New Beginnings

There have been a few very light snow flurries today, the kind that you can blink and miss. It’s cold, but you can definitely see and feel that winter is on its last legs, and just trying to cling on. But soon it will be gone. The sun is definitely shining more. It looks beautiful streaming through my living room window in the morning. And Chirpy is back! That’s the name we give to the blackbird who comes every year and sits in the tallest tree in the street. He watches over the neighbourhood and sings away like the happiest chap in the world. Sometimes he ventures to a chimney pot or two. His song is gorgeous and I could listen to him all day.

Of course, there is no way of knowing if he is the same Chirpy every year, but we like to think so, and whenever he makes a return, it fills us with optimism that spring is just around the corner, and that Summer will be hot on its heels.

As well as the seasons getting ready to change, and a new cycle to begin, so am I taking on the task of working on the beginning of my novel. I have not been happy about certain small parts of it for a while, and thought it would be the right time to change some of it. Not a lot. Just tweaking. I’ve had some encouraging rejections. Yes, rejections can be encouraging! I know that there is something there, and editors have told me that they enjoy my work but they cannot take it on at present. That’s publishing these days, I guess. I just need to get someone to take a chance on it.

So, to give me the very best chance of that, it will do no harm to just polish it slightly. Yesterday I worked for a few hours, and today will do the same. I am happy with what I have been doing, and feel that it will better be able to stand on its feet out there in the world. I am happy to continue to try, and one day, maybe all my work will pay off and I will get that lucky break I need.

A week on Monday (4th March) is the deadline for the Dundee International Book Prize and I will be sending my book out for that. The prize is a contract with Cargo Publishing and a £10,000 advance. Now, that would come in useful. Apart from prize money though, competitions are wonderful for forcing me to get more disciplined and organised in my writing. I can’t sit on my laurels when there is a deadline to be made. Once it has gone out to the competition I will continue to send it around to publishers and agents, in the hope that what I did to it for the competition will ensure its success somewhere.

After Dundee, the Bath Short Story Award, the Moth Magazine Short Story Prize and the Exeter Writers’ Short Story Competition all beckon before the end of March. I have a couple, maybe three stories to enter for those.

More stuff due in April, May and June – including a script writing contest – so I will be busy all the way to the summer and beyond.

So, the year has started well and hopefully will continue for the foreseeable future.

What writing project do you have? Are you entering competitions, or sending work out to publishers and agents – or just writing for yourself? I would be interested to hear about what you’re doing. Please leave comments below. I will moderate them really quickly, and once that’s done, you can post on here with no waiting time. I hope to hear from some of you.

Happy writing!


One Two Three – The Contests Start!

My 2013 writing competition career started on 27th January, when the deadline for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award arrived. I have been sending my novel “The Border Guard” out into the world for a while now with varying degrees of response. Most agents and publishers send form letters, and you never know why they don’t want it. A lot of times it doesn’t even make it past the cursory glance, I am sure. I am well aware of how things work. They scarcely have time to devote to all of the manuscripts and part manuscripts that must arrive on their desks or in their email Inboxes.

I don’t take it personally.

Many times I get more than a “no thanks” with no explanation. Often they say “We read your work with great interest” and “We considered it very carefully”. This gets my heart a-pumping! But then the killer blow: “Regrettably, however, we do not feel it is right for our list” or “we are not in a position to devote the time it needs” and blah blah.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful that they took the time to at least encourage me. It means more than a straight no, and lets me know that I have something. Frustrating though, because even if some editors and agents like it, the sad fact is they don’t take many risks these days.

I’ll keep on plugging away – it does not dishearten me. But in the meantime I have to keep writing – more stories, more books. There is so much to do and so little time!

So contests are the way forward. Sadly there are precious few contest for novels aimed at unpublished writers. These competitions seem to be the almost exclusive domain of the already lucky, established writers. Which hardly seems fair, when you think about it! They already have the book deal, the agent, the sales (one presumes!). It’s us poor unwashed struggling authors that need the breaks!

So imagine my delight when I stumbled across ABNA. The answer to my prayers. I entered that one.

One off the list. I was off! I will find out if I got through the first stage next Wednesday and will post the news here.

After the disappointment of not making the finals of the Costa Short Story Award, which I entered last year, I sat down and made a list of all the contests coming up. Because all the competitions seem to have a different word count limit, it gave me a nice excuse to write a few new short stories, and I entered the Writers and Artists Short Story Competition. The deadline for this is 15th February, so if you fancy it, give it a go. The word limit is 2000 words and your story has to be on the theme of “Freedom.” All details of this, and other competitions they are running, can be found by clicking on the link.

My third entry this year was to a poetry competition. My good friend, Sue Fell, who is author of “The Crystal Gazer” Blog, has always told me that she likes my poems and thinks I should enter competitions. I had never really considered myself a serious poetry writer before. I enjoy it, but it always seemed more of a mere diversion while I agonised over a plot or character problem in my fiction. But I thought: “Why not” and sent off a 40 line poem to the Kent and Sussex Poetry Competition. The deadline for this has now passed.

There are several more competitions to enter that will take me way into the summer. I will be writing about more of them soon, and will also post a list of links to everything you will need to get into the competition game. I have had some invaluable help from resources on Twitter. There are some fantastic people out there who work tirelessly to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

So in the next day or so I will devote a post to giving some important links, and to listing all the people you should be following on Twitter.

Have a great writing weekend, and please remember to post comments on here if you have anything to add to any of my posts. Your thoughts and opinions and, most importantly, you experiences in the writing world, are of great value.

Stumbling in the Darkness

In “The Critic as Artist”, Oscar Wilde wrote:

Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

He went on to say that it was also his reward.

I think what he meant by the punishment was that a dreamer lives in a certain degree of darkness and obscurity, in which he stumbles around. What are dreams other than personal, half formed ideas and ideals, most of them emerging in the dead of night or in front of a cold and vacant expanse of white computer screen?  The punishment is the loneliness, the insecurity, the doubt. Seeing the dawn before the rest of the world can be isolating, because you have to find a way of describing that light, that emerging beauty.  You have to convince people that you know.

My ambition is to become a published writer. And yes, I stumble through the moonlight – the half-light of troubled thoughts – regularly and often.  I worry that I will ever be able to convince anyone.

But I understand how being a dreamer has its rewards: The creation of something that might change the world, or at least the way someone views it; the arranging of words into sentences and paragraphs that might make someone gasp in awe or delight, or weep with sadness or joy; the weaving of worlds that might capture and captivate. Those things are the reward.

I have created this blog to document my struggle to become a published writer.  I will share the process and the pain.

I will also post on here some of my work: short stories, poems, serials – whatever I am brave enough to share.

Please feel free to comment on any of my posts and pass on the url of my blog to anyone you think will enjoy reading it.

Thanks – Debbi