Like many people out there, I’m a fledgling writer. I’ve had a few tiny breakthroughs in recent times, the first being finding the courage to actually show my writing to others. Delirious with relief when they didn’t kill themselves laughing, I was encouraged to enter a short story competition and submit some work to journals. They didn’t laugh either, and I suddenly found that I could put words like ‘longlisted’ and ‘published’ on my CV. In fact, I could create a new Word document and call it ‘Writing CV’. I have a great fondness for admin.
The downside is that it’s driven me completely insane, thinking that the sky is now the limit and I have to get there on a rocket. To that end, I have just entered the Greenbean Novel Fair at the Irish Writers’ Centre in Dublin, the astonishing prize being the opportunity to put a manuscript in front of agents, commissioning editors and publishers, all in one room, all hoping to be wowed. There’s one teeny problem with that. I haven’t written the novel.
I’d seen the ads for the competition, which has been open since February and closes today (16th October, 2015). I debated whether to work on the inevitable book I’ve been holding dear to my heart, but knew that having made little progress with it in the last five years, it wasn’t likely to reveal itself with a few months to work on it. Then on Monday (this Monday, five days before the competition closed), an idea popped into my head, fully formed (ish), and in a fit of madness I decided to sit down and write it. Even if I didn’t make the submission deadline for the competition, at the very least I would end the week with several thousand words and a story that might actually go somewhere.
I made the submission deadline.
I paid the very steep entry fee that’s there to weed out time wasters who throw any old thing together at the last minute and waste the judges’ time.
I put the manuscript in the post, screeching up to the post office five minutes before it closed in a car chase-style race that had my 10-year-old screaming, “What an adrenaline rush!”
Last night, I lay in bed and wondered what on earth I’ve gotten myself into, all confidence gone. How am I going to write a book by the end of January, when the manuscript will have to be finished on the offchance that the organisers come aknocking?
I am an idiot.
In an effort to cheer myself up, I’m imagining a musical montage of my writing journey over the next few months – it shows me click-clacking busily at the keyboard, interspersed with chopping vegetables for the inevitably late dinner and scanning news sites for Strictly Come Dancing gossip. But it won’t be all glamour – I have 14 weeks to write 70,000 or so words (having submitted the best part of 10,000 words, written in four mad days). Taking it as a 9-5 job, five days a week to allow for family life, that’s 5,000 words a week, 1,000 words a day. Doable, undoubtedly, for an experienced, disciplined author. I am none of those things.
Every effort will be made to try and report on my progress once a week, or whenever I’m looking for an excuse to get away from the writing and Strictly gossip is thin on the ground. It’s going to be a rocky road.
Despite a really gripping Strictly season, I did find time to regularly blog about how I got on with my challenge, and would be delighted if you decide to read more about it (the posts are all marked ‘Unwise Writer’ – here’s week 1, Endings and Trombones). However, if you prefer to cut to the chase and find out the end of adventure, I wrote a post here about the surprising outcome.