Maybe it was fate. I’m not sure exactly. Because as much as I love the CBC, I’m not on any of their email lists, and yet a couple of months ago, an email from them landed in my inbox announcing the Canada Writes Short Story contest. I’d never heard of it, and I’m not that into contests, but a hard deadline is sure a great motivator for getting projects done.
My first thought was, “it’s 2 months away, I’ll write 10 stories and pick the best one.” Well! That was overshooting the moon a bit. I started in on 3 different ideas, but then realized my head was spinning trying to focus on so many things, so I narrowed it down to 2 and did a few versions of each. When I finally had workable drafts, I gave them to my chief of vetting (aka my husband) who voted one out. Then I really got to work on the winner.
And then I hit a wall. As much as I tried to make the story fly, it just wasn’t coming together. I figured I would have to let the deadline pass and try again next year. What did I know? I’m new to this fiction thing and maybe it takes longer than I thought. You can’t really force the story to come together. In fact, the more I write, the more I understand when writers talk about the characters revealing themselves to you, rather than the other way around.
I kept mulling over the plot in my head. Why wasn’t it working? Who was the protagonist, and what did she need me to bring out for her character to come to life?
Ah! One day, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Just a few tweaks here and there and all of sudden I was back on track and the story was alive again. I managed to get it finished and then sent it off to my other chief of editing (my awesome sister) who really helped me pull it into something worth reading. Little did I know there was still so much work to do on the development. It’s not just about a character, a situation, an environment, but peeling away the layers of their cathartic moment so the reader can come along for the ride.
Have I piqued your interest yet? Ha. As much as I would love to reveal the story itself, I’m bound to keep it unpublished until they announce the shortlist, which is several months away. Until then, all I will tell you that it’s on the theme of motherhood and, well, I can’t wait to share it with you when the time comes!