My competitive nature has never been more apparent to me than it is right now.  Bare with me a moment while I explain.

I’ve been writing and editing AND plotting the past while.  I’ve been creating and sending out submission packages.  I even managed the time (with the rest of the SWN crew) to do an interview for The Writing Show (blatant plug).  But I haven’t REALLY been generating new story ideas.  Nope, I’ve been more focused on what’s in front of me than what’s ahead.

I feel a bit stuck with the same old stuff, actually.

As usual, I’ve been talking with Aaron who seems to have new ideas every day.  Sometimes every hour.  He bounces them off me, they bounce back to him, but nothing seems to stick.  And they’re good ideas too.  So how come I haven’t had any of my own?  Some days, I truly ask myself that question.

But, not so today!  Today I had a great idea and, surprisingly enough (for me anyway), it didn’t start with a character.  It was an actual, bonified story idea straight out of the blue.  “How did it happen?”, you may ask (honest, you can ask that if you like).  For the sake of this diatribe, I will assume you did.

I believe it came from my own competitive nature.  You see, when I went to check out our interview (second blatant plug) on The Writing Show’s site, I discovered that Paula is hosting a First Chapter contest.  Ordinarily I avoid contests like the plague (writing contests, anyway), but I was intrigued.  I even considered challenging my SWN brethren to participate (yes, I know there’s an entry fee and Yves has to spend ALL his money on diapers, and Rich has to pamper his sweet Laroo and… well you get the drift) because the contest has the added benefit of… FEEDBACK!  Yes, that’s right, actual feedback from an expert panel.

I think we all crave feedback from experts.  I know I do.  In fact, that hunger is why I sent my first book submission out to the publisher that I did.  They actually wanted the complete manuscript up front.  With crossed fingers I sent it off, hoping for a contract, but equally hoping to hear what the publisher thought of the story.

When I got it back, I was sorely disappointed.  No comments whatsoever.  Just a rejection slip.

It was politely worded, but it really missed the point for me.  I realized immediately that the editor probably gets so many manuscripts that it simply wasn’t possible to comment on every submission.  Still… I digress…

Anyway, I found the contest and I was intrigued.  I decided to try and have a first chapter ready for May 15th (early deadline) and I was trying to come up with an idea.  I had the tiniest morsel of a story idea nestled in my head when a simple sentence came to me.  “I never woulda thought psychics could be so easy to con.”


Then I realized that not only had the story idea just blossomed like an early lily in my mind, but the main character was already talking to me and telling me what a low-down snake he was.  Within minutes, I had the entire back-story for the main character, the main idea for the story and a likely first line for the chapter.  Glorious!

“Great, but what’s your point, Mike?” you ask, a puzzled look on your face. 

The point is, it took some outside stimuli to challenge my muse to wake up.  Note the word “challenge”.  Just like the one in the title.  I apparently needed to be provoked to a response.  Happily, the response was a story idea and not an Acme Woodchipper (inside joke:  you need to listen to the podcast interview to get it (third blatant plug)). 

But now I need to do some self-examination.  Do I need someone else to tell me to put up or shutup?  Maybe.  Ideally, it will be a publisher saying to me, “Mike, I like your first book and I want two more just like it.  By December of this year.  Can you do it?”

That kind of challenge I’m more than ready to step up for.  But back to the one at hand.  I do believe I will challenge my fellow SWNer’s after all.  What do you think guys?  Are you ready to give it a shot?  Guaranteed feedback?  AND, you have until May 15 to get it done?

Any takers?


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