You know what they say about the road to hell.
When I first started this blog, I thought it would chronicle the writing process as I worked through that Writers of The Future contest story, my main writing mission. It’s been awhile since I’ve shared an update on that story.
Part of that is because it’s tough to describe such a messy process. There are no clear steps to share. I write. And I rewrite. And I read about writing techniques and then rewrite again.
The other part is I’m not sure if I can make these updates interesting enough to justify their space in your inbox.
It’s easier to share the hard techniques I’ve learned instead. Like the writing critique group worksheets that come from my experience with and approach to the critique process. Interviews with successful authors that share their insights. How tos. Cheatsheets. These add value to your writer journey. And hopefully make it a little easier.
So my personal story took a back seat. Maybe that was a mistake.
The fact is, behind the scenes, I put down my original Writers of The Future story and switched to an entirely new one. New characters. New conflict. And I never told you about it.
To my surprise, a few readers have asked for an update. So here’s a quick where-I-am in the story.
#1 The Story Is in Its Fourth or Fifth Revision. Sort of.
It’s tough to label the draft with an accurate number, because I’ve made so many changes without a clear sense of draft one, draft two, draft three hundred billion.
Each dip into this story feels like a mining expedition. An excavation. I dig in the dirt and search for its edges. I get anxious when a corner turns out to be wider than I thought. I wonder where it will end, and if I’ll be here forever. I keep digging.
But the story is more itself now than any other version of it has been. Each version brought me closer to the true story. And I think I’m finally there.
#2 It’s Fully Formed in My Head
I feel like it might leap out of me in full armor at any moment. That’s because I have a clear outline for each act and scene. I know and love each character, understand their motivations, their Myers-Briggs setting, their lifelong aches and regrets. The timeline is clear. But it’s all still in my head.
When I go to write it, I find how much is missing.
Mostly that comes down to story mechanics. How exactly to convey what information in which scene. Details of setting and character emotion. How to translate my idea of the story into one word in front of the other. So it’s taking time and the same amount of focus and learning curve as every other stage of the story so far.
#3 It’s at 125k Out of The 17k Allowed Words
17k is the word count limit for the contest. So why have I written 125k?
That number is so big because I’ve rewritten the story so many times. But if you’re counting just the latest revision, I’m 5k words in and about halfway through Act II.
I’ll have to unpack those 5k words into a narrative that will stretch the word count. Scary thought, since I have only 17k words to work with.
#4 The First Scene Is in Critique
The fact that it’s in critique now says a lot about how “finished’ I think it is. It’s ready for fresh eyes. And it needs more help than I can give it by myself anymore.
I found an insightful critique partner who offers direct, yet constructive feedback. And what he had to say didn’t surprise me.
My story’s opening scene confuses.
It opens with two characters in a physical confrontation. But the reason behind the conflict isn’t clear soon enough. The images feel muddled. Where and how the characters move through the setting needs work. The characters, in the way I know them, doesn’t come through on the page.
In short, I have a lot to work on. And thanks to my critique partner, I have a clear sense of how to fix it.
#5 The Contest Deadline is Almost Here
The Writers of The Future contest, the one I’m writing this story for, is on a revolving deadline. They publish an annual collection of the contest winners that closes every September. But I don’t want to wait anymore.
I’ve had my eye on this contest for far too long. This is the year. And this story has to be finished and polished long before that September deadline if I’m going to submit it by then.
I work on it every day. I think about it every hour. I’ve got the psychological hacks that get me writing even when the writer’s anxiety kicks in.
It’s so close to done I can feel it. And the thought gives me butterflies.
So there you have it. I’ve got my hiking boots on, and I’m on the trail.
And it’s paved with good intentions.
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