In the last short while I have submitted several short pieces to these contests: Whispered Words, Geist Postcard , Writers’ Union of Canada flash fiction and Canada Writes short memoir competition. Short short short. What a relief. A few days and it’s done. Well, not quite. With short pieces I find I get pickier… each and every word and phrase is examined, rearranged, deleted, and so on. And each time I think it’s flawless, I read it again and find a repeated word, a cliche I missed, a piece of dialogue I changed but then didn’t change the response (thanks, Tobin, for pointing that one out!)
And then comes the moment when I really truly honestly believe the piece is ready, polished til it shines, a sure winner, and so on. Sending work off to potential publishers used to be a longer process: the copying, the SASE, the addressing of the envelopes, the postage, the trip to the mailbox and that final kiss goodbye as it slid through the slot and landed softly in a pile of other envelopes, then the clank of the mail slot closing as I step away. Now, in a few short seconds, one’s work is off and arriving in the destination mailbox. How do others feel as they are clicking, “Send” or “Submit Entry” and there’s no turning back? Personally, I sweat. Did I miss a comma? A worn expression? Did I beat the reader over the head? Was I too vague, contrived, just plain stupid? Maybe! Oh my god, I forgot to put in page numbers! Oh, whew, I did put in page numbers. Crap, I put my name on my entry! Oh thank heavens, I didn’t put my name on the entry. And so on.
It’s not that I don’t read each piece a hundred times, each time making the necessary changes, but experience tells me that even after a hundred times, one can still miss “he stepped into the room” followed by “I took a step”.
I’ve just sent off a piece to Canada Writes Creative non-fiction contest. I love this story and of course I want to write about it, but I can’t. But I also can’t help but dream of the $6000. first prize and publication in En Route magazine. This is the first time I have submitted to a contest like this, because most of my work is a bit emotionally dark and usually way too sexy for children flying on Air Canada. This one has naked people in it, but they aren’t doing anything worthy of censor.
I’d love to hear how other writers feel in that moment when there is no turning back – the manuscript, story, poem is gone. It’s the best you could do… no, wait, maybe if I use “float” instead of “waft”… ah, too late, it’s already in an inbox somewhere. Do you feel relief: no more agonizing over syntax, pacing, repetition… or are you excited: only three or four months before they announce that your story won… I’d love to hear some stories about that moment.