Oscar Wilde once said he was too fond of reading books to care to write them. For a long time I agreed. After all, it’s much easier to read a book than it is to actually write one. It’s only when middle age slapped me in the face did I have a change of heart – the desire to write took root, like some kind of fungus. Now I just can’t stop. Never mind the day job. Never mind the family – just give me a pen. Well, keyboard actually.
I’ve even decided to write a blog. This is my first post. I thought it may help me on my writing journey, even better it may help others embarking on theirs. Thanks to my friend and writing buddy, Mel Green, for inspiration. You can see what she’s got to say on a whole host of writing things at http://www.onceuponamel.com.
Once I began to take writing seriously, I found that I wasn’t that bad at it, I could actually string a few sentences together. Who knew? I think years of working with young people – especially 15 year old boys – has given me a unique voice. My natural writing voice is apparently that of a grumpy, world-weary teen boy. So, not that dissimilar from my middle-aged voice!
As my confidence grew, I began to share my writing more. I was no longer a closet writer, I stopped living in shame. I went on an Arvon course, I went to Winchester Writers’ Festival, I became a member of the Golden Egg Academy and even embarked on an MA at Manchester Metropolitan University (much more on these in subsequent posts). In terms of my writing career, these have been some of the best decisions I’ve ever made, each one of them has significantly improved my writing, not to mention my knowledge of the industry. And what an industry! The toughest by far to get a foothold in.
One of the best decisions I’ve made, however, is none of the above. It’s something that’s perhaps not as obvious. Competitions. Writing competitions, that is. It’s only when I started entering these, and gaining success, did my confidence and desire to become a published writer sky-rocket.
For what it’s worth, the best single piece of advice I would give a wannabe writer – is to enter competitions. It’s genuinely helped me improve as a writer and directly resulted in me signing to an agent. The first competition/award I entered was the Northern Writers’ Awards in 2014. I won a New Fiction Bursary for my YA novel; The Multiple Lives of Haroon Patel. My prize was a TLC manuscript assessment. The feedback was the best I’d ever received. It really allowed me to see where my work needed to improve, as well as telling me the things I was doing well and getting right. It was genuine constructive criticism which is what all writers need – they may not always want to hear it, but they certainly need it.
Following this success, I reworked my novel and entered it for the 2014 Commonword Writing for Children Diversity Prize. I was utterly gobsmacked to be shortlisted. To hear the words…and the winner is, Dale Hannah…was incredible. The stuff dreams are made of!
So, if you’re currently procrastinating about entering a competition – don’t. Go for it. You never know…it could be you.