Posts Tagged With: competitions

When writing sucks

Remember that tangled mess of a short story I wrote about about six weeks ago? I fixed it. I was really proud of it. I submitted it to a competition…

It wasn’t even shortlisted. Finding this out has pretty much ruined my day. The rejection an author faces can tear your heart out if you let it.

I know I shouldn’t take it personally.  I keep reminding myself that there were over 200 entries, and the longlist was the decision of a single judge. (The longlist wasn’t published, so I don’t know whether I made it that far or not.)

I haven’t read the winning entry yet, but the way the judges described it makes it sound amazing. I wish people would talk about my stories with so much enthusiasm.

I’m submitting another story to another competition today. I’m really proud of it – at least I was. Now I’m secretly wondering if it’s worth the cost of printing and postage…and the dejection I might feel when I hear the results.

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It’s January 3rd

I’ve already finished two books this year. (Reading of course, not writing!) I think aiming for a third by the end of today is too much to ask…unless I find a really short one.

I’ve been meaning to work on a couple of short stories over the past few weeks. I’ve had very good intentions, but of course the silly season sometimes gets in the way, and a 2016 deadline feels like ages away when the calendar still says 2015.

All of a sudden it’s 2016, and the end of the month seems frighteningly close when all I have one half-outline and one half-draft, that I’m intending to enter into two different competitions. The half-drafted piece is due on January 31st – and thanks to our lovely postal service’s recent changes, that means it needs to be in the post by about the 25th (even with a priority label on it!)

The piece which is currently only a half-outline is due on February 1st, but thankfully only requires electronic submission, so I will have that last week of January to focus on it entirely.

What am I doing here? I have short stories to write!

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How do you fix a tangled mess?

I have a story I’m working on. (Actually there’s about four, but this one is on the shortest deadline.) I started it about two years ago, but stuff happened and I forgot all about it. At that point it was basically an outline and the first paragraph.

A few weeks ago I was going through some of my old files, looking for another story that I felt needed to be re-written, and I found this outline. I read what I had done and loved it. It’s actually the perfect plot for a competition I had on my list, so I dug it out and started writing.

Here’s my problem. My original plan involves flash-backs, or maybe it’s a story within a story. Anyway…I’m happy with both of the past and present parts on their own, but I’m having real trouble making the two of them mesh together. When is the best time to throw in the tragic twist for the maximum emotional punch? How do I hide the clues that lead to the surprise ending without them sticking out like a sore thumb?

In order for this story to be considered for the competition, it needs to be postmarked by Friday. I have a lot of work to do to get it in shape by then!

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There’s a local writing competition that I’ve entered a couple of times in the past. It’s part of a small town festival that has been running for many years, and I’ve entered it twice before, so I knew to look out for it when I was drawing up my list of deadlines for the next few months.

Usually, this is an open themed competition. Write about whatever you like, as long as you meet the word count and other submission conditions. This year, one of the conditions is that the name of the town must appear in bold print, somewhere in the text.

Now, when I say this town is local, I mean that it’s part of the same local government area I live in, but it’s not a place I visit often. Apart from the existence of this festival, and a couple of the local amenities, I really didn’t know much about it.

It’s been driving me mad. I’m not keen on the idea of just slipping the name into the story as an afterthought… for example, ‘John was born in [town]’. I’d much rather write something inspired by the place, but my research wasn’t turning up any gems – until yesterday…

Yesterday (Wednesday) I went to one of the many ‘Centenary of WW1’ exhibitions which have been popping up over the past two years. Most of the items on display were fairly generic; objects from both sides of the conflict, pictures of famous soldiers and politicians, maps showing where famous battles took place… I think you get the picture. This was a touring exhibit, and at the end of the display was a section on ‘your local community’. Every one of the soldiers featured in this section was from the town whose name needs to appear in my competition entry!

By a startling coincidence, on Tuesday I opened a book of writing prompts at random, and the prompt was something along the lines of: ‘You are the person who is responsible for telling families that their loved one has been captured, wounded, or killed in action. Describe one of these scenes.’ Put the two together, and I think I have something I can work with.


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Just coming up for air

I feel like I’ve been neglecting my blog this week – and by extension all of you readers. It’s been crazy, and much as I’ve wanted to, writing a blog post has been the last thing on my mind (and my to-do list).

Good news #1

I finished and edited a short story, and submitted it to a local literary competition…I was really proud of the beginning, but the ending wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped. My confidence has also been a little battered by the fact that my beta reader (my Mum) didn’t seem to like it all that much, but it’s not a genre she reads a lot so I’m trying to stay positive.

Good news #2

I’ve been kept pretty busy with additional days at my paid job…which means more money coming in!!

Bad news #1

More paid work = less writing time. I had to abandon one competition this week as the deadline was unrealistic, and it looks like I may not have anything ready for next week’s competition either.

Bad news #2

Less writing time = less blog posts = less people reading my blog. This makes me sad 😦 I love the feeling of knowing that I’m not just sending my thoughts out into nothingness, but when the posts dry up, so do the page views…

So…that’s my week. How was yours?

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The Etiquette of Competitions

Just a short post today, because I’ve been pretty snowed under lately. I have a few competition deadlines coming up in the next couple of weeks, and to be honest, I’m starting to panic.

Right now, I have well over half of a story that I’m really proud of. I was sitting on a train scribbling some nonsense or other (with pen on paper!) when this story just started flowing on to the page. Normally I’m a serious ‘plotter’ but I really enjoyed ‘pantsing’ this one. If I can end it as strongly as I started, then win or lose, I’ll be happy to submit it for my first deadline.

My problem is, there’s another competition that closes the next day. And I’ve got nothing. I’ve got a few key words I’m playing with, but they’re really more suited to a competition that closes the following week.

For those who aren’t into entering competitions, most will only accept original, unpublished works – but they are pretty open about how new they are. Some have a timeline, for example ‘only works written after X date will be accepted’. Some organisations will accept works that have previously been submitted to other competitions provided they have not been awarded a prize. Some organisations will even accept works that have been submitted to multiple, simultaneous competitions, provided the author immediately withdraws their entry if it wins a prize in another competition. Then again, some organisations insist that works must ‘not be under consideration’ for any other prizes during the period of their competition.

My preference is to submit something new to each competition I enter, mostly because if a piece isn’t good enough to win a competition when it has been specially written to fit the theme and word count, it is unlikely to win anything else. Of course this does put me under a lot more time pressure, so I’m pretty careful to only choose competitions that really interest me (for example, next month I want to enter a competition where writers are asked to write a story based on one of three Shakespeare plays).

Well…that’s what I’m up to this week – along with reading a stack of books I’ve borrowed from our newly refurbished local library and writing some more reviews…I’d better get back to work!!

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Variations on a theme

“I began to write mysteries because I was trying to get published – trying very hard, a soul destroying, painful process which I wish never to repeat. The novel I had to sell was not a mystery but an historical novel, and I had been hawking it around the publishers for four years. The only reason I did not give up is that I am myself a very obstinate person. I submitted it to the Australian Vogel Literary Award, a competition for unpublished manuscripts. They did not give me the prize, but one of the Vogel judges asked me to come and see her, and told me that she didn’t want the historical novel but could do with a couple of mysteries. I agreed so fast that the words echoed off the wall, and then sat on the tram going down Brunswick Street wondering what I had gotten myself into.” – Kerry Greenwood in the introduction to ‘A Question of Death’

I first read this quote several years ago now, but it inspired me. It taught me to hope that one day, I too could show my work to the right person, have them see potential in it, and find myself contemplating a book deal…

I’ve written before about my plans to enter more competitions in the hopes of getting my work noticed. But lately I’ve been wondering: is it better to write something and then find a suitable competition to enter it in, or find the competition first and then write something appropriate?

Recently I’ve been doing the latter – finding a competition with a theme that intrigues me, and writing something specifically for that competition. I should point out, I’m still pretty picky about which competitions I enter. Right now I’m focusing on short stories, so I’m not going to go out of my way to write a screenplay just because there is a competition to enter (although I’d consider a poem if I liked the theme enough). I’m also not likely to choose a genre I’m not really familiar with, such as horror, steampunk, spy thriller etc. This has been working pretty well for me, but over the next few months the number of competitions running has dropped off, and I haven’t yet found anything I’m interested in entering between November and February.

I’ve sworn after the rush I had to get my last entry in on time, I’d be more organised in the future. With that in mind I’ve decided to start planning now how I’ll spend that down-time. Should I focus on the competitions I’ve already picked out and write only pieces that match their themes? Should I write stories to please myself and hope I’ll find a suitable outlet for them in the future? Should I shift my focus a bit and spend some more time on my novel(s)? Ideally I’ll manage a mixture of all three…

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Setting priorities should be a priority!

Imagine this. You have a few hours (minutes!) free and you want to spend them writing. If you’re anything like me you have a couple of projects on the go. How do you decide which one to work on?

I can be very fickle. As well as this blog, I have two novels on the go, and several short stories (one of which I hope to submit for a competition in two weeks). I have dreams of submitting to literary publications, and more competitions. I have a list as long as my arm of books I want to read (and some I want to review), but I also need to make time for my paid work, daily housework tasks, several different art and craft projects I’ve been working on…oh, and don’t forget some semblance of a social life!

So how do you choose what to work on? In those few precious spare minutes, how do you decide what is going to be the most productive? My first instinct is to choose sleep, and there are times when I’m so tired that rest is the only useful thing I’m capable of. Unfortunately, sleeping doesn’t put words on the page (although I’ll admit several times the inspiration for my stories has come from dreams!)

Since starting this blog, it has become a priority. There have been times when I’ve missed a few weeks – either because I’ve been too busy to write, or haven’t had anything to share – but generally it’s the first thing I’ll open when I’m planning to write. I think in part it’s because there is a sense of achievement in writing and publishing a post of a few hundred words, and it’s something that can be done relatively quickly.

Competition entries come next. The strict deadlines should be a strong motivator, but there are times when I’ve just had to admit defeat. I had hoped to submit the story I’m working on at the moment to last years’ competition, but I was burned out at the time from finishing a huge project. I realised that with a week to go until the deadline, it would be a waste of my time to try and rush the piece, and I wouldn’t be happy with it.

Sadly this leaves me with little time to work on the things that might, eventually, earn me some money. I have nothing ready at the moment to submit for publication. I’m going to have to bite the bullet at some stage, set a firm deadline, and get something ready…but I’m not sure where I’m going to find the time!

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“I love deadlin…

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

While such a sentiment is all well and good for a famous author, able to convince his publishers that his next novel is worth waiting for, it is less appropriate for those of us still trying to get our names out there…

This year my goal was to increase my profile by
1. Starting a blog (check)
2. Entering writing competitions (hopefully getting my work read by ‘the right people’ who would love my work so much that they’d help me to get published…)

The problem with number two is, competition deadlines are really not flexible. While I started out with good intentions, and entered the first competition on my list (unsuccessfully, but it’s all good experience), lately, due to circumstances that I won’t go in to, I’ve not spent as much time writing as I should have. This means I’ve missed one deadline already, and have another two coming up this week for which I won’t have anything ready.

Luckily these are only competitions, not work for which I expected to be paid, but I’m concerned that I may be sliding into bad habits. What if one of those competitions I’ve missed was going to be my big break?? I should point out, I really didn’t expect to have entries completed for all three competitions, knowing the deadlines were so close together, but neither did I expect that I’d have nothing ready at all!

Competitions are not the only inflexible deadlines. What if I had been working on a commissioned piece, writing perhaps for a newspaper or magazine? While it is true that delays on longer works are inevitable (the history book I co-wrote took almost 6 months longer than originally planned) when writing short pieces for professional publications, deadlines are fixed.

Perhaps I should ask myself, if I’d treated the competition deadlines as any other professional commitment, would I have made the effort to finish something, in spite of obstacles?

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