I hope you don’t mind if I share some really good news with you, fellow writers.
I’ve been shortlisted for an international novel-writing competition.
I had recently decided that I would dedicate the rest of this year in researching and then self-publishing my historical novel, having done the rounds of agents over the past few years. Then, when I had forgotten ever entering, I’m informed I’m in the last five of the Wilbur Smith Adventure Writing Prize – in the section for the best unpublished manuscript by a debut author.
I was asked not to divulge the news until the official announcement was made on May 30th so I had a few days when I was walking around with a big grin, longing to tell all my writing friends.
Part of the prize for getting this far is feedback and support over the next three months from a literary agent. And towards the end of September, I’m invited to a prize-giving evening in London where the winner will be announced and will receive a travel grant for researching their next novel. The organization running the competition – the Wilbur and Niso Smith Foundation – hope that the finalists will all find agent representation.
Oh, I’ve resisted exclamation marks long enough!
So that’s my summer sorted: developing my novel and finishing the sequel.
If you’d like to read more about the competition and the five finalists, here’s the link.
I started this first novel a while ago but when I had written around 6000 words, I stopped. I decided I needed help as this was THE novel I wanted to write. So I applied for and gained a place on Brunel University’s Creative Writing MA: The Novel and for two years, I lived, breathed and slept writing. I made some good writing friends and, since finishing our MAs, we have shared the highs and lows of completing our novels, critiquing each other’s work, searching for agents and entering competitions.
I believe we’ve all found it hard keeping motivated at times. One rejection can put you back weeks if not months. Silence from literary agents is even harder. Then there’s the question of whether to pay for more help: critiquing services abound, so too competitions which offer feedback for an additional fee. Workshops, conferences, writing groups and writing buddies: all can offer opinions and advice.
The trouble is, everyone makes different suggestions: one agent loved all my characters, another thought they sounded too similar; some readers liked the changes in Point of View, others didn’t. One agent liked my writing and asked me to write a YA novel – I had to explain I’m a bit beyond that age group. All too often, the responses were merely negative and of no practical use: not for us; I don’t feel passionately enough; not our thing; not right for us.
At times like these, writing friends really help, especially if you know they are giving you their genuine opinions and not just Aunt Pattie’s “It’s wonderful, dear.” Of course, in the end, it’s always up to YOU to judge each person’s opinion, advice, feedback, and critique.
I only have one rule in writing – whenever you get good news, CELEBRATE. A good critique, applause at a writing group, a magazine acceptance, long and short-listed in competitions, even a nice rejection letter. They are all markers on your writing path. Don’t gloss over them – CELEBRATE them.
Also this month: writing prompts, competitions and a tip you’ve heard before, but it always bears repeating.