A Week in the Life of a Struggling Writer

I debated over several possible titles for this post, and I settled on “A Week in the Life of a Struggling Writer.” Perhaps other struggling writers will read this and take comfort in reading about how my writing life is going. The content of this post will not be uplifting. Hang in there with me, though, to the last paragraph. After a bit of a pity party, in the end I was able to end on a positive note.

I promised in at least one earlier blog post that I would report on the outcomes of all the writing contests I entered. The last week or so has not been the highlight of my writing endeavors. I thought it was bad enough when I was notified that I had not won two competitions, but yesterday I received word that I had not won or placed in yet a third contest. I promised to report to you, so here goes.

In March, I submitted my short story titled Someone is Trying to Kill Me, in the Gemini Magazine Short Story Contest. My entry did not make the cut.

In June, I entered George Govan, A Gentle Man, in the Northern Colorado Writers’ Personal Essay/Creative Nonfiction Contest. I really thought I had a good chance to secure at least an Honorable Mention for that piece; however, it was not to be.

In July, I wrote a piece about the experiences I had a few years ago when I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Ira Lee Taylor about his military service during World War II. He was part of the D-Day Invasion of Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge, and other battles in the European Theatre. I presented his memories of the war as a human interest story titled, Telling World War II Stories, and submitted it for the Page Crafter’s Prize in the On the Same Page Book Festival coming up in a couple of weeks in West Jefferson, North Carolina. I was proud of that piece, but I learned yesterday that I did not win or place in that competition.

I have entered nine writing contests in 2015. So far, I have not won or placed in any of them. I am more than a little discouraged today, but I will press on. The only way my writing will improve is through writing, writing, writing. It would have been helpful if I could not gotten some feedback from those nine contests, but I only received constructive criticism on one. It is difficult to learn from one’s mistakes when those missteps are not identified.

From these nine writing contests this year I have learned that I’m not as good a writer as I thought. That is a valuable lesson, lest I start thinking too highly of myself.

As I proofread this blog post, it occurred to me that I enjoyed the process of writing each of the nine pieces that I submitted in these contests. If that is all I get out of writing, that’s enough! Having the luxury at this time in my life to do some things that bring me joy is a gift that many people never experience.

My Writing Plan of Action Update

I blogged about my writing plan of action on January 18, 2015. It’s time to give you an update.

You may recall that my plan in January included goals for my anticipated book of vintage postcards from the piedmont of North Carolina. That book did not come to fruition, so my plan was revised. This is what it looks like today:

(1) Schedule book signings/author events (on-going);
(2) Continue to blog every 5 days or so;
(3) Continue to search for writing contests to enter or magazine articles to write (on-going);
(4) Set aside one day each week to edit my historical novel manuscript, tentatively titled, The Spanish Coin, (until I get it polished as much as I can); and
(5) Start in earnest to find a literary agent to represent me and my novel.

I continue to try to schedule book signings and other author events. The only one I have on my calendar this summer is at the J. Hoyt Hayes Memorial Troutman (NC) Branch Library on August 27. With our house being remodeled during the next several weeks, I did not want to schedule any events until later this summer. It’s not like people are beating a path to my door begging me to come speak about my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina! I did not want to schedule any events in June or early July. I didn’t have any requests for that time period, so it worked out fine.

Originally, I thought I needed to blog daily. I came to realize that no one wanted to hear from me every day. My writing life is not that compelling. I adjusted my plan to blog every five days or so, but I will not blog just for the sake of blogging.

I continue to work on stories to submit to writing contests, although I haven’t produced any winners yet in 2015. I wrote a creative nonfiction piece about my 4th and 5th great-grandmothers for the GENEii writing contest sponsored by the Southern California Genealogy Society. I entered a contest in which the prize was to have an entire manuscript evaluated by Barbara Kyle, but I didn’t win that one either. I entered “The Other Woman,” a 1,000-word short story in the Bevel Summers Short Story Prize competition sponsored by Shenandoah Literary Review, but I learned a couple of weeks ago that it did not make the final round of judging. Such is the life of a writer, but at what point does it become counter-productive to keep entering writing contests and not winning or placing? There were more than 1,000 entries in the Bevel Summers competition. My story was eliminated going into the third round of judging. No time spent writing is wasted; however, I must be selective because most contests have an entry fee. Getting no constructive feedback from writing contests is a drawback. My money might be better spent in getting my novel manuscript evaluated by a professional.

We’re down to number four on my plan. This is where the wheels begin to fall off my wagon. I thought it would be easy to set aside one day each week to edit and revise the manuscript of my historical novel, The Spanish Coin. I have failed to discipline myself to accomplish that. I have worked on it for a few minutes here and there, but that is a terrible way to approach such work. I must block out at least an hour or more on a regular basis to do it justice. Being surrounded by the noise of a remodeling project is not conducive to any form of writing, especially something as important as a novel. Until I get number four under control, I can’t move on to number five.

A written plan for my writing makes me accountable. I’m a discouraged at the moment, but I will keep writing. It’s what I love to do!

“The Other Woman” Submitted for Bevel Summers Prize

In a continuing effort to hone my writing skills, I submitted a 1,000-word short short story titled “The Other Woman,” in competition for the Bevel Summers Prize. The prize is offered by Shenandoah, the literary review sponsored by Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia.

I wrote “The Other Woman” in the vein of O. Henry’s short stories. False assumptions are made by the narrator throughout the story. She and the reader do not know the truth until the end of the story. It will be interesting to see how the story is received, since O. Henry’s style is not in vogue today. It was through reading the short stories of O. Henry that I developed my love of short stories.

Never one to conform or to do things just because “everybody’s doing it,” I wrote this short short story the way I wanted to write it. If I enjoy a story with a surprise ending, perhaps other readers do as well.

The winner of the 2015 Bevel Summers Prize will be announced in August. I will report on this blog when I learn my story’s fate.