Sunday, 30 May 2010

Can you compete in writing?

In running it's obvious. The first person to cross the finishing line is the winner. It's neither subjective or objective. It's logic.

With writing it's a little bit different. The person who judges your work needs to feel some kind of connection, and even if she/he is trying to be objective it's about personal taste.

At the moment I'm planning to send work to the following competitions/live events:

*Are you sitting comfortably? Live Lit Event/Pyjama Party in the Basement Brighton. The topic is midsummer, and I've written a story about a guy feeling lost at Stonehenge called RELAX JOHNNY-BOY, HAVE SOME FUN. Deadline: 5th June, max 1000 words.

*Guardian Weekend Short Story Competition. I've written a story on the required summer theme about a father daughter relationship called THE HATS WE WEAR. Deadline: 18 June, max 2000 words.

*SPARKS 10, Live lit event, first Tue in July??? Open theme. Written a story called TOUCH ME LIKE YOU WOULD TOUCH HIM. Deadline: 22 June???, max 1000 words.

*Bridport Prize Open theme. I've written a story called CLEANING IN LINGERIE. Deadline: 30 June, max 5000 words. (Am also submitting a piece called HOW ENGLISH WORKS for the flash fiction competition, max 250 words.)

**Waterstones Quarterly Magazine Perfectly Formed Short Story Competition Is only open for unpublished writers, but I don't know if being published in Sweden will count, have emailed and asked, but no reply, so I'm sending them a story anyway, called LOVERS OF THE PLANET (that I originally wrote for a Short Fuse night). Deadline: 1 July, max 2000 words.

*Short Fuse Erotic Fiction Night, Live Event at Komedia 18 July. Don't know if I'm submitting anything yet ... Deadline: 9 July, max 2500 words.

*Short Fuse appearing at Edge of the Sea festival. Theme: write a story that is inspired by a song title by The Wedding Present. I picked I AM FROM FURTHER NORTH THAN YOU. Deadline: 10 July, max 2500 words.

So I actually have six stories on the go. Most of them are finished, or at least drafted. I just need some feedback so I can re-work them if necessary. (Which is almost always the case, another pair of eyes is invaluable!) I have a few regular people who kindly are helping me out, but I'm always in need of more eyes, so if one of the titles grab you let me know if you are willing to read and give feedback. I'll also announce each individual story on Facebook nearer the time. And if anyone reading this is planning to submit to above competitions/events or other places I'm happy to help you out with feedback in return.

I don't think you can compete in writing, or in any creative practise. It's so individual. Yet if you don't play you can't win ... One thing that's good with competitions is that I feel more motivated to finish a story and make it as good as I can.

Talking about competing ... Yesterday I went to Hanover Poetry Festival*, hosted by the brilliant Young Hanoverians, and at the end of the night they had a Poetry Slam (hosted by Hammer&Tongue's Rosy Carrick), that I somewhat reluctantly took part in. The poets get scored (points between 0.0 to 10.0) and are judged by quality of poetry, performance and audience reaction. If you are going to take part in slam you have to take it for what it is, and not be upset if you get low scores. It's not a valid judgment whether you're good or not - it's just what some individuals were thinking at the time. Same with written pieces ... just because you don't win a competition doesn't mean your story is bad. It could just be the judge being in a bad mood and didn't want to read a story about a woman killing her dog or whatever it is you've written. And you'll never know how close you were. That's the good thing I guess compared to say running. You'll know that you're the last person crossing the finishing line ...

*I had some cool pics, but lost my camera ... Probably when dancing in the Engine Rooms in the early hours of morning. The person who took it is probably having fun, seeing pics of people on stage making funny faces ...


  1. Personally, I don't think running is about winning. I took up running in my 30s. I will never win a competition. Despite that, running is a powerful, compelling experience. I find long runs strange and incredible; I love the challenges running sets me personally. There's no point measuring myself against professional runners - it's much better to I measure myself against me.

    And that person who came last? Sometimes they're the person who faces the greatest challenge - the person who came 'last' in the Brighton marathon faced tremendous difficulties to be walking at all. How do you compare his experience with that of the 'winners'?

    It's hard to say who gains most from running? Someone who has been fit all their life? Or someone changing their lifestyle and entering their first 5K race?

    You could take writing as a competition - who sells the most books wins. But that's probably not the most useful way of looking at things...

  2. Interesting points! I guess it's all about your attitude, how professional you want to be ...

    I go running (well jogging) about once or twice a month and wouldn't call myself a runner. I could compare that to someone who only writes now and again when they feel inspired ...

    Sometimes the only person you are competing against is yourself. I think I've won every time I've completed a story/novel/poem that I'm happy with.