By Ruth Morgan
As I read the requirements for the last challenge, I muttered and spluttered and thought, that’s that. It’s way beyond anything I’m able to do, I know nothing about writing in that style. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
But, let’s start at the beginning.
I decided this year that I would enter my writing in every competition I could find. I would take every opportunity to hone my craft, submit to magazines, online publications – anything and everything. My motto would be – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
When I saw news of the Great Clarendon House writing competition for a story of 500 words, I looked through my collection and found something that fitted the bill. The story was originally written for AWC’s Furious Fiction. I sent it off thinking to hear no more and moved onto the next challenge. So often you submit a piece of writing, and that’s that. It disappears into the ether, never to again see daylight.
This time was different. I received an email, advising that my piece had been selected to be among the ten to be published in The Inner Circle Writers Magazine, a UK based publication. The stories would be voted on by readers of the magazine and the top five would be given a writing challenge to determined who would continue.
I was startled to make it into the next round, and surprised by the challenge. 1000 words to be written in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. Mmmm…I hadn’t read in that genre since my teens and that was some considerable time ago. I’m not someone comfortable with writing stories at speed. My process has always been write, ponder, tweak and let sit. Three weeks to write a polished story in an unfamiliar genre sent my writing brain into a spin. I lost count of the number of drafts I wrote before something emerged I could live with. With considerable relief I sent the “The Watcher” out into the world. It was either good enough, or not. I’d done my best.
I tried to keep writing but not knowing the outcome gnawed away at my confidence. When readers votes were counted, I learned I’d made the top three. I waited with baited breath to discover the nature of the final challenge.
When I read the requirements I threw my hands and said, that was fun while it lasted. The challenge – to write a 1500 word story in the style of a Charles Dickens novel. The genre, the setting and time frame of the story was open.
I read Dickens in my 20’s, found his novels hard work but loved his short stories. I had three weeks to write something reflecting his style.
I drew on my writing friends, for support and advice. Thank you Jennifer! I read and reread Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations and then began writing.
The title came first. The Redemption of Martin Applethorpe. Uncomfortable writing in a style so outside my own, I was tempted to quit and say it was beyond me. Nothing I wrote came close. Then it dawned, the title was too limiting what is it was The Applethorpe Redemption? Suddenly the story burst forth. A policeman is faced with following his father’s road to murder and suicide and realising after he finds his father’s diary that he may share a genetic legacy, he can make different choices and have a different outcome.
I sent the story off and waited, trying to keep busy with other projects. Eventually, the day the voting closed, I sent off an email saying – well…what happened?! I got an email back saying I’d won. By one vote!
The prize – among some very useful professional support and guidance, is a publishing contract. So, in the middle of the next year, my first ever book will be published. A collection of short stories. Tentatively titled The Whitworth Mysteries.
It’s been an amazing experience to be a part of. I’ve been pushed outside anything that looked like a comfort zone. It’s given me the courage to try new ideas, new genres and to keep growing as a person and a writer.