And 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.
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.
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!