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Fantastic Story, Terrible Delivery

A look back at my first story on Vocal Media

By Kenny PennPublished 6 months ago 3 min read
Top Story - August 2023
Midjourney + Kenny Penn

Sometime in early 2019, I decided I'd had enough breaks from writing. I found an online school claiming to help you write a 50k word novel in six months if you followed their program. I signed up, met some cool people, and started really writing. As it turned out, the classes were crap, but the people I met changed my life.

We started a little writing group on Discord, which we lovingly named, 'Our Cozy Little Writing Group, later changed to OCLWG, and finally Ockelwog. The channel is still up and thriving. If you're looking for a group of people crazy about writing, look there.

Anyway, in 2021, they encouraged me to join Vocal Media. One of our group had found the site and saw they did writing competitions. We thought it would be a good opportunity to get our names out there, so I joined. At the time, I didn't think I would get much out of it.

One of the first challenges I submitted to was the golden locket challenge. Vocal + members were encouraged to write a story, any story, as long as a gold locket was mentioned somewhere in it.

I was excited, to say the least, I had the perfect idea; A dying man wanders the desert with his captor, thinking of the woman he loved and had betrayed. Eventually, the man would realize his captor was an illusion he'd invented to torment himself out of madness and grief.

Not one to toot my own horn, but man I thought that story idea was hot. I set to write it, did some minor edits, and published it on Vocal. I titled it, 'Penitence Lost', and posted it with a picture of a desert shimmering in the sun.

A year later, I was so embarassed by this piece, I asked Vocal to take it down.

Needless to say, the story won no prizes. Ironically, it remains the story with the most reads and likes on my profile, largely because I reached out to just about every family member and friend and begged them to read it. I have good memories of that story, but I'm grateful the folks at Vocal allowed me to take it down.

What was wrong with it? So many things I'd rather not list. Suffice to say it was simply a matter of poor writing. Undeveloped writing, you might say. It wasn't a terrible story, quite the contrary, it was good. I only mean it was bad in the way the story was told.

Taking too many long breaks in between honing your craft can become a huge problem. Writing is an art, and just like any other form of art, it takes constant practice to become a master at it. I mistenly thought I could come back after taking so many breaks and knock it out of the ballpark.

In the last two years, I've grown as a writer. Through reading, yes, and critiquing others I suppose, but mostly through writing. The more we do it, the better we become. Today my writing is tighter, has less fillers, uses more active voice, ect. Who knows what my writing will look like tomorrow.

One of the things I love about Vocal Media is that I have a sort of snap shot of the past. I can easily look back, read past stories and see how my writing has changed, how my writer's voice has developed. It's like watching a child grow. They become better over time, mature.

Maybe someday I'll go back and re-write, 'Penintence Lost', but I think it'll remain buried in the old cloud. Still, it was the start of a journey I hope to never come back from; the journey to become the best author version of me.


About the Creator

Kenny Penn

Thanks for reading! I enjoy writing in various genres, my favorites being horror/thriller and dark/epic fantasies. I'll also occasionally drop a poem or two.

For a list of all my work, and to connect with me, go to www.kennypenn.com

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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    Well-structured & engaging content

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  1. Compelling and original writing

    Creative use of language & vocab

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    Zero grammar & spelling mistakes

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Comments (20)

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  • Donna Renee5 months ago

    Omg I love the name even more now that it has a meaning to me haha!! I totally know what you mean about early stories. 🫣😁 oh well, part of the process!!

  • Madoka Mori6 months ago

    May I ask which online school you joined? I'm currently applying to one, I hope it's not the same place.

  • Jenna Tidd6 months ago

    First the passion and enthusiasm - then the insight (sometimes way down the road). Had to smile and nod my head to this, having experienced my own "ugh" moments when reading old material.

  • Jay Kantor6 months ago

    Hi Kenny - So glad you liked 'POKER' it was a fun reach-back. I've been following you but since I'm not into contests and so far from the - 'Creative Ways' the young Writer's Write - I've Stood Back. - Always looking forward to your next 'Original' offering - Jay Jay Kantor, Chatsworth, California 'Senior' Vocal Author - Vocal Author Community -

  • Rachel Deeming6 months ago

    We've all been there! Those cringe moments when you reread your stuff. And Ocklewog! It's a great title for a character and I can feel myself itching to have a go creating him/her/it. Really enjoyed reading this very much. Congrats on TS.

  • LC Minniti6 months ago

    Love this. Insightful, relatable. That feeling of looking at your early works and realizing just how much you've grown. Congrats on the top story and for consistently mastering your craft.

  • L.C. Schäfer6 months ago

    I have been tempted to ask Vocal to take down some of mine. They're AWFUL. But they do show growth... I would love to read your story.

  • L.C. Schäfer6 months ago

    So YOU'RE Ocklewog! 😁

  • SC Wells6 months ago

    I love reading your insights on your own growth as a writer. It’s wonderful that you’ve been able to identify how you’ve improved — that’s so valuable. As a reader of yours, I have loved seeing your journey!

  • Thank you for your introduction, this was a very interesting and engaging read

  • Estrellita López6 months ago


  • Cendrine Marrouat6 months ago

    You know, for many years, I thought I sucked at writing fiction. And then, a friend talked me into re-reading the short stories I had penned in the late-2000s. Right then, I realized that I had been completely wrong about everything. Sometimes, all it takes is some hindsight and editing. Don't ditch that piece, you never know how you may use it in the future. Great post! NB: I'd love to join that Discord group.

  • Mackenzie Davis6 months ago

    Love how you wrote this; very self-reflective, not so specific that I couldn't get into it. Haha, I would love to see that Discord group; I bet it's amazing. I need a community like that, more relaxed, easier to workshop stuff. That name! 🤣 I know how it feels to want to remove a Vocal story. Would I be correct in assuming the team obliged? I'm curious about it now...would be interesting to compare that Kenny's style to your current one...but I won't go looking if it's still there; don't want to encourage more cringing in you, lol. Thank you for sharing this. It felt very much like a peer was talking to me, and I love when that happens.

  • Alex H Mittelman 6 months ago

    Well, you're a great writer and should be proud of yourself! Congratulations on top story!

  • ARC6 months ago

    Hugely relatable, Kenny. Love your wise advice and this was a great read by itself! Appreciate you sharing this with us.

  • Suze Kay6 months ago

    This was the challenge that brought me to Vocal, too! Funny. I haven’t asked them to take it down (yet), but I’m sure I’d cringe a little to look back at it. I felt this piece so hard, Kenny. Vocal has been a huge part of my writer’s renaissance. I’m glad to find a kindred soul 🥹

  • Jazzy 6 months ago

    Please reshare it 😅i would love to read it! Congrats on top story Kenny! ☺️

  • KJ Aartila6 months ago

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and self-assessment of your writing - self-clique is critical! 👀😎

  • Naomi Gold6 months ago

    I love the self-reflection of this story, and also the illustration you paired it with. We’re constantly told that the only way to get better at writing is to write. This is true to an extent. But writing alone isn’t enough. Self-assessment is everything, and you have that in spades.

  • Judey Kalchik 6 months ago

    This is such an honest look at writing- the craft and the motivation.

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