September 9th was a brilliant day!
I was out walking with a friend and returned home to a string of messages full of congratulations!
I use writing competitions as deadlines. For me, they offer a great discipline to set goals and motivate myself to the finish line. There is also the chance I will be read by someone who connects with my story, which is difficult to guarantee from a slush pile.
I entered the opening chapters of another manuscript into The Richell Prize last year. I polished those chapters, had an independent editor assess them, and hoped like hell they might get me on that list. I was crushed when I didn’t make it but I knew chances were slim with so many entries and the growing calibre of writers submitting their work.
This year, I entered The Fundraiser (which I’ve polished until my fingers are raw), crossed everything and put it out of my mind. I got busy thinking about the next book.
I’ve worked on The Fundraiser for five years now. On and off. I won a scholarship with Fiona McIntosh based on the first chapter and received a commendation from author, JP Pomare, in his role on the judging panel of the Victorian Premier's Literary Awards.
Despite these nibbles of success, I’ve been told ‘no’ so many more times than I’ve been told ‘yes’!
Rejections are certainly part of this business but they are not a fun part! We build up an armour as writers, and we must transition from emotional, invested, deep thinkers, to business people as soon as we press send on a submission. We are expected to detach ourselves from our work and not take rejection personally. I’ve found this tricky but it gets easier. It is a skill learned over time!
I know the story is good, the hook is there but I’ve been unable to get the manuscript into the DEFINITELY YES pile. Yet, through all the feedback - some constructive and some brutal - there’s something that keeps me hanging on. Is it hope? Is it belief? Is it downright stubbornness?
Luckily for me, when I am feeling disheartened and that pesky inner critic says, ‘throw it in, you’re never going to make it!’ I am tossed a lifeline. Sometimes it is in the form of writerly friends who encourage me not to give up. Sometimes it is in a networking opportunity where someone shares a contact.
And then there are times like yesterday where it comes in the form of industry validation.
Over 700 submissions and only 21 on the longlist. Still can’t quite believe it!
But what I also know is I’ve put in the hours. Many many many hours! And I am willing to put in more to get this story into the hands of readers. Perseverance and patience seem to be the keys for me.
Fingers crossed I get through to the next round but if not, I am ever so grateful for this little lifebuoy that is keeping me afloat … AND keeping me writing.