After I wrote a blog post on the value of keeping a writing journal, I decided to keep one while I undertook a month of intensive novel writing. In addition to the 30,000 plus words I wrote for my novel, I also wrote 10,000 plus words for the writing journal. Although I posted the journal in its entirety on my blog during October (and although I think it’s a pretty interesting read, especially considering what happened to me in the final days of the month I was keeping it), I thought I would take pity on those readers who don’t have the time to read it all and distil a few things I learned along the way.
I previously wrote about not winning writing competitions after submitting my unpublished novel, Black Spot, to the Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand Project in 2015, being contacted by one of the judges who seemed interested but ultimately failing to go any further than that. The three reasons I gave not to be too dejected were:
*There are a lot of people submitting to writing competitions, so it’s not small fish in a big pond, it’s a lot of fish in a small pond.
*A lot of competitions have very specific requirements, your writing might not quite fit the criteria and trying to force a square peg into a round hole is a futile exercise.
*There are so many differences of opinion on pieces of writing that getting all the judges of one writing competition to agree is a bit like getting cats to walk in formation. Or it might simply be that it isn’t your year (just ask Kimberley Starr who entered the Text Prize in 2013 with no joy and won it in 2015 with a reworked version of the same piece).
Here are a few more things that might make you feel a little better.
I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that I entered the 2015 Ampersand Prize, a writing competition for young adult and children’s writing, and managed to attract the attention of one of the judges. I’ve also mentioned that I failed to win or even be shortlisted, despite attracting that attention.
The likelihood of happily ever afters in writing is, as it has ever been, very small. The numbers of people who win competitions or simply succeed in getting published are comparatively low and the numbers just keep getting lower as you add the extra elements of happily ever after. Good reviews. Good sales. Awards. Subsequent publishing contracts. Financial security. Fame.
So this is me enjoying the moment as I share with you parts of the correspondence I received from that Ampersand judge. Sure, the moment is long over but the memory of that moment is still a glowing ember – blowing on it gently brings it back to life and casts it in a warm light like an orange sunrise breaking over the horizon.
Last July, I undertook a month of intensive novel writing with mixed results for a variety of reasons (see the blog posts charting the journey here, here, here, here and here). And last October, I did the same thing.
If you haven’t read the other blog posts, the reason it’s called Project October is that it’s meant to be done in October, which I have discovered over the past few years is my most productive writing month of any year. Something to do with a lack of family birthdays, the end of the football season and weather warm enough to sit up long into the night instead of huddling under blankets.
Of course, the reason you’re only hearing about it now is that I write and schedule my blog posts a few months in advance. But, I hear you ask, do we really need to hear about Project October again?
In my entire life, I’ve entered four writing competitions. They were:
*The 2015 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript
*The 2015 Griffith Review’s Novella Project III Competition
*The 2015 Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand Project
*A 2000 Mills & Boon short story competition
It should be obvious to anyone reading this that I didn’t win any of them or you would have heard about it by now. You would have heard a lot about it!
After I submitted to the Hardie Grant Egmont Ampersand Project, I wrote a blog idea on my ideas board about competitions. Specifically that writers entering competitions shouldn’t get dejected when they don’t win. And here’s a few reasons why that hopefully make all of us “losers” feel a little bit better.