Friday Funny and a touch of success

Hey, would ya look at that? It’s Friday! Time for a happy dance.

My week went pretty well–much better than last week. I’ll admit I didn’t get any writing done, but that’s because I was participating in the second (and best) part of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge: reading all the amazing entries. On Tuesday, the forum on the competition’s website opened up, so many competitors, including myself, posted our stories for others to read, enjoy, and critique. Thankfully, work was super calm this week, so I was able to read, enjoy, and critique many of them. Like, over 40!…Yeah, my eyes are starting to hurt, lol.

In addition to reading stories, I received terrific feedback for my own, Chasing Monsters. So far, the general consensus has been positive! I think that calls for another happy dance 😉

Here are just a few comments people have made:

That was an incredibly suspenseful and horrifying story…”

Wow.  THAT was one of the best short stories I’ve ever…

Wow Jen!!! What a story!!! You had me right on the edge of my seat from start to finish!”

I LOVED this story.”

I wanted to let you know I am still thinking about/cringing over your story a day later. Can’t think of higher praise for a suspense story.”

Very Guillermo del Toro-esque and I mean that as a compliment.”

Wow – an espresso coffee hit of a child’s tale! (Laced with rum!)

Love your writing! This was like a modern Grimm tale!

Okay, one more happy dance? Yeah?

Success! Thank. God!

Honestly, I didn’t expect this positive response for Chasing Monsters. I was so, so, soooo nervous and “ugh” about it. Why? Well, mostly because the subject matter was so dark and intense. I’d originally plotted a different twist in my story, but when I approached that twist, my characters yanked me in a different direction–a scary, grim, uncomfortable direction. I was also anxious because I genuinely struggled with writing this story (details here), and the more I struggle with writing something, the more likely it’s horrible and needs be tossed out.

I’m glad I didn’t.

And I’m glad I trusted my characters and followed them down the bumpy, twisty path they led me.

In addition to the positive feedback, I’ve also received some awesome constructive criticisms that will definitely help me improve Chasing Monsters should I ever decide to go back and revise it…Will I do that? I don’t know. People have asked me to, but to be honest, this was the hardest story I’ve ever written. It emotionally destroyed me last week and took me to dark places I never want to revisit…But, then again, I do tend to torture myself, so maybe… 😉

Anyways, in honor of my small but sweet success this week, I’ve dedicated today’s Friday Funny to my characters from Chasing Monsters.

0ace93e64f2504ec6a77f2f63ad29552Thank you to everyone who has read Chasing Monsters. I won’t know for over a month how I officially did in the first round of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. Despite the positive response from readers, I’m still not holding my breath. Judging for this contest is 100% unpredictable.

How was your week? Read any good books? Make progress with your own writing? Tell me, tell me!

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

Done and Done – Round 1 Short Story Challenge 2014

Book Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Chasing Monsters – NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge Entry

A True Thursday Treasure – Hermione is born

Done and Done – Round 1 Short Story Challenge 2014

I promised you I’d give you the full scoop on my experience with Round 1 of the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge. So, here we go!

I had eight days to write a 2,500 word short story based on an assigned genre, subject and character. The competition kicked off two Friday’s ago, just before midnight. I knew I’d never sleep if I looked at my assignment right before bed, so I waited until early Saturday morning to check it out. This was what I saw:

20140215-CaptureIt-PictureFirst thought? Thank God I didn’t get romantic-comedy or comedy! Not only are those my least favorite genres to write, but they’re so subjective compared to the other genres. If a judge doesn’t have the same sense of humor as you, then you’re SOL.

Second thought? YES! I can totally handle suspense. And I can totally handle those prompts! They’ll be a piece of cake! A piece of wedding cake–ha-ha. I was so relieved, especially when I started reading what some of the other groups were assigned: Comedy/a cult/an apprentice? Fairy tale/domestic abuse/a physically disabled child? Political satire/a presentation/a secretary? Yikes! I got an easy one compared to those.

So, I set a goal to have a solid draft written by Sunday afternoon. That would give my story plenty of time to settle and marinate before I revised and submitted it at the end of the week.

I confidently prepared to dive in.


On Sunday afternoon, after working almost 20 hours on my story, I sent it to my first reader/critic…An hour later, they responded with, “Well, you have a good skeleton of a story, but it’s not really a suspense.”

Yeah, I was upset. Not only had I worked really hard (like forget-to-eat-and-change-my-clothes-for-two-days type of hard), but I’d emotionally drained myself. During my initial plotting, I’d (unexpectedly) decided to take on a touchy topic that made me uncomfortable, sad, and angry. To think of all that time–all those emotions–wasted…Ugh. But I knew my beta reader was right. The story was good, but it was not a suspense. It was a drama.

So, after my bitter denial faded, I did as suggested, and kept the “skeleton” of my story and threw the rest away.

Hence began a week-long journey I hadn’t planned on taking. Waking up super early to write before work, and staying up super late to write after work. It was a jagged, “blerg” process that was frustrating, exhausting, and discouraging. It seemed each draft I cranked out was met with the same “It’s good, but it needs ‘this’ or ‘that'” reaction. By Tuesday night, I considered scraping the entire concept and starting from scratch. Maybe write a loopy groom-wants-to-kill-bride-but-bride-kills-groom-first story? Or an “Unless we diffuse this bomb hidden in the wedding cake in the next ten seconds, everyone at this reception is gonna die!” dealio…

But, it was just too late. I’d grown too attached to my concept–had put in too many hours and emotions–had worked too hard! I wasn’t going to give up. I couldn’t. I just needed to keep pushing, keep editing, keep twisting and turning and molding. A good story was right there, just out of reach. All I needed to do was reach a little higher, spin my plot a tad tighter, dazzle my audience a whole lot brighter.

So, I reached and spun and dazzled until I finally had a draft that I felt semi-proud of. Only problem: it was 1,000 words over the 2,500 word count limit.


I chopped and chopped all day Thursday until I managed to get the story down to just a few words over 2,500. Nervous, but satisfied, I sent it off to my beta reader, as well as a couple of friends to critique. When their feedback popped into my email on Friday morning, I almost cried with relief. Overall, they liked it! One said, “I loved it. Very cool.”, and another said, “I think you’ve got something solid.” (Thanks Jess from What Comes Next!).

So, besides a few style tweaks, some character development flaws, and one or two confusing sentences, the story was good to go! Suddenly, I went from wanting to stab my story in the face, to “Oh, you like it? For Real?”, to woo-hoo, dance party time!

After a few more rounds of revising and chopping (final word count: 2,496), I submitted my story on Friday night. And you know what? I’m satisfied and proud of the final product. Yes, I worked a lot harder on it than I planned, and I took on a subject matter that’s a lot more intense and troubling than I’m used to, but I’m happy I stuck with my original concept and saw it through to the end.

Now, will I do well in the contest? Who knows. As I learned from NYC Midnight’s Flash Fiction Challenge 2013, the judging for these stories are completely unpredictable, so my hopes aren’t high. However, I don’t participate in these challenges to win them (yeah, it would be nice, but that’s not the point). I enter them to learn. And, once again, I learned a lot during my week spent in suspense hell! And I’m sure to learn even more this week when I get to post my story here and on the NYC Midnight forum. The feedback I receive from others is like drops of gold–so awesome and so important to helping me improve my writing.

So, that’s it folks! The first round of the Short Story Challenge 2014 was difficult, exhausting and frustrating, but I’m glad I did it. I won’t know for over a month how I did officially. Only the top five in each group advance to round 2 (and there are around 25/group), so my odds aren’t great…But we shall see. You never know!

My story, “Chasing Monsters”, should be up this week. I hope you get a chance to read it and let me know what you think! 🙂

Sidenote: I’ve added a link at the top of Jen’s Pen Den with all the stories I’ve written to date (minus my unpublished manuscripts, of course). Feel free to check them out!

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Friday Funny with a touch of frustration

Do you ever have one of those weeks where you set out with the best intentions to get a lot of stuff done (exercise, write, clean the house, write, blog, write, read a book (or two), blog some more, write some more, clean some more, write some more. Write, write, write…sensing a pattern yet?). But then life gets in the way and, before you know it, it’s Friday and you’ve hardly made a dent in your to-do list? Yeah, that was my week. I just couldn’t catch my breath and do what I needed/wanted to do (work on my manuscript). As an added stressful bonus, Denver is FREEZING. Like, dangerously freezing. We’re talking negative temperatures. On Wednesday night, I hopped in my car, and in a matter of two minutes, the temp on my dashboard plummeted from 15 degrees to this:

unnamedI’m telling you, it hurts to even walk outside right now. And everyone is dealing with frozen/breaking pipes, icy commutes, and drained car batteries (yesterday morning, I was 45 minutes late to work because a neighbor asked me to help her jump-start her car).

Normally I’m comforted by the fact that I can play catch up over the weekend, but the NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge starts tonight and runs through the 15th. So now my manuscript will likely go untouched for at least the next two or three days (maybe more if I can’t get a solid draft for the contest knocked out tomorrow/Sunday). *frustrated sigh*…Now, don’t get me wrong, I am excited about this short story contest. I’ve been waiting months for it. I just wish I was in a better place with my manuscript. Oh well, oh well. (By the way, I’d appreciate your prayers, positive vibes and crossed fingers for this contest. I really, really, really don’t want to get assigned romantic comedy as my genre. I had to deal with that in the first round of the Flash Fiction Challenge last fall, and ick!).

Anyways, in honor of this week’s frustrations, and my inability to get my story out of my head and onto paper, here is today’s funny:

80647d0c17d4534f1a2a636459a1621cHow was your week? I hope it was less frustrating (and a lot warmer) than mine.

Jen’s Weekly Roundup

In case you missed my other posts this week, here they are!

Book of the Month – February

Happy Book Release Day – Cress by Marissa Meyer

The Devil’s in the Details–taking your fiction to the next level