Someone once said that the only person you need to be in competition with is yourself. Despite this reasonable advice, writers submit pieces to contests by their thousands every year.
Though putting yourself in competition with your peers may seem a foolhardy or egotistical thing to do, winning can have a big impact on your life. Depending on the contest, you may win enough cash to support your writing habit for a few months, get a publishing contract, or at the very least, make a name for yourself and have something to add to your CV.
At the end of last year I submitted my novel to the Irish Writers’ Centre in hopes of winning a spot in their novel fair. The prize is a chance to meet with representatives from some of the most prestigious publishers and literary agencies in Ireland.
The contest organisers informed contestants that the completed manuscript must be ready for submission by the middle of January. Naturally, I spent my time writing a couple of short stories, entering – and winning – the NaNoWriMo event, and, yes, rewriting my novel from the beginning.
The sometime gruelling task of completing 1667 words per day while I was participating in NaNoWriMo helped me to establish some strong work habits and, I think, improved the quality of my writing. Practice, it turns out, really does make you nearly perfect – at least, more than procrastination will ever do. So by the time I completed the novel, Shakespeare’s Tree, I felt I had polished it to the very best of my ability. Granted, I was sick of the sight of the thing, but I knew in my bones I had produced something worthwhile.
Last week I learned that I had won a place in the Irish Writers’ Centre contest and will be one of 20 writers attending the fair in March. There’s no guarantee, of course, that a publishing contract will be the result, but at least I’ll get to meet people who have, up to this point, been only names in the Writers and Artist’s Yearbook. More importantly, I have a chance to give them an idea of what I can do.
Waiting till March will be hard. Imight turn out some more articles or outline a new novel. Then again, I see there’s a short story writing contest with a trip to my beloved Yorkshire as a prize…