I’m still working on my debut fiction manuscript, a collection of linked stories set in California. But way back in May, I entered it in Launch Pad’s 6th Annual Prose Writing Competition. I was enticed by these lines in the rules: “Manuscript not completed, no problem. … There’s no need to have a finished manuscript. As long as you have sample pages accompanied by a thorough synopsis, you are welcome to enter.” Thanks to my MFA program, I did have sample pages and a thorough synopsis. They won’t start narrowing the field until October, I thought. That gives me several months to finish my manuscript. I like to keep hope in the mail, and I figured this would give me the motivation I needed to finish my manuscript. My day job career is in the legal field, and I’ve learned to work well on deadline and under pressure. This contest seemed like just the kick in the pants I needed: a deadline!
So I submitted two stories from the collection that well-represented the way the overall story unfolds, with the synopsis I’d already written, which includes the ending I’ve been turning over in my head for a very long time and which I aspire to write. I continued working on my manuscript, but continued to struggle with the ending. I’ll be honest, writers: I’ve often opted to work on polishing other stories from the manuscript and avoided working on that pesky last story.
Since May, I’ve received two sets of feedback on my stories from Launch Pad. Such helpful feedback that will help me improve my manuscript, but that also encouraged me. One reader wrote that my story “opens up like a puzzle box, and the moments that your reader connects the dots … are deeply satisfying.” Another wrote that, “It’s easy to relate to these women and those around them, as well as to see the parallels to the present day …” and, “It’s a tragic tale that still manages to have a hopeful ending, focused on finding strength in adversity.” All of these things are exactly the things I was going for—I feel seen and validated and understood.
Well, it’s October now, and the narrowing of the field has begun. I just got notification that my manuscript has advanced to the Top 100! (6th Annual Launch Pad Prose Writing Competition Top 100.) The other news? I have one week to upload my completed manuscript. And I’m still not anywhere near happy with the ending. I have vacation time coming to me from my day job, but we are super busy preparing for trial, so I came up with a compromise: I am taking mornings off next week so I can write (I’m a morning writer). I’ll start work at 1 p.m. every day and will work late as necessary. Wish me luck!