Friday 25 November 2022

Competitions - A two sided coin

Writing competitions, they are a staple of the writer’s journey, and can be a spring board to representation and publication or simply a nice little boost of confidence and something to bolster your covering letter. But they can also be a source of heart ache.

I’ve been plodding the road towards publication for a long time now. The pursuit of publication isn’t an expedition for the faint hearted; it is full of rejection and near misses. It is a path of resilience and a marathon rather than a sprint. Along the way there are many pit stops that can fuel your perseverance or drain it.

Competitions are one of these pit stops. Sometime fate is on your side and you get a long-listing, honorary mention or readers favourite. It’s exhilarating and you celebrate. You need to for your mental health, in a business where there is so much NO, and success (for pre-published writers) is binary, you are either published or not, celebrating the small stuff is essential. So you raise a glass, and you post on your social media your little success with the others you’ve met along the way, as much as a thank you for their support as it is a celebration.

But then there is the other, more frequent occasions, where the announcement comes out and you are not on it. Your heart sinks. Your hopes are dashed, and all you want to do is curl up in ball. But then inevitably, some of your friends made the cut, and you celebrate with them, even if you are wallowing with sadness and a wee bit of envy. I’ve entered dozen, maybe even hundreds of competitions over the years, and I’ve felt both side of the competition coin.


This week for the first time in a long-long time, I got some unexpected news; I made the long list for the Searchlight Novel Opening Competition. I was obviously delighted and went on to social media to celebrate. People congratulated me, and it was a much need boost, as I’ve been struggling to keep the faith recently. However one writer congratulated me, but also said they’d entered the competition and not been so lucky.


I felt terrible. Guilty for gloating. After all I’ve been there many times. I didn’t intend to add to anyone’s disappointment. So I replied sending love and positivity. But one word resonated with me ‘LUCKY’.

Yes this time I was.

Yes, my manuscript was polished over a number of years. Yes, I spent a good few hours preparing it for the competition. But I entered multiple titles and only one got on. All the other books had equal amounts of hard work and preparation. The difference? In my opinion, the difference- is luck. The luck of a particular story being assigned to the right reader that connected and engaged with it enough to advocate on its behalf for a place in the long list.

So yes, I was lucky, and I’m grateful.

But I do know what I feel like to not get on a longlist, and wonder where my luck is. So to everyone who is traipsing the road towards publication I wish you oodles of luck.


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