Wrangling Creativity: one day at a time
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Writing contests … sometimes “abomidible”

I have entered a writing contest once in my life. The entry could only be 1,500 words long.  Most of my efforts at “short stories” land me in the 20 page range. Believe it or not, I admire people who are terse but it is not one of my gifts. So my first attempt at the story came in at 3,000 words. So I had to back in and cut half of it.  I took out most details that did not advance the story or described something in too much detail.

Cute, but fierce Yeti or Abomidible SnowmanSeveral details were given for inclusion in the story: a unseasonal blizzard is  coming, there is a weird ad in the newspaper, and your character is alone.

While I do love great literature, my heart is with genre fiction—specifically mysteries, science fiction, fantasy (light and dark) and horror. Literature is profound, but genre fiction is fun.  You can call it junk if you want to. I don’t care. It’s what I like and it is just where my mind goes.  So when I saw those story details for the contest, the first thing that knuckle-walked into my imagination was a yeti.

I gave it a setting: a desolate Colorado landscape, part of a ranch that had sold off some its land in smaller parcels to survive. I gave it a main character: a sculptor obsessed with her work to the point it ruined her marriage.  She had bought a parcel of 100 rugged acres, and a sect of Tibetan monks was her nearest neighbors. They had also purchased a very large parcel of land.  I composed my  newspaper ad: someone looking to buy or be notified about road kill. And I had my lead character hear about an unseasonable blizzard coming early around Halloween.

You can probably guess what happens: blizzard, unprepared heroine, auto accident, she gets hurt, the yeti saves her, and she is put up by the monks next door, she has an epiphany—blah-blah-blah. The monks turn out to be the secret sect that protects and nurtures the secret of the “Abominable snowman” and with all the military stuff in Tibet, they thought he would be safer in Colorado.

I didn’t win anything in the contest, and there was some commentary on the site (from the site owner running the contest) about some weird entries they go. I assumed, of course, they were talking about me. (Me, me, me—it’s all about me, of course. When you have no confidence in your work, paranoia is a common side effect).  And so I never entered another contest because of the blow to my ego. Yes, this is sour grapes and wallowing—not my finest hour. However, I do think the owner of the site was kind of out of line calling some of the entries weird. Writers are creative folks after all, and she should know that from dealing with our type for years.

And of course, there is always that moment when you ready the winning entry and SNORT! The story that won was well-written and had the plot of someone waiting on the results on an AIDS test and being all alone in a blizzard, contemplating how their life might change. Yeah, that is kind of profound and grounded… but… I wish I could say something bad, but I can’t.

Needless to say, my fragile ego recovered and I eventually started writing again.  You have to get up, dust yourself off and keep plugging away. In the end you do it for  love (Chorus Line reference) or you wouldn’t do it at all.  WIAWOST=”Writing is a way of slow torture.” So back to the Salt Mines of Namibia or the LaBrea Tar Pits, pick your starting point of unpleasantness and pick up the pen (or tickle the keys of your computer) and write your way out.


  1. It’s always scary sending your baby out to have it criticized. But if we don’t, we can never share the joy we found in creating it, either.

    It’s truly our catch-22.

    Write on, Pam! It’s the only way.

  2. Great blog ~ love the message and I’m with you on my reading/writing preferences. 🙂

  3. Our writing process can be as precious as anything we produce. Great blog post!

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