You can’t win if you don’t enter
After a run of three small successes with my (unpublished and unagented) novel, whose title Timed Out seems to be becoming ever more resonant, I have done a fair bit of showing off to friends and creative writing classmates. The latter often seem over-impressed, and having read or heard their work, I can’t understand why more of them don’t enter competitions themselves. It is after all a sine qua non of winning.
My three successes were with the Writers’ Billboard First Chapter Competition, the Exeter Novel Prize (short list only) and the Writers’ Village Novel Competition, which has got me a bursary with an authors’ advisory service. The Writers Village judge was very complimentary but highlighted two problems which I hope I’ll be able to remedy: one task is make smoother transitions between episodes, the other (infinitely harder) is to introduce more action instead of dialogue to present the dilemmas and decisions faced by my protagonist – this is hard because most of my characters, like me, belong to the chattering classes and the dilemmas and decisions are to do with thinky-feely matters like religion, love and how to lead a meaningful life. Advice welcomed.
Even if you don’t get listed, competitions can bring other gains: 1.they give you a deadline and 2. a reason to stop fiddling with the MS for a while 3. the judges may still quite like your work or know somebody else who might – one of my stories was recommended to a women’s magazine (alas – my ‘tone’ wasn’t for them); and another judging panel has advised me to submit to a small publisher, who, they say, is looking for ‘quiet novels of literary quality’ Well, you have to be an optimist in this game.
Do let me know what you think.