Today something unusual happened. I had no family commitments or job interviews, a day to myself, and I was planning to do housework and writing. I’d just started the dishwasher when my phone began ringing. I thought – hoped – that it might be about one of the jobs I’d interviewed for. But I didn’t recognise the number. Then I thought it might be about another job I’d applied for; I’ve applied for a lot. So I answered.
It wasn’t about any of those things. Even though this Project October has felt more about my efforts at jobseeking than about my efforts at writing, it wasn’t anything to do with potential jobs. It was a woman named Ally, who told me she worked at Text Publishing. She was calling to let me know that Black Spot, which I’d entered in the 2016 Text Prize – a competition for unpublished young adult manuscripts – had been shortlisted. And to invite me to the announcement of the winner in just under two weeks’ time.
Wowsers! I wasn’t expecting that. In fact, the Text Prize people had sent an email out only a couple of days earlier saying that the shortlisted authors would be contacted individually. And since I hadn’t heard anything, I assumed I wasn’t one of them. I had mentally already started preparing to self-publish Black Spot later on in the year.
Even though I was told to keep it confidential, I immediately called my mum and my honorary manager to let them in on the news. “How many books are on the shortlist?” they both asked. I didn’t know. I hadn’t asked. I’d been in a little bit of shock. So I Googled the previous two years’ shortlists – four in one year and five in the other. Wowsers again!
Sometimes writing can feel like a lot of work for nothing. Yes, there’s the immense pride and satisfaction I get from the actual pieces of writing themselves. But when it doesn’t go any further than that, I wonder if maybe I’m wasting my time. But days like today make it all worthwhile. Especially because it feels like another step in a very long process. Last year I caught the attention of an Ampersand Prize judge but didn’t make it onto the shortlist. So I’m one step ahead of where I was then.
I’m not even thinking about winning, first because it’s unlikely and second because I want to enjoy this moment in and of itself. This is an achievement. This is amazing. This is bliss.
When I finally got down to doing some actual writing, I decided to skip ahead a couple of chapters to one where I would be reinterpreting something that had previously been shown. I said yesterday that I felt like a lot of what I was writing was total garbage and when I tried to continue on from where I left off in the last writing session, I wanted to scrap it and start over. But I just wasn’t sure what I wanted to happen in that chapter or even the next one, so I moved onto one I was confident about.
It was absolutely the right thing to do. It’s the best writing I’ve done for this whole Project October. I’m closer to finding the voice of this new narrator. And the style… well, there was some. And it was lacking yesterday, so it’s a relief to know it hasn’t disappeared altogether.
So close to the end now. So happy about so many things. I have to embrace it when I feel like this because life doesn’t always come together like we hope it will. Happy now. That’s a big achievement in itself.
Today’s Word Count: 1,622
Ongoing Tally: 27,024
I sent a short bio and a picture through to the people at Text Publishing so they can use them for publicity when they announce the Text Prize shortlist. I’m in a little bit of disbelief. I keep waiting to wake up. Or to receive a call telling me they made a mistake and it isn’t my book that’s been shortlisted. Except, no, this appears to be happening for real. Sometimes writers have so many rejections that anything else can be strange and difficult to understand and accept.
I also had a call from the place where I had the job interview on Day 27. No go. Not enough marketing experience. Except again, the job advertisement didn’t specify lots of marketing experience. I have some marketing experience as well as being a great writer, editor, researcher, administrator and organiser. It’s their loss. I have to keep thinking about it that way. And at least it was quick and relatively painless. I’m still waiting to hear about that other job and the process has been going on for more than three weeks now.
I picked up where I left off in yesterday’s writing, which is two chapters ahead of where I should be, and finished that chapter. I’m not going to go back and fix or finish the other chapters during this Project October. There’s only one more day left and the chapter I’m about to move onto is the murder from the murderer’s view. I’m kind of excited to write it. And I don’t feel that way about those other chapters that are simply setting everything up. So I’ll put them off for now.
I’ve written nearly a thousand words and I have to go get ready for a fundraising dinner that I agreed to attend. I hope I won’t be home too late and I can do another 500 or so to get that total up to 1,500. Even so, 28,000 words is an awesome achievement considering how sure I was at the start of this month that I wasn’t going to get anywhere close to the intended target. Yay! Another successful Project October. And probably the last for a while once I start my new job, which I’m sure can’t be too far away.
Even if I was able to continue writing full time, I would probably have to revert back to working on Black Spot and White Wash, especially now that I’ve been shortlisted for the Text Prize. One way or another, Black Spot is going to be published within the next twelve months. I have to finalise it in order to do that. Oh, well. Tomorrow I will farewell you again, Trine, through no fault of your own. And we’ll get there in time. This is just going to be my ten year book, I suspect. I hope to God the end product justifies that sort of length of time.
Today’s Word Count: 1,808
Ongoing Tally: 28,832
Final day of this Project October. I’ve made it to the target of 30,000 words but I went back and counted the number of days that I didn’t get any writing done. Nine! Nine days of no writing. Imagine how much more I could have achieved if I’d written 1,000 words on each of those nine days. I’d be over 40,000 instead of over 30,000 if I had. I knew there would be days I wouldn’t have a chance to write but nine days!
It just goes to show that life can really get in the way of writing if you let it. I’m not the “true artist” as described by George Bernard Shaw because I think there has to be some balance. Maybe my writing is better because I get out there and live life a little. I don’t live it as much as others who don’t write but enough not to become tunnel-visioned. Maybe that means it takes me longer to finish my novels but maybe they are fuller and richer for the experiences I have away from the keyboard. Who knows?
I have seven chapters of roughly 2,500 words each left to write, plus the two that I skipped, so still at least another 20,000 words to go to finish Trine. I’m not going to add extra weeks of this Project October. I think I need to step back again, take a break, give it some thought. Plus with the unexpected shortlisting of Black Spot in the 2016 Text Prize, I’m not sure I’d be able to give it my all.
All I really want to do is read. Someone else’s books, not my own. I said previously that I’m a creature of habit but that my habits change frequently. It’s time for that change. Writing out, reading in, at least for a little while.
I’ll keep you updated on what happens with the Text Prize but you’ll know the result long before you read this writing journal because the announcement will happen in May but this journal won’t be on my blog until October (although I wrote it in April). Maybe by then my whole life will have changed. Maybe nothing will have. Maybe just enough will have changed for me to feel like I’m at least on the right path, one I actually want to be on. Towards the future. And in the general direction of my next book.
Happy reading and happy writing!
Today’s Word Count: 1,320
Final Tally: 31,072