I’m still a little brain tired regarding my novel since I finished the fourth draft a few weeks ago. In the meantime, I’ve been rewriting and editing a short story for the Fantasy-Faction Writing Contest. While picking my novel back up is about as appealing as running my foot over with my car, working on this short story has been refreshing.
Maybe it has to do with how writers tend to develop self-destructing thoughts
about the quality of their writing when they’re not writing. When you finish a major project, the first thing you want to do is veg out, reward yourself for all the brainless activities you neglected while working on said project. When I finished draft four I was completely content just staring at the trees outside my window of my work’s front lobby. For people like me who don’t have novel contracts, this became an ideal time to work on short stories. More so, it was an ideal time to transform a confusing flash fiction that showed promise into a 4500 word short story that I really like (I’m not done yet, hence, just the “really like” status).
I felt good about my production last week even though I was on vacation from the novel. I alternated days finishing a draft and reading or doing other things, and by the end of the week I was ready to send it out to friends. A new friend I met on Google +, Mike Reeves-McMillan, is also shooting for the Fantasy-Faction contest, and so we swapped stories. I also stopped by a fascinating discussion hosted by guest blogger Mike Duran at the Speculative Faith blog, where I commented back and forth with Kat Heckenbach about how to end Horror stories. This led to her emailing me one of her stories as an illustration of her point. (I just read it today, and it’s really good. “Fire Wall” is the story, previously published and soon to be in an anthology). Anyway, I sent her my story and what I got back from her and Mike was amazing help.
When I sent my story out, I liked it, but it didn’t move me, and I didn’t really like my main character. He was a character all right, but I was playing the anti-hero card and failing to do so in any way I could think someone would care. This is a problem. I worked through notes from C.L. Dyck‘s Fluency in Story beta class, and so I figured out the theme that I needed throughout, but the ending wasn’t working. I had him choose the negative option, and it made me wonder why someone would want to read a story where the character they were rooting for to change didn’t. Do you like reading those types of stories? Part of me wants to write them to be unpredictable, but I’m usually left feeling like I’m separating the reader from their desire to be the main character when I choose a direction the reader doesn’t want.
I learned two important lessons from my beta readers. First, Mike, bless his heart, read my story from the perspective of being a writer who likes happy stories. I critiqued his story from a writer’s perspective who loves action and conflict, and told him his story needed more conflict. In similar fashion, Mike asked me to consider an ending that showed change.
Kat, bless her heart, gave me a great line edit, but also said that the reason why it felt like telling was because of places where I got lazy… and told what my character was thinking instead of showing. Also, I had 8 pages building up the climax and then resolved it in half a page. She said to use more description and draw out the change more in the end.
I took both of their advice, and started tearing up as I wrote the final few paragraphs. THAT is what I’m talking about!
I’m really excited about entering the Fantasy-Faction contest. Not only would I get published with authors I look up to like Michael J. Sullivan and Myke Cole, but the prizes are pretty substantial. $500 for 1st place, $300 for 2nd, and $100 for 3rd. So, being excited about this contest, I was a little worried because I knew on Friday that my story wasn’t good enough to beat the competition. On top of that, I didn’t know how to improve to get it to that point.
Following the above advice, I believe it is close. Thank you Kat and Mike for your comments. You guys rock!