The Road Less Travelled

So, here’s the deal.

I came to a crossroads with my writing the other day, aptly represented by the above photo taken on heathland near our house. I could go in a few different directions and I needed to choose which path to take.

Here’s the grind.

I love entering writing competitions and I’ve even been shortlisted a few times. When it comes to short story comps I love writing to order to a specific deadline, creating something new and shaping and refining it until it is the best it can be and I believe it fits the mold a.k.a the comp rules. I love sending my baby out into the world to be given an APGAR test by a (panel of) judge/s. If it scores highly on all criteria maybe it’ll place and I’ll see my name in lights – or at least on the website/in a magazine. I love knowing that there is a chance, just a glimmer of hope that I’ll win, that the outcome date is coming up and wondering whether there might be a nice email waiting for me. It’s a bit like buying a lottery ticket and breathlessly waiting for the results show. It’s exciting until you check the numbers and find out that you haven’t won. But oh that feeling of possibility … and if you get nowhere with it, at least you gave it a chance. If you never buy a ticket a.k.a. enter a comp, you’ve never dared to dream that this time IT COULD BE YOU!

I currently have entries out in three contests and am planning on sending out one more next week. My opening chapter of (WIP) The Nanny’s Revenge is in the Top 20 of the Novelicious Undiscovered competition and is being showcased on 29 May but …

I’ve decided to step off the short story comps path for a while.

Why? Because I saw a post in a closed facebook group and read a book about being a career writer and they both made me think. I enter competitions for all the reasons that I mention above, but what do I gain apart from the pleasure of creativity and the thrill of excitement? What is my strategy? What am I hoping for? Will entering or winning comps get me closer to my dream of publication as a novelist?

Arguably the answer to the last question is yes – when it comes to the right sort of competitions, currently Novelicious Undiscovered.

That’s because it gets a portion of one of my full length  novels in front of the right people – readers, editors, agents and publishers. But in respect to the other questions it’s the short story competitions I wonder about. Yes, placing in a comp adds to your writing CV and I guess that is heartening for agents/publishers to see and yes it is lovely to be able to tell fellow writers, family and friends about your successes but if you don’t place, what are you left with? In my case a short story that is difficult to try to sell on to any publication, because I haven’t written to the target market, I’ve written to the brief set out in the competition rules. Then I’m frustrated that my baby is wrapped up in a blanket and tucked away in a dark room. I also read an article the other day that put forward that of ten recent debut authors interviewed, the majority of them had never been placed in a competition. I thought about that for a while, why that might be the case and how it applied to me.

The conclusion I came to was this – focus.

If I am writing short stories at the rate of two or three a month it’s going to take me a lloonngg time to finish my full length novels and get submissions out there. If I take a break from writing stories for 6 – 12 months, my novels will get finished and subbed sooner and I can always go back to short stories whilst awaiting outcomes. It’s the principle of what my gorgeous friend Lucie Wheeler of The Romaniacs Blog refers to when she talks about ‘butterfly writing.’ I need to stop butterfly writing and focus on one project at a time.

The point is, I want to be a jobbing writer. So I’ve made that tough and foreign decision to stop entering short story comps for now. Except for getting your novel published type comps, I’m going to dedicate my allocated writing time to markets that pay and to the pursuit of becoming a published novelist, including finish TLW so that I can start getting it out to agents and focusing on the Novelicious Undiscovered showcase. In that spirit I’ve already written a feature on parenting for an American E-zine and submitted it for consideration and done another ten pages of redrafting on TLW.

I’m not advocating my approach. I just think that it might be right for me.

I’d love to hear all about your thoughts and experiences, so please do share.

For now, Happy Writing, Nikki 🙂

p.s. whilst I might have bowed out of short story comps temporarily I will still be posting a Competition Round-up shortly containing a range of fab opportunities.

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