Thank you for your encouragement and support!
Some of you gave me some neat prompt ideas for it. I didn't wind up using them, but I have them saved off for future story ideas. Along with several random opening lines, the beginnings for the 3 (THREE) previous stabs I took at starting this final story, and the two rejected beginnings for last week's story. :O
Part of what drove the genre choice for this final story was the other two writers I'm competing against. Both have very distinct "brands" which they write really well, and it would be pointless to try to outdo either of them in a style they have mastered. Basically, I needed to be more "me" than "them," and work with my strengths and the kinds of things I write that most other people don't.
The polls have trended more toward comedy than drama/serious fiction in recent months, so I went with comedy. I'd written several unusual friendship stories over this season, so I also wanted to build an idea around that. But the first two attempts I made would just have been too 'ordinary' to have any hope of potentially winning this final round.
I was working on the second stab of 'ordinary' until late Saturday night, when I realized the overall story-idea sub-genre I really needed to aim for. I wish that had happened earlier in the day, rather than at 2 a.m., but oh well... I woke up Sunday morning and sketched out six potential story settings I could use. Two of them were much more viable than the others, so I started poking around Google doing research. When some dialogue and story "events" came to me for one of the ideas, I was ready to commit. That was at about 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. Yikes!
There were still a couple more hours of research ahead of me (to determine the characters--and if you read the story, you'll understand why), and I had more dialogue and character ideas by 3:30, so I went for a bike ride. Outdoor cycling helps me ponder, and it did the job this time. I started writing in earnest around 6:30 p.m., so all-in-all... that final story happened over a little less than a day. That is SO not my ideal process, but last week's story and the one a month ago were like that, too. :O
So it's done, now, and it's definitely very "me." I hope readers like it enough to vote for it, especially compared to the other two entries overall.
Now I can start backing away from wanting to eat All The Sugar and work on getting to bed earlier. Midnight is my goal on work nights! As opposed to 1:00 am - 2:00 a.m., which is where things have been for months now...