I made it. I survived round 2 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Let’s all give one big “Woo-hoo!” cheer. And, what the hell, let’s throw in an “Oh yeah, I rock!” dance.
The challenge got off to a rocky start (in a good way). My sister gave birth to my newest nephew early Thursday morning, the day before the contest kicked off. So, not only was I 100% distracted, but I was exhausted. I was awake almost 24 straight hours helping/supporting/worrying about my sister and the arrival of Cy (a late night phone call, an early morning text, a mad dash to the hospital, etc.). I was so emotionally and physically tired by Thursday night, I was worried I wouldn’t have the mental sharpness or preparedeness I needed to take on the writing contest. Thankfully, I was able to get a good night’s sleep, and I woke up Friday morning fresh and ready to go. More than ready–excited!
So, holding my breath, I opened “The Email” with my round 2 assignment:
First thought? “Thank you, Lord! No political satire or rom-com.” Second thought? “Oh, oh. I’ve never written a mystery before.” Not only that, but I don’t read many mystery novels, nor do I watch any mystery/crime shows, like Law & Order or CSI. I asked myself, “What’s a ‘mystery’? Do I have to have a detective? Do I have to follow a “whodunit” standard? Are those requirements in this genre? Or are they a cliche?” I didn’t know. So I did what I always do. I said, “Whatever! I’m doin’ what I want!”
Surprisingly, I came up with a basic concept fast. Well, I figured out a location and a title, Over the Edge. I built the story from there–er, slowly. By Friday evening, I finished a butt-ugly rough draft and sent it to my harshest/best critic: my mom. She liked the skeleton of the story, but she said it was “missing something”. To figure out what that “something” was, we brainstormed together for a couple of hours. During those hours, I went from cool, calm, and collected, to “I suck. My story sucks. This all sucks!” I was certain the skeleton of Over the Edge was useless and I needed to toss it out and start alllll the way over.
Then my mom made a simple suggestion about the ending, and voila! I knew what I needed to do. I woke up on Saturday with a clear (well, clear-ish) plan in my head. Using my story’s skeleton structure, I recreated my main character and reshaped the plot to fit the ending my mom had suggested. Things came together quickly, and by noon, I had a sturdy draft. Only problem? It was 1,000 words over the 2,000 word count limit.
Hence began The Great Chop. I spent the rest of the day cutting and slashing and revising; hiyah’ing and punching and kicking. I did everything I could to chop out those extra 1,000 words…It was horrible. And ridiculous! Every draft, I only managed to delete about 100 words (2,902…2,787…2,625…). No matter what I did, I couldn’t condense the story. I couldn’t edit it down to the golden 2,000 mark.
As I pulled my hair out–er, I mean, wrote, I tried to ignore the clock. I could feel time ticking away. I could feel my Sunday deadline approaching, closer and closer, faster and faster. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock…
By Saturday evening, I had a “good enough” draft to send to my beta readers. Now, I’m not gonna lie, I was nervous to send my story to them. Like Chasing Monsters, Over the Edge ended up being rather intense. I’m not sure if it’s the genres, characters, or subjects I’m assigned during these contests, but when my fingers start typing, they take me to places I’m not prepared to go. However, I’ve become a strong believer in writing stories that demand to be told. I can’t let my fears hold me back.
So, I swallowed my anxiety and sent my story off. A little while later, my beta readers’ feedback returned. Overall, they liked it! Minus a few nitpicks and a couple of confusing parts, I had a solid story on my hands. I went to bed feeling calmer and better than I had since first opening my assignment email on Friday morning.
I spent Sunday morning making a few final tweaks and re-reading my final draft of Over the Edge about five times (two times out loud). Then, I hit the submit button and collapsed.
So, there you go! I’m exhausted, but exhilarated I finished another crazy round in a NYC Midnight writing challenge. I still don’t know if Over the Edge is a “mystery”, but I did my best with it.
I won’t know until late April how it officially does in the competition. Like round 1, my chances are pretty slim to advance to the final round. Only the top 5 in each heat are chosen, so that means out of the 200 remaining competitors, only 40 move on…Yeah, not holding my breath.
Once I receive confirmation it’s okay to publicly share our stories, I’ll post Over the Edge here. If you have a chance to stop by and read it, I’d love your feedback.