The NYC Midnight Short Story Challenge is on!
If you recall, this is a two-month challenge involving three rounds (if you’re lucky) where contestants write short stories from prompts provided by the contest. The top three from each heat of the first round go on to the second, and the same for the third and final round. I signed up back in January to participate, and as the deadline for the first set of prompts (midnight February 7) neared, I went from anticipation to panic. What prompts would I get? Would I actually be able to come up with something? What if I flop?
I didn’t wait up until midnight to get my prompts. I got a good night’s sleep then planned on checking email first thing on Saturday morning. However, a writer friend of mine, who is also participating, messaged me first thing in the morning, terrified about her prompts. Gulp. I looked.
Genre: Horror. Okay, not so bad. I’d been terrified of getting YA or Romance, neither of which I have much experience in nor enjoy.
Subject: Genetically Modified Organism (GMO). Again, not bad. There’s been a debate locally about such products and whether they should be labelled as such, so I knew there was fodder here for a decent horror story.
Character: A prisoner. Hmmm. More possibilities.
However, I didn’t sit down to write right away. I had to travel to Charlottesville, VA, for a meeting of the Board of Governors of the Virginia Writers Club; however, the prompts kept tickling at me the whole drive over. I was a little early in arriving, so I pulled out the notebook I go nowhere without and jotted down this opening paragraph:
“I always figured it went down like this: one of those impersonal government buildings–you know the kind, all concrete, no glass–a conference room, a table occupied by faceless bureaucrats, a couple of guys in lab coats, maybe with names like Krishnamurtichatterjee or Schwartzenschikelgruber. They sat around the table reading a thick report, maybe watched a PowerPoint or a Prezi. The guys were from USDA, FDA, maybe Justice or U.S. Marshals, Bureau of Prisons, or some such.”
Yeah, promising, but where to go from there?
All throughout the meeting, as I knew it would, the prompts kept “talking” to me, and I jotted more notes at breaks and at lunch. By the time I left for home, I had a fully formed idea.
A really grotesque, fully formed idea. Even then I let it stew most of the day on Sunday; then, I sat down and started to write. It was all going smoothly until I got a text telling me I was late for my three-year-old granddaughter’s cake and ice cream birthday party. Oops! I hit save, dashed to the car, and took care of family business. I had to remind myself not to scarf down cake and ice cream and dash home, that Mamo had to be there for the Emster.
I got home, sat right down again, and resumed the story. When I next looked at the clock, it was almost 2300, and I had written 2,498 words. (The story can’t exceed 2,500 words.) I read it over, noted the spots needing work, and got to the end. I liked it. It needed work, but I liked it.
For the first round we have eight days to upload the story, and I’m grateful for the time. I’m letting the draft sit for Monday and Tuesday; then, I’ll pick it up again on Wednesday, with a goal of having it ready to upload on Friday. Yes, I’m grateful because if I make it to Round 2 I only have five days. Should I make it to Round 3, I only have twenty-four hours to upload a story. And you can’t pre-write because you don’t know what the prompts will be.
It’s certainly a challenge–so, aptly named, NYC Midnight–but each story gets feedback, and that’s what most interests me. Two of my writer friends from Tinker Mountain are also participating, so we’re supporting each other by listening to each other vent on Facebook Messenger. It would be the coolest of cool if all three of us made it to Round 3.