Don’t you hate it when stories have false endings? Yesterday wasn’t the final word on my novel competition journey, as I thought. Today I received an unexpected email from the Irish Writers Centre saying that I’ve made the Greenbean Novel Fair longlist. I’m not sure my nerves are able for this kind of excitement.
Once I’d calmed down a bit (a work still in progress), I realised it meant the following things:
- I’ll receive a critique of my submitted piece from the judges. This is extraordinarily generous of them, and will be worth gold to me. A few nudges in the right direction will help me hone the work in a way that would take me forever to figure out on my own. What a privilege.
- I can add Greenbean Novel Fair longlistee to my still sparse writing CV. This makes me a happy writing bunny.
- If and when I’m in a position to submit my manuscript to agents or publishers, I’ll have the calling card of saying that the book has already been longlisted in a competition. Surely every vote of confidence helps in trying to decide whether to take a gamble on an untested writer?
- Maybe this even means my book isn’t as rubbish as I feared! Most writers have to go through the entire, solitary process of writing their novel not knowing whether they’re on the right track, so I really value this extraordinary piece of validation.
There were almost 275 entries in this year’s novel fair, out of which a longlist of 24 was chosen (complete list here). The top 12 will get to take part in this terrifying but amazing-looking experience:
No one enters anything without daydreaming about winning, no matter how unlikely and far-fetched it seems (haven’t we all spent our EuroMillions winnings in our heads at some point?). I entered this competition by writing the start of a book with four days to go to the closing date. It was an idea that simply fell out of the sky and I went for it in a rare fit of madness. When I read back now what I sent in then, I’m a bit embarrassed at how half-baked it is. I’ll find out exactly how half-baked when I read the feedback, which will no doubt be rigorous. But the whole experience has given me 70,000 words that I didn’t have a few months ago, and has done a lot to dispel the mystique of novel writing for me. As many, many writers patiently explain, it really is about putting down one word after another.
It’s as simple and as hard as that.