And the winner is…

downloadAnd the winner is…Not me! (but many congratulations to Alex Morgan on her winning novel).  After months of waiting for the final verdict I got the news that my shortlisted entry to the Hookline Novel Competition wasn’t successful. Disappointed? Of course I was! If I didn’t want to win then why would I’ve entered? (and paid the hefty £50 fee to add to the hunners I’ve already spent on pursuing the dream).

So you’d expect a self-confessed drama queen like me would be gutted to get the bad news that my last novel had failed to be published and there’d be tears and snotters. My reaction was subdued, not because I didn’t care but because I’m now used to dealing with rejection, it comes with the territory of being a writer.

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Heartbreaking viewing.

Also, I wasn’t sobbing because I got the ‘bad’ news email just before I switched on the news to see Fernando Ricksen break down in tears while explaining that he has been diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease. It doesn’t matter that Fernando is a handsome, gifted, wealthy sportsman; his world has been turned upside down and he now has to cope with an incurable muscle wasting illness. If I needed a sense of perspective then the evening news slapped me across the chops. And yet I still enjoyed wrapping myself up in the comfort blanket of clichés my close family and friends kindly offered when I shared my ‘bad’ news and said I was still a winner in their eyes.

But the interesting part of the process was that I got feedback from the book groups which selected the winner. This might initially seem like a valuable starting point for a rewrite. Wrong. The response to my novel was a love/hate batch of random comments.

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How do I respond to statements like, Clever story, interestingly resolved” versus Rather predictable and plodding”.

The answer is I can’t!

I have to write the story that I want to write and not one that I think others might enjoy because I will never please everybody.

The result made me reflect on two excellent blog posts I’d read this week. ‘Writing Terrors’ written by Catherine Simpson for the Scottish Book Trust dealt with the concept of fear experienced by writers. I read it and could relate to everything Catherine lists as fears associated with calling yourself a writer and add a few more! As I waited on the final outcome from Hookline, although I desperately wanted to win, my perverse fear was of success and worrying about what the next stage would involve (a wasted night’s sleep!).

But the seemingly negative result also made me reflect on another thought-provoking blog post. In it Dan Holloway asks writers to take time to consider what appears to be a simple question, “What do you want from your writing?” And to nail that mission statement in a one liner. Dan’s aim as a writer is to Help those whose identities are marginalised or confused to figure out who they are, and then to be that person and no one else.”

Every writer measures their success in different ways but if the only reason I write was to have my novel published then I didn’t need to enter the competition, I could’ve easily uploaded my novel on to Amazon and called myself a published writer. So why do I write novels despite remaining unpublished in the traditional sense?

The answer is in the name of this blog. I believe I’m a natural storyteller with a way with words. I want to entertain folk with my stories that’s my one liner. Not everyone will enjoy reading these words but they’re MY words and I’ll keep writing them even if they don’t win prizes!

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22 thoughts on “And the winner is…

  1. Great post Helen. Rejection is always hard to take, but you’re right to try and put it in perspective. Don’t let wishy-washy comments put you off. Get people you trust to give you feedback. And most importantly keep writing! It’s the only way to get better 🙂

  2. First time I’ve visited your blog so let me say hello first! As far as criticism goes, sometimes it can be ridiculously contradictory to the point of wanting to pull your own hair out with frustration. Saying ‘something’ when you don’t really have anything decent to add is at the root of this sometimes.

    I’ve personally decided that, yes, I’m unpublished and, yes, my foray with an agent didn’t work out, but I enjoy reading my own stories at the moment. For now, that – and knowing that there’s at least one other person out there who enjoys them because I bombard her with them – is more than enough.

    Good luck in the future!

  3. Ah – tough luck, and yes, keep going! That’s a mature view on perspective, too. As for contradictory views, the lovely and wonderful Debi Alper says you have three options when hearing someone else’s “advice”: accept, adapt, reject. You’re right, the final decision on what to write is yours.

  4. Keep trying- I think you’ve got it in you, and believe me I’ve read thousands of books by authors and organised/facilitated hundreds of events for library readers- your prose is good and should be heard. I love your blog and I think you write really well, and I wish you every success, Annie, Reader Development, Edinburgh Libraries.

  5. Interesting post Helen, and it came just after a conversation I had with a friend following the publication of her debut novel. She has also had a mix of love/hate comments, some of which quite upset her. She had, however, felt compelled to reply to one which accused her of inaccuracy on a point. We mused that the comments she had received were nothing to some of the stuff that goes on Twitter. and that if we are to step into public view we will all have to harden ourselves. Realistically not everyone will like everything we write, and everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, it’s just a bit sad that people use often anonymity to vent some sort bilious tirade.

  6. Helen, I’m sorry you didn’t win but I hope you feel justly proud of getting shortlisted. Dealing with contradictory feedback is very confusing, but if we don’t write what feels right to us, what is the point? Lionel Shriver said something at an event this summer that really spurred me on whilst endlessly messing with a novel that had been much rejected: Write what matters to you. It’s the only way you can be sure your time is well spent. You do have a way with words. Keep at it!

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