I want to write a thank you letter to the judges who tossed my entry for a short-story competition I recently entered. It was a 1,000 word children’s story. I maintain that I had a good story to tell, but sadly, it would have needed at least 3,000 words to do it justice.
But I was determined to enter that contest. “Kill your darlings” the mantra goes. So I killed and slashed and massacred. Adjectives, verbs, nouns, entire sentences and paragraphs - gone! At the expense of voice and detail. It was pared right down to the bare bones.
And it sucked. I knew that jamming it into 1000 words had not just killed my darlings, but the entire narrative. The plot plodded along, there was too much telling and not enough showing – just for the sake of brevity. The MC resolved the dilemma quite abruptly, but I’m not sure that a reader would have cared. But a glimmer of hope existed. I had left a few jokes in and thought that they might carry the story.
I was wrong. It fooled nobody, it was awful and the judges agreed. However, they were kind enough to each include a line of feedback. “Good idea, needs developing” said one. “Good use of humour, but needs editing” the other said.
For that, I thank them. For taking the effort not just to say so, but to trudge through it in the first place. And for teaching me the lesson that if a story is worth telling, it’s worth doing well.
Actually, I knew that already, but belief that my story was just so damned wonderful it could withstand heavy-handed treatment deafened me to my own common-sense.
Now, I will go back and treat my story with the respect it deserves. At 3000 words, it might be too short even for a “Chapter Book” for a 6-8 year old. Nevertheless, I will polish it as if it were a precious gem. Maybe one day I’ll find a niche for it, but if I don’t at least I know that I have told it as well as I possibly could have. And that’s the main thing!