Second-Guessing

The set of prompts for the final round of NYCMidnight’s 2014 Short Story Challenge arrived right on time, one minute before midnight last Friday. I, however, was asleep. I barely had one eye open Saturday morning when I fumbled for my iPhone to see what the prompts were: Open genre, a fisherman, jealousy.

The good news is I thought of something right away. The bad news was I had to get up and get ready to drive forty minutes away for a five-hour meeting, after which I’d drive forty minutes back, pending a brief trip to Trader Joe’s. I went to Starbucks for a road breakfast but saw I had some time, so I sat down inside the store, had a somewhat leisurely breakfast, and outlined the story, which had popped into my head. Throughout the day, I’d grab some time during the meeting and jot down snippets of dialogue or ideas which came to me.

Did I forget to mention the story for the final round had to be submitted within twenty-four hours?

By the time I got home and settled to write, it was nearly four, but the outlining had been a good thing. In less than forty-five minutes, I had a first, very rough draft for the 1,500-word story, which came in at 1,510 words. I felt good about that; usually I have to cut hundreds of words. My first edit brought it back to 1,496. I sent it off to an English major to proofread it, and after a quick turnaround, I did another edit and ended up with 1,497 words–not that I added just one word. I cut and added, cut and added, and ended up with a net gain of one word. After formatting it for the contest, I hit the submit button at around six-thirty.

Two and one-half hours to write, edit, and submit a story. Of course, as soon as I hit submit, I wanted to take it back, but I’d crossed the Rubicon, tossed the dice, swung the bat–you get the picture. No do-overs. Again, of course, the next day, I decided to look the story over and saw I wanted to do a complete rewrite. Sigh. Why hadn’t I just waited and submitted in the minutes before midnight and given myself time for improvement?

All of which makes me wonder about writers who dash out a 200,000-word epic and immediately upload it to Amazon–with no editing, no proofreading, no rewriting. Why on earth would you do that? What’s the point? Here’s this measly 1,500-word story I’m losing sleep over because I now see all the ways it could be improved, but other writers blithely put their work out for the world to see without so much as a go-over.

Is it me, or does that just sound nuts?

I’m sure that will anger some people who believe a fresh set of eyes looking at your work will somehow harm your story. Just consider it might improve it. It’s worth taking the chance.

In the meantime, I’ll know by May 29 whether I hit the submit button too soon or not.

I live for your constructive comments.

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