So, I'm up early today because my son decided that 6:30 was the PERFECT time for breakfast. (His stomach was growling, the poor little thing!)
I've decided to use this unexpected bit of time to work on my entry in this year's Highlights contest. The Highlights contest drives me nuts. I mean, yes, I've sold a story to the magazine, so obviously I can write well enough for them. And yes, the topics are broad enough that I can usually come up with something that fits.
But the DEADLINE! Oh, the deadline!
You only have 6 MONTHS from the time the topic is posted until you have to send it in. I worked on "Poetry Quilt" on and off for a year and a half. I had a bunch of false starts, too.
The contest deadline means I don't have time to let the story simmer on the back burner for months at a time, waiting for the plot to click. I have to wade in there and WRITE it.
(I think short stories are harder than a novel, in a way. Because when I only have 800 words to give readers the mood, characters and plot, it's almost like a logic puzzle. And if you're thinking about it the wrong way, you get NO WHERE.)
Anyway, back to banging my head against the wall. And cutting. And adding. And trying to get enough tension.
And then, if that doesn't work, it's time to put it aside for a few more days and break out the Flannery O'Connor. Reading a few simply divine short stories seems to help me when mine are plodding.