Why I’ll never win a writing competition

Every so often – or so-so often, there’s a long time between drinks – I have a bit of a competition-fest, entering every vaguely suitable writing competition I can lay hands on (and afford to enter). This is actually an exercise in futility since I know I won’t win anything, but hey, it keeps me entertained for a while, and gives me something to look forward to in case one day I manage to fluke it – a sort of heavily qualified triumph of hope over experience.

thumbnailCAJDW4DEThere are lots of reasons why I won’t win anything, the most obvious being I’m not good enough. But added to that, there’s the serious business of Content – and I mean serious. Having studied Previous Winning Entries, it’s depressingly clear to me that content is one of my biggest downfalls. I can’t write those sombre explorations of the darker side of human emotion that seem to be the fashion du jour.

Which is funny, really. It’s not as if life has been all froth and bubble and a barrel of laughs. The family soap opera has covered most of the storylines at least once. But every time I take myself in hand and think Right, deep and meaningful, I seem to end up in a bog of melodrama or a sidebar of flippancy. I’ve coped with drama, tragedy, chaos, pain and suffering. It wasn’t entertaining the first time, and apparently I have an inbuilt cut-off switch when it comes to revisits.

Maybe I’m just too old: the practice of soul-searching and prodding humanity’s bruises is the province of the young. But on the other hand, I do ask myself from time to time why ‘good’ writing has to be bleak and/or heavy going to make the grade. (And why, on the other hand, ‘popular’ novels so often seem to jettison the craft of writing in favour of sensationalism, but that’s another story.)

I mean – bad things happen, but good things happen too, don’t they? So why is it considered so low-brow to write about them? Or read them for that matter.

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6 Responses to Why I’ll never win a writing competition

  1. bkpyett says:

    Helen, you have expressed my own thoughts exactly. I don’t expect to get anything accepted ever again, but I just keep writing what isn’t acceptable. When the children were here, even their books are out of my league. Fashion has its down side. Still, I love your writing, so I hope you keep doing it.

    • I write because it makes me happy, Barbara, but I don’t fool myself! However…! children’s books – I am appalled at the verse books published (for children younger than yours) where what is supposed to scan is so far off it’s a disgrace!

  2. Lisa P says:

    I’ve always found your writing to be incredibly engaging, and not at all shallow as you seem to imply. The thing is, if your readers are mature enough, you don’t need to labour emotional points – they’ll know what you mean with a mere hint. Perhaps the judges’ palates are not yet developed enough? x

  3. Lisa V says:

    Hi Helen – I couldn’t agree with you more. I just got my ego bruised from not even placing in a local library short story contest. Ugh! Some of us write (and read) to escape the soap operas of life. Maybe we should start our own contest…hmmm…soap operas need not apply. By the way, I enjoy your writing.

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