Less than forty-eight hours after I wrote my last blog post on not giving up, I had to admit that I was not going to capable of editing the first 10,000 words of my novel to enter into the Richard & Judy Bestseller competition. Every time I sat down to work on it the overwhelming pressure I had placed on myself bore down on me, crushing my resolve and causing me to weep in frustration. It was too much. And even if it wasn’t too much, did I really want to push my ambition to the point that I would end up hating the process itself?
The thing that I learned from this is that my expectations have been raised. I expect a higher standard of work from myself than I would have done a year ago. Working on short stories, editing them until I am sure they are they best they can be and then entering them into competitions: it’s changed how I view my own writing.
When I realised that I would never be able to rewrite the first 10,000 words of my novel I went back and printed off my first draft, thinking that if I could just make this version acceptable it would at least be worth it. However, when I read it back – in comparison with my rewritten first chapter – I was bitterly disappointed with it. It is terrible. This is when I realised that my standards have improved. Six months ago I thought those words were suitable, decent even, but now when I read them back I shake my head at how insufficient they are to tell that story. Now I know what I can do with a short story, I have higher expectations of what I could do with my novel.
So, I took that step back and accepted that I would not be entering the competition that closes on the 1st January. Instead, I have moved the goal-posts. I now intend to enter the novel into Good Housekeeping’s Novel competition with a closing date of 28th February 2014. Two whole months to focus on perfecting those first 5,000 words, writing that synopsis and determining what my biography might say about me. This is a much more realistic goal, and one that I’m happy attempting.
I guess it pays to be practical sometimes. As a result of my decision to ‘give up’ on the R&J Competition I’ve had an enjoyable, family filled Christmas with plenty of rest and relaxation. It’s been refreshing, and now I’m ready to get back to it; to sit down and come up with a plan for 2014, write some more short stories to enter into competitions and concentrate on making my novel the best it can be.
And the best thing is I know it was the right decision.