So, my first timed writing contest is over, and here are my hindsight reflections. Because, you know, everyone loves hindsight : ).
I expected to be struggling down to the wire. I wasn’t. The prompt came out at 1 p.m my time. I spent an hour mulling it, playing with it in my mind and twisting and turning it different ways. Instead of looking for a story, I went hunting for my version of the characters in the prompt, and let them tell me where they wanted to go. Then I sat down and started to write.
I was finished my first draft by about 5 o’clock. The maximum word count was on the low side for me, and I was about 350 words over. I walked away from it, had some dinner, hung out with Lee for a while, read a little, and then went back to it with my word-scissors. Figuring out where I’d over-described because I was still fleshing things out myself was surprisingly easy this go-round, and the snipping didn’t hurt a bit.
I toyed with my wording and editing and contemplated my ending through the rest of the night. I think the changes that I made were good ones. When my changes were on the brink of feeling less like improvements and more like random second-guessing, I stopped.
If I had to pick one “takeaway” from this experience, that would be it. As a writer, you have to pay attention to that internal voice. Changes are good. But you also have to listen to your intuition, and know when you’ve crossed a certain line. I guess it is sort of like coupledom. A certain amount of communicating and changing behaviors that hurt the relationship is good. But at a certain point, you cross into over-analysis and changing who you are for someone else. It is the same, I think, with reworking bits of a story.
What helped me realize this was the 24-hour deadline. It put the whole writing experience into a microcosm for me. When I truly felt my story was complete and ready to roll by midnight, there were still 12 hours of contest time left. That bugged me a little. I felt like as long as there was still time left, I should be doing something to the story. I had to step away and force myself to stop nit-picking at threads that really weren’t frayed, but would be if I kept poking and prodding them.
So I sent it off early, and spent Sunday watching my niece participate in a horse show rather than agonizing over the keyboard.
Win or lose, I got exactly what I wanted out of this. I learned something about the way I write, something that will help me in the future.
More importantly, I am a bit in love with my finished product. The prompt spoke to me. I’m sure it spoke to most of the writers in the contest, because it was a good one. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say it was the kind of prompt you could run with regardless of your preferred genre or writing style. It gave you fodder for anything from romance to literary to horror to comedy. The building blocks were there, and they were the type with which you could create any kind of structure. What I built is one I can live in quite happily.
If it places in the contest, I will probably dance on my ceiling. But if not, I have something to run with. The people, setting and plot that came to me during this contest are still twisting and turning in my brain, telling me there are many places they’d like to go if this ends up not being their last stop.