Nothing to fear except a fear prompt: Round One Ruminations

Welcome, Hardison Parker with a Guest Post about his first round Fiction Marathon experience.

By the time you read this, the first round of the Blogable Fiction Marathon will be in the voting stage. You can vote here: Fiction Marathon Round One Public Vote.

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Round One Ruminations

It was my first time in a real-time writing contest. It is a bit nerve-wracking, and I am very glad I decided not to look at the competition before I finished my submission. There are some intimidatingly good writers in this group. My only hope is that they are all looking at the list with the same reaction.

I had little idea what to expect. Sure, I read some of the blogs and submissions from last year, so I had an idea that the first task would be a single sentence, but the topic could have been anything.

Fittingly, the topic turned out to be fear. I am not allowed to tell you which one is mine so this blog is about the process.

The instructions we were provided immediately took me out of my comfort zone. In my entire life, everything I have written, whether a paper for school, a brief for work, or a book for publication, I have written a single draft and handed it off to someone else to edit. Sometimes, when no one is available, I submit it as is with a little help from a good spell and grammar checker. I also tend to wait until the last minute to begin. Some of you are kindred spirits and others are having a panic attack just reading this.

The instructions stated, “Read your texts a couple of times before you submit.” Immediately I knew I was going to have a problem. The contest organizers had inadvertently triggered my weakness. Call it overly critical, call it imposter syndrome, call it fear, but whatever it is, I have never been satisfied with my work when I reread it. It is why I stopped editing my own work. Too many good stories have ended up in a circular file (trash can), never to breathe the light of day.

My first instinct was to rebel. “I can write a perfect sentence in one try.” So, I did. 10 minutes after the contest email arrived, I had a sentence. It was a good sentence. It fit the word requirement. It fit the subject matter. I could have submitted that sentence and no one who read it would think it was a bad sentence. But, in the back of my mind, the Blogable email was running like a ticker tape. “Read it!” It said. “This is a contest, not a race. You have 15 days. Look at it tomorrow.”

I like to sleep, but sleep is hard enough for me to come by as it is. So, to quiet my brain, I decided to wait before submitting the sentence and look at it again in the morning.

6 hours later, I re-read my sentence.

Immediately I hated it. It didn’t have enough fear. It didn’t read smoothly. It could have been written by the cat! For all I know my cat Kota snuck in to change the sentence during the night as cats are wont to do.

If I could have crumpled my laptop and thrown it in the trash can, I would have.

24 sentences and seven days later, I came up with the contest entry. It was the first sentence I wrote that, upon reading the next day, didn’t make me cringe.

Being a writer, I have learned self-doubt is my worst enemy. I know that each of those sentences were contest worthy. Perhaps some of them would have performed as well as the one that was submitted. Maybe even better.

Second-guessing isn’t going to help me compete in this contest. But I learned a lesson. What it comes down to, is all writers have different writing strategies. Trust your process. If you do your best work at 3:00 a.m. before a deadline without any editing, then, by all means, do it! If you need to reread things 100 times before the right plotline materializes on your paper, do it!

For now, I wait for the voting to occur. I hope you all take the time to vote. The 31 writers have all wracked their brains for 15 days trying to come up with a fearful sentence. The fun is just getting started and I am excited to see what we all put out in this and future rounds.

Oh, and for the record, I read and edited this post only twice.

Many thanks to Hardison for his round one ruminations.

You can find him on his blog or on Medium and Twitter.

Would you like to share your thoughts about the Fiction Marathon? DM Marie or May on Twitter.

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