Bad Title Goes Here

I entered a writing contest this weekend, a challenge from Writer’s Weekly to write an 875 word short story in 24 hours or less. They send you a couple of topic sentences to inspire you around noon on Saturday, and then your story is due by noon on Sunday.

Leading up to the contest I bounced around from relaxed (“It’s no big deal, whatever”) to panicked (“My brain is a vacuum! I have not one single idea in there!”) to super confident (“And lastly, I’d like to thank my husband, for not turning up his nose at dinner of Frosted Flakes on that fateful Saturday night”).

Mostly I expected to sit paralyzed in front of my blank screen, unable to think of a single word or idea to explore. I find writing essays, magazine articles, and advertising copy comes easily to me (blinking sign here – WRITER FOR HIRE, CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP), but writing fiction is like pulling teeth. It’s painful, bloody, and leaves a hole in my head.

I usually take yoga class on Saturday mornings. You might be imagining a class where we do lots of nice stretches and commune with the earth, but my class is more full of lots of impossible positions that leave me communing with my bottle of ibuprofen. But I still thought it would be a good idea if I went – a supple body bringing about a supple mind, as my friend Tudor would recommend. And I do think it helped loosen me up – or at least, brought about a feeling of euphoria that I had survived. My arms didn’t fall off! Only mostly! That’s success right there!

Once the topic was released at lunchtime, I puttered around for a bit, helping make lunch for the kids and thinking things over. Then Sir Monkeypants took the scamps out to the Museum of Nature for the afternoon, leaving me with three glorious, uninterrupted hours to write.

Which I did.

But I also ate.

I ate a whole bag of chips. NOT the single serving kind. And I also had a chocolate chip granola bar. Two. Actually, three. And a big bowl of cereal, and some leftover Clodhoppers from Christmas that were kicking around. And I polished off the chocolate milk.

Apparently, junk food is critical to the creative process. Who knew? If I ever write a novel, I’m going to come out of it weighing 300 pounds.

Anyway, by the time the kids got home the bones of my story were there, and I was more than ready to take a break and help make dinner and pack them off to bed. Then I tweaked for another hour or so, and then, it was time.

I let Sir Monkeypants read it over.

While I lay on the couch with my head under a blanket, body rigid with terror, embarrassment, nakedness. ACK TO THE MAX, DUDES.

But he kind of…liked it. And he gave me a huge compliment by saying that he had no idea I could write like that. I guess the ol’ blog just doesn’t scream “Nobel Prize for Literature” on a regular basis. (Only on occasion. Those Dance Show posts require painstaking research, you know.)

I slept on it, then in the morning I changed a few minor things and then spent an hour agonizing over a title (still SO CRAPPY, alas), then I pressed send. And with one keystroke, I became a real writer in my own mind.

So in the end it turned out…kind of great, actually. I had fun, my story is passable, and most of all, it was a real confidence booster. I can’t thank Tudor over at Two Writers Talking enough for mentioning it earlier this season, and for personally encouraging me to give it a try.

I’m not sure when I’ll write more fiction, though. Life is busy and it’s the time, more than anything else, that is hard to come by. There’s another contest in the Spring…I’ll shoot for that and see how it goes. I hope you all will join me!

16 thoughts on “Bad Title Goes Here

    1. Ha ha! Posting my story here would be worse than running across Parliament Hill naked. In -25 degree Celcius weather. While being filmed for Entertainment Tonight.


      If I win, it’ll be posted on their website and I’ll gladly link there :).

  1. nadinethornhill

    I’m also dying to read your story, but I can respect you’re not wanting to post it here. Guess I’ll just cross my fingers extra hard in hopes that you win!

  2. Tudor

    Congratulations Lynn. Like I said before when bullying you – no, let’s make that ENCOURAGING you – to do this, there is no way to lose in this situation. If you don’t win (which would leave you in good company with the VAST majority of others entering), you’ve still exercised your writing muscles, stretched your brain and finished something.Yay for finishing something! If you win, well, you’re ahead of me!

    And, yes, I did enter this contest too and, while I don’t mind the thought of the judges reading my story I woud die a mortified death before letting my husband do so, making you much braver than me!

    You know you’re going to do the spring one – you may deny it but it’ll suck you in…

    Congrats one more time!

  3. that’s awesome. it must be such a great feeling of accomplishment. it must be said: you rock! and you should totally post it here, winner or not. it’s something you created. share. you know how ridiculously supportive we are! wouldn’t it be nice to have comment after comment of praise? 😉

  4. At first I thought, “Why would anyone want to FORCE their creativity with a 24-hour contest?” but I suppose it did help you focus in on the task and actually get it done. So easy to put those things off.

    Can I read it?

  5. Oh good for you! I totally get needing the deadline — I’ve written three and a half complete short stories and oh my god, the agony and dragging-ness and glacial pace. I started blogging almost solely so I would still be writing without going through that nonsense every day. And I did let my husband read them too, and gah, it was awful.

  6. Yay for you! I’m very much the same with my writing. I LOVE to write essays…essays are totally my thang. I can write a gazillion essays. But creative writing? Gah! I get all anxious just thinking about it. Creative writing requires you to be way more brave.

    Over the Christmas holidays one of my friends gave her book to read and asked me to provide some feedback before she starts submitting it to publishers. I was totally in awe that she’d even written a book, and even more in awe when I started to read it and it was really, really good. It made me think that maybe I should try to be a bit more brave about my writing, too.

  7. Lynn, I love your description of the creative process. I agree that it IS messy. And involves junk food. And often is more painful than yoga poses… KUDOS for taking this on! All part of your breakthrough year. 🙂

  8. Awesome!! Writing fiction scares me too. I always feel it will be a thinly disguised blog post with different names and a bigger house 😉 I might just join you in entering the next contest.

  9. You go girl! Nothing like an impending deadline and a whole lot of chocolate (or pie) to get them creative juices flowing. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be such a great accomplishment. WTG!

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