The Writing Competition Stairway: sweaty hands be hanged.

There’s only one way to find out. (Photo courtesy of Joanna Nohr)

The cursor blinked expectantly, waiting for me to take the final step. 

Just hit Submit—that’s all you need to do. 

But once I hit Submit my story is out there in the world where anybody can read it. 

That’s the whole point of entering contests, isn’t it? To get your work out there? 

But what if they don’t like what I wrote? 

What if they don’t? 

What if they say something really mean about my writing? 

What if they do? 

Look. You’ve worked on this short story for quite a while. You know you’ve been thinking about doing this for some time, so just do it. 

Yeah, I know— at first I thought entering this fiction contest was a good idea, but now I’m not so sure. The rules said that all the entries will be judged by the contest’s preliminary team and the top 20 stories picked will be posted on their web site where readers have the opportunity to read each of the finalists’ entries, post comments or critiques and place their vote. 

I know all of this—remember? You’re just stalling. Hit that Submit button. 

Don’t rush me. My heart’s pounding and my hands are sweaty and I’m afraid to let people read my fiction. 

I know you are. Just hit Submit and go to bed. It’s 11:30—the competition closes at midnight. You’re running out of time— 

It could take up to 10 days before they email the top 20 finalists. 

You’ve got the online entry form filled in, you’ve got the story attached—now all you gotta’ do is hit Submit. 

What made me think I was ready for this? 

I’m telling you: you’re ready. Do it. 

[Click . . . . AutoMessage: Your submission has been received! We’ll be in touch soon!] 

Two weeks later: 

Ms Groff: Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that your story has been chosen as one of our finalists from a field of 400 entries. You should feel very proud. Shortly you will be see your story posted on our web site where you can read and critique the stories of the rest of the finalists. Good luck! 

The next morning:  

“Congratulations! Someone has read and commented on your story. See what they had to say!” 

See? I told you. She wasn’t very nice, was she? 

She is only one person. Egads, but you’re over sensitive! 

She offered nothing constructive. All she said was, “This story needs polishing—it’s not finished. Others out here are better.” 

Grow another layer of skin, will you! Look, you have more comments coming in—go read them. 

‘I enjoyed your story . . . liked the surprise ending . . .’

‘This story isn’t quite as well written as some of the other finalists out here, but I enjoyed the read . . .’

‘This story is at least as good as any that I’ve read in Ploughshares recently and it deserves to be a finalist. . .’ 

Ploughshares, huh? Do you suppose they really meant that? Ploughshares prints some pretty good stuff. 

Uh-huh. I know.

What do you suppose Ms Drive-By Machete thinks of these comments? 

What makes you think you need to care? I see she hasn’t posted comments for any of the other finalists. 

She hasn’t, has she? 

Listen up, wee one . . . you simply must learn how to handle this stuff and keep working. Aren’t you glad you moved passed the sweaty hands and heart palpitations? Your work turned up in the top 5% of your first writing competition. 

Some people would call that a God-wink. 

[stupid smile morphs into a giddy grin] 

Try harder to remember that from now on–will you?


Author’s Note: I’m glad to report this took place a long time ago and “wee one” has grown several useful layers of skin since that time. 

Writing tips all over the web and in books and magazines advise us to dialogue with our characters and ask questions when we are feeling stumped or scared in trying to figure out what to do next. 

You don’t have to be a writer to reap some level of benefit from the practice of self-dialogue. Who knows what good thing awaits you at the top of the rugged stairway? 


6 thoughts on “The Writing Competition Stairway: sweaty hands be hanged.

  1. It’s taken me a while to get around to reading this, but I loved it! Having just submitted some of my work to get into workshops I know how hard the actually clicking on “submit” can be. Congratulations on getting the story sent AND winning a readership! Is the story still online?

    • Hi Lois,

      No, the story is no longer on line. The web site that ran the contest at the time has changed exponentially through the years and I hardly recognized it when I went back to look recently. But–things change–right? And it served its purpose in the early days.

      Keep me posted on your submittals and workshops to come, please.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s