Back in January I decided to enter the NYC Short Story competition. I had never entered anything like that before and had no idea what I was getting into. I read through the information several times but as is usual for me I forgot everything by the time it was going on. I was attending the conference in San Diego when I got the email notifying me that the competition had begun but even then I was so wrapped up in current events I managed to forget about it.
The way the competition works is that everyone that enters gets split up into heats for the first round. Each heat is assigned a genre, character and story element. For me it was a Thriller based on a Stay At Home Mother and the story element was A Wrong Number. You were given eight days from the start of the competition to submit a polished, edited short story with a maximum of twenty-five hundred words. By the time I realized it was happening and found my assignment I only had four days left.
Yes I was rushed but other than some editing errors I am not sure I would have changed much since I had no idea what I was doing. I did make it in under the deadline and then the waiting began. Every person that submitted was of course considered but they also received feedback. The deadline for submission was the end of January but we didn't receive the results of the people moving on to the second round until just last Monday on March twentieth. I knew I wouldn't be moving on which was quickly confirmed. I wasn't disappointed but I was eager to see the feedback.
That part came the next day. I read through it and while I did receive praise for having a fresh, original idea, a "Hitchcockian twist" and an ability to write simply and straightforward without sounding trite I was more focused on the criticism. I didn't want to be torn to pieces but I wanted to see what I could do to strengthen my story.
I did begin with a cliche and was called out for it immediately and there were those editing errors I mentioned previously. I had also changed the ending at the last minute when writing the story and from the notes it sounds like my original idea would have gone over a lot better. I think the biggest takeaway from that was that I should have followed my instincts. The cliche I could have written out if I had given myself more time but time management has always been a struggle for me. This is just another push to improve that aspect of my working life. Editing falls under the time management issue as well. I did my best to look over it but I was under the pressure of meeting the deadline that I made even more difficult than it already was.
The thing I am focusing on the most is that I can only get better with more practice. I am grateful for the feedback because it was constructive and gave me not only things I can do to improve but reasons to believe in my abilities as well. I am now looking forward to submitting again next year but also for places to keep submitting to this year as well.