You know how every once in a while your life seems to be humming along just swimmingly and everything (except the traffic lights) is going your way? That "excelsior" feeling of ever upward? I've been coasting a bit on the warm fuzy everybody has been giving me on my "Fiction Fridays" writing excercise. Last night the universe corrected itself.
My cousin's fiance is a regular entrant for a specialized weekly writing contest. A couple of months ago she was a finalist and mentioned it on Facebook. She didn't win but it indroduced me to the contest - essentially, every Tuesday you are given a prompt at precisely 1930 hours (central) and you have ten minutes to write a story incorporating the phrase. Could be anything. Right up my alley. Except that I always forget about it. Well, my cousin's fiance won last week and so I was reminded about it in time to enter.
1. It's a lot harder than it sounds. I've written from prompts, even told ghost stories from prompts. Once I took a bet from John Michealbock that no matter what phase he came up with, I could write a coherent story between lunch and dinner. His phrase? "Not Even Rigormortis." I'm not sure where he came up with it, but the story was a winner. It's not a perfect piece by any stretch of the imagination, but the concept was great - if a little out-dated now, 20 years later. He was impressed. For me it was fun - it's what I do.
2. Writing under time pressure is something that distingueshes me at work. I am used to fast deadlines where the finished product has to be perfect. Memos. Policy directives. Training plans. "Jon, fix this. I need it by 2pm." No big deal. It's what I do.
3. Spewing out a story when you haven't had time to truly formulate it results in a lot of words - the discipline of always writing, not just when you feel like it really paid off here - but not necessarily a good story. That's what I did.
4. I didn't realize how significant an extra 20 minutes when you are writing a compact 500 word story or how vital those minor changes I make to dialogue or description are during my review of what's been written. I didn't have time to go back over and it showed. First draft is not what I do.
My wife read my entry and said, "I'm dissapointed. You're better than that." I agreed with her. She said, "No, really. This is awful." I agreed with her. Then she said, "This has your name on it. Can you delete it?" Now that's honesty. Some people might be put off by that, hurt even. But I'm a writer. "Rejection is my petrol. It keeps me going." What that said to me was that all of the, "I really liked that" comments meant that she really liked it.
She read the other entries. Some of them were good. One was very good - I was impressed. She said, "Remind me to remind you next week. You can win this easily." That's not true. Writing an original story in 10 minutes from a prompt that could come from anywhere isn't easy. But she's right too. I can win. It's like playing speed chess, the rules are the same but there's a twist. When you learn the twist you excel.
Challenge accepted. 10 minute fiction contest, get ready.
Today is supposed to be "Tales from the Script" but I haven't finished "North by Northwest" yet and the other script I read this week, "The Usual Suspects" was a huge dissapointment. I remember the movie - two scenes specifically that stand out - but reading the script, I don't see how it sold. It's not all that. The two big scenes? They were all about Kevin Spacey. If John Goodman had played Virbal Kint then the movie would have tanked.
What it did do very well - but you had to get through it - was set up a reality that hooked you in and then turned everything you thought you knew on it's head. Take out the last 10 minutes of the film and it wouldn't be anything. The entire story hinges on the climax. Thing is, today, I don't think the script would have been read that far. If it was a novel I probably wouldn't have kept reading after the first 50 pages.
Sorry there's no picture today, I'm writing directly from my iPad. Of course, you already know what Kevin Spacey looks like...