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.
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: http://bit.ly/2vUvLTS
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.
Two 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?
What 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?