I think somewhere along the line I mentioned that I’ve written a couple of short stories. I probably also made note of the fact that I tend to keep them for my own enjoyment, going so far as to label the computer files things like “Stuff of no interest” and “Junk to look at someday, maybe.” It’s only in my secret heart that I let the stories bloom every once in a while.
Something’s happened to me lately, though.
I accidently stumbled across a Writers Critique Meetup group right here in good ol’ Long Beach, CA. I found that I couldn’t resist the thought of meeting other people who put pen to paper (or the equivalent thereof) and I signed up before I could scare the idea away. Making sure that I didn’t have to ever show anything of my own creation, I went to a meeting on a Tuesday night at the local Borders Bookstore (RIP, but that’s another story) and found, to my delight, a group of writers. Published writers, unpublished writers, casual writers, driven writers, at least one secret writer (me), and some in categories I had yet to define.
I hadn’t seen any of their work before I showed up, and to tell the truth, I wouldn’t have known how to critique it if I had. Nevertheless, I was hooked. Every other Tuesday I arrived at the meeting with my indecipherable pencil notes scribbled in the margins of 5,000 word stories about dragons, or novel chapters about clones and/or vampires (that particular group had a strong tilt toward science fiction) and waited my turn to share my opinions of the work.
I critiqued as a reader, because I was pretty damn good at that–reading, that is, not critique. Not surprisingly, my critiques tended toward grammar and spelling. I had absolutely no familiarity with what an agent or a publisher might look for as regards plot structure and scenes, but I knew what sounded right, and I came to be comfortable with the group.
One week when the moderator called for volunteers to submit for the next meeting, some devil inside me called out in my voice and said, “I will!” What was I thinking? I don’t show my work to people. Well, my mother once in a while, but she’s required by ties of blood to smile sweetly and say that I’m the greatest writer since (insert your favorite author here.)
The group was kind to the old lady. I survived my first critique, and even considered doing it again someday. Since that time, I’ve submitted a couple of other pieces and never shed a tear.
So, what does all this have to do with the title of this post (scroll up to remember what it was)? I actually posted something on the internet. Sent it out into the ether with the knowledge that someone might actually read it. Okay, all I really did was enter a contest, knowing that the chances of my words ever being seen past the first scanner were slim at best. I saw a prompt on Writer’s Digest Your Story and wrote 750-words-or-less on the given topic.
Every day since then, I’ve watched to see if my story went anywhere. Wherever it went, it wasn’t to the finals of the contest. Did I expect to be one of the five chosen out of 800 or so entries? Come on now, even I am not that foolish!
The delight of the whole thing is that I made the effort. A year ago that wouldn’t have happened. A year ago I wouldn’t have typed the first word on a blog, either. So I figure I’m a winner, even if my little story never sees the light of day. And that’s more than I expected.
I’ll see you again, after the commercial.