One of my competition submissions this month was to the Pen to Print ‘book challenge’.
The Book Challenge is looking to provide a year-long programme of support to new writers of any genre. Writers will be offered (online) classes and guided by a mentor through the process of writing a new book and getting it to publication.
I submitted the first chapter of my current WIP ‘Everyday Wendy’. Creating a synopsis was a useful exercise in good, tight storytelling. A dictionary definition of a synopsis is ‘brief/condensed summary’ and this forced me to think – what is this book actually about? What is the essence of the story? What are its piths and pivots?. I could, of course, answer these questions because they had guided my planning and plotting but answering each concisely and succinctly was unexpectedly challenging and, ultimately, helpful.
‘Everyday Wendy’ is my current (primary) work in progress. I am about a third of the way through towards my projected final word count and, as most first drafts are, it is a mess. I think the premise for the book is good and, though out of my usual genre, I am enjoying writing it. The first draft is a very long way from submission and it almost felt too soon to be even thinking about submitting to this type of competition. I had to think carefully about whether to submit later if at all. There was a lot to think about and it seemed to me, pros and cons.
The idea of winning a prize is a key motivating factor. Who doesn’t want to win a prize and enjoy that one’s work and talent has been recognised? That said, was this prize one I actually wanted? The mentorship offered is from a ‘professional writer’ and I am keen to learn from peers and those with more experience but I do not want to waste their time, nor do I want demands made of me that I cannot, or don’t want to, meet (deadlines or changes in writing style for example). The competition needs successful outcomes so to be fair to it, and its organisers, I needed to be clear with myself that in applying to it, the prize – should I be lucky enough to win it – met my writing needs and take my writing where I want it to go? I also had to consider the (probably more likely outcome) stinging impact of not being selected.
(Image by Junmardun under Creative Commons Licence)
An important question I considered was my commitment to this particular WIP. This book is somewhat experimental – a writing exercise, outside my usual genre, light-hearted, comedic. Different to anything I have written before. It feels like writing in a lovely playground. If I was going to submit it for scrutiny, I needed to think about whether it was just a writing exercise or did I intend to see it through to a potentially publishable draft? Being conscious about my strong commitment to the story and its telling was motivating and uplifting – and a useful lesson in itself. It was something of a revelation to take time to ask myself whether I loved this work enough to see it through. I do.
After pondering for a few days, I decided it was a good opportunity for me and got ready to submit my first chapter. Even this caused pause for thought. My first chapter is adequately rounded and the quality of writing is good but does it say anything about where the book is going or what it is aiming to do? Is it a good ‘showcase’ for the planned rest of the book? I am not confidently sure. I wondered how the competition judges would arrive at their decisions based on single early chapters of works in progress and a synopsis. It made me consider how first chapters need to capture the reader. I already have notes about how to make the next draft of this chapter stronger.
I started this challenge year of writing for competitions to develop my writing craft. Obviously, I hope to win every completion I enter through the year but think it more likely that I will win few if any. Still, the act of thinking through whether to submit and the quality of work which might fit the bill is so far, proving to be a productive learning process.
Thanks to supportive fellow writer @PatsyCollins for the alert about this challenge. In a similar spirit, I share it too. This opportunity is still open for subs – the deadline isn’t until 25th September, so there is still time to enter. Good luck!