H – is for “How long did that take you?”

     I sat down to grade student essays the day after I submitted a story titled “H”.  With the essays, I asked the students to write a paragraph describing their writing process.  While some students wrote that they started on it soon after being given the prompt, most admitted to procrastinating until the last moments.  A few even said, “I took a very long time, I wrote for almost three hours.”
     It encouraged me to consider how long it’d taken me to write “H”.  I’m often asked how long it took me to write this story or that poem.  I rarely have a good answer because, as writers, we don’t set a timer on our writing.  We write when we can, as long as we can, as often as we can.
      For “H”, I estimated.  I began writing it back in May. Worked on it through the summer.  There were a few weeks I didn’t work on it – vacation. The last few weeks, having heard of the Boston Review Contest, I pushed.  Maybe four months, a sparse guess of five hours a week, (some weeks would have been nil, some nine), brings the estimate to about 80 hours.
     At first 80 hours seemed like a lot.  Then, in thinking about it, I wonder if I underestimated.  But let’s go with 80 hours.  “H” is a nine page story.  It didn’t take me 80 hours to write 9 pages, it took me those hours to rewrite, to edit, to perfect, to second guess myself, to correct.
      And – even in the very last moments before submitting – I’d found an error that’d survived all the rereading and redrafting.  Another fix, another read, another edit. Then, I clicked the submit button hesitantly, rechecking that I’d attached the newest version.
     I wonder, now, was 80 hours enough?  I’m sure that at some point during it’s lifetime, I’ll revisit “H” and work with it some more, (probably sooner rather than later, then again later too).

     80 hours. 9 pages, 1 story – submitted to the Boston Review Contest. Wish me luck.

About Noreen Lace

Originally from the Midwest, Noreen Lace received an MFA from California State University where she now teaches. She believes in the beauty of language to express the darkness in life. She is the author of two novellas, West End and Life of Clouds, as well as a book of short stories. Here in the Silence. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in national as well as international journals, including The Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Journal, The Oleander Review, Vine Leaves Press (Australia), Silver Stream Journal (Ireland), Pilcrow and Dagger, Fishfood, and others. "Memorial Day Death Watch," a memoir of her father's passing, placed as a finalist in Writer Advice, while her poem, "All at Once," was published as a finalist in Medusa's Laugh Contest issue. More work is always in progress.
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