning anything, until their WINTER Writing Contest was announced. Eagerly I jumped on board that wagon.

A week later I had brain freeze and not from eating ice cream. Suddenly I had doubts of ever writing another short story let alone writing one good enough to win.  How do authors write book after book after having a good seller?  Are they freaked out with trying another story?  I think maybe series book writers may have an easier time, but maybe not?

Have you ever been in that place?  How did you overcome the fear and despair of ever writing something new that might be as good as a former book?

The theme for the new contest is “Countdown” and presents all sorts of possibilities of a suspense story, a heart-pounder, a page-turner.  What could be so desperate a deadline that a character would die or die trying to meet it?  A terrorist attack? A terminal cancer deadline?  A race to save someone from imminent death?

The only thing I could think of was a countdown to a wedding.  (My #2 granddaughter is getting married in two months.)  But what could be heart-stopping about that deadline?  The invitations got lost in the mail? The cake or flowers didn’t arrive?  The groom didn’t arrive because of traffic, an accident, an abduction?

wedding dress - dualWhat I came up with is a story with two points of view on an upcoming wedding ceremony. One person gleefully anticipates the event, thinking the time drags at a snail’s pace, while the other person desperately dreads the act and sees the time flying by way too quickly.

But oh, dear!  What could the climax be? What could happen when the time ran out for both people? What dynamic finale could I imagine when they came together before the clergyman?

At sat at my keyboard and wrote the story in almost one sitting, with very few changes. The ending shocked even me. Whoa!

And now I face a conundrum.  The story is due to start work-shopping in my contest Group on October 30.  After others read it and comment and I make any changes, the story must be submitted to the judges a week later on November 6.

All’s good, right?

No. Because the ending of UNTIMELY BRIDE does not sit well with my heart or my convictions.  I’ve been told this story could be another winner (see my ego puff up?)  and I fear that if I change it to ease my conscience that the story will lose its impact, become too soft to even be considered in the run. I’m reluctant to even try a rewrite. Or, I could always pull the story before November 6.

What to do? Leave it and remain uneasy, conflicted? Try to change the ending and be left with a milk-toast story? Write something entirely new… AT THIS LATE DATE?  Pull the story and simply enjoy reading and critiquing the other stories in my group in this contest?

What to do?

wedding dress - question

Author: Jackie Houchin

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

10 thoughts on “Winning and Worrying”

  1. Always write what pleases you. Never write to win something. You will always be second guessing yourself as you are now. See if the feedback ads to your understanding of that story and revise if you have to or leave it as is. It’s that initial creative spirit that makes a good story. Editing polishes it. And always strive to get better when you do it the next time.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good advice, Gayle. I’ve actually written the parts that offended my conscience. I think I will submit it to the Writing Group I’m in and see what they say. Several liked it before. One person wondered about the consequences of the final action, so………


  2. Bask on! And since you asked, write on! I like the title, “Untimely Bride,” looking forward to reading when it wins!, but I’m not sure what didn’t sit with your convictions since I haven’t read yet, but if you thought it was the right ending for an otherwise good story, go for it. I enter a lot of contests, and the ones I enter you pay to enter, and occasionally I’ve won something (never first prize), and I’ve always thought it was part of the writing-experience to do that. Win or lose, you can never know how you stack up in the “writing world” unless you jump in. (And it’s a bigger pond than critique groups, even though they may be writers.) So congrats on your last (loved it), and keep going for it, I say. You did ask (smile)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the rallying cheer up and go for it! You are such an encourager too. I’ve written a different ending – just as dramatic but not as shocking, so we will see what happens. I feel better about it. I’ll submit it to my Group and see how it flies. But I don’t think I’ll turn the original over to the judges.
      And as you say, writing for contests is for the experience and the learning to write.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “Autumn Gold” was a lovely story and deserved to win! Since I don’t know the cause of your unease about the new one, it’s hard to give advice, since I can only speculate. But I’d go with my instincts if I were you. I’ve had endings that felt wrong to me and after some angst the right ending, or at lease one that FELT right, came to me. Sounds like that may have happened to you, too. Fingers crossed for another winner.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Bonnie. Going with my instincts was the right thing to do. I rewrote the ending and the parts that related to it, and I feel much better. Glad to know that you have had the same problem!


      1. Congratulations again on “Autumn Gold”, which I recommend to our readers. As for your current dilemma, you’ve followed your instincts, often the best solution. Here’s hoping your winning streak continues, but no matter what happens, you will be proud of what you wrote.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a tough one. You may want to trust your instincts that the story ended the way it should. When you say it doesn’t meet your convictions, does the message behind it meet them? Could you keep the ending and get your point across that this is not ideal? Because showing the opposite is sometimes a great way to get across your idea even more effectively. Maybe just adding a character’s reaction. “The greedy goat gloated over the pot of gold that he had won by breaking the rules. He looked up to share his joy, but all his friends had gone.” That’s lame, but you see what I mean? The greed goat behaved badly but still got the gold. However, now he’s alone. Did that make any sense????

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In the first draft I had the bride murdering the groom to get out of a forced marriage. Not very good for her future as several mentioned. I just felt the “solution” was too dark, too premeditated. There had to be another way, and I think I found it. So far comments have been totally loving it & comparing it to O Henry …. to …. liking it, but LOVING the first draft more because the girl took her destiny into her own hands. I feel better with my choice, so … a murderer she aint gonna be!


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