5 reasons to apply for the New Writers Awards
Sending your work out to be judged is tough, there’s no doubt. And as a consequence, the procrastination elves (which live inside most writers’ brains) tend to kick into all-singing, all-dancing, all-must-walk-the-dog-clean-cook-do-day-job-(or-twitter) mode whenever a deadline rears. If you’re anything like me, it will feel like there are a million excuses to stop you putting yourself out into the unknown and waiting to see what happens.
But being part of the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award programme is too good a chance to let pass you by. If you need some motivation to help you banish those procrasta-pixies and get you filling in your form, here are my top five reasons to apply.
1. It's not just an award
You may think this doesn’t need to be spelled out. You probably already know about the bursary, about being mentored by writers whose work you love, about spending a week gazing at friendly Highland cattle and drawing inspiration from the lush settings of Cove Park. You know how great it will look on your writing CV, and how fabulous the validation will feel. But perhaps you don’t know about the support that Scottish Book Trust offers to its New Writer Awardees throughout their careers, from getting you started with social media and PR, to offering seminars that help you figure out what kind of publishing route you want to pursue, to giving you the chance to read your work at local book festivals. Really there is no greater organisation to have backing your development as a writer.
But if that’s not enough of a reason to apply, then perhaps consider…
2. The motivation to finish your piece and finish it well
There is nothing quite like a deadline to bring out the best in your work.
Whether it’s a full novel, the opening chapters of a memoir, or a short you have been meticulously crafting for months, there is nothing quite like a deadline to bring out the best in your work. The satisfaction of knowing you’ve pushed yourself to the peak of your abilities will reap its own rewards in time, no matter the outcome of your New Writers application. An example: I spent weeks working on a story to enter into last year’s Bloody Scotland competition, and believe me when I say that was the one competition of the year I really, REALLY wanted to make the shortlist for. I didn’t. But a month later I sold the story to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in my first ever professional story sale. I have no doubt that if the competition-carrot hadn’t been quite so tempting, I wouldn’t have written the story half as carefully.
However, there is another moral to be learned from that anecdote which is, at some point you have to:
3. Face your fears
On the day I accepted the offer of a publishing deal for my first novel, I had a short story turned down by a magazine. It was a journal I liked so I was a bit downhearted. But little did I know that was to be the start of a couple of months of short-story ‘no’s that continued to pour in at about two a week while I was doing my novel edits. The point is, no writer gets everything they want and the dreaded ‘not-this-time’s can strike at any moment. And it isn’t really that scary. What’s scary is the fear of disappointment. Once you consider the idea that we’re all in the same boat, all facing that dreaded ‘not yet’, you’re one massive step closer to treating yourself like a professional writer. So take a deep breath and give it your best shot. There’s always next year, and unlike most competitions, it’s free to apply and there’s no cap on the number of times you can do so.
On the other hand…
4. You might be successful
Even if it doesn’t work out this time, you will still have gained one very important bit of experience
Someone has to, and if you have knuckled down to your most careful work, and followed Scottish Book Trust’s style guidelines (and not sent your 3000-word story in Wingdings font nor Portuguese) it might just be you!
And at the end of the day, even if it doesn’t work out this time, you will still have gained one very important bit of experience:
5. The application process
With writers’ earnings at ‘abject levels’ according to The Guardian, residencies, fellowships, bursaries and awards have become an essential part of a career for many writers. Getting early practice at filling in applications helps you to focus the direction of the writing path you want to take, and provides you with experience in articulating what you want to achieve in your next writing steps. If you’re not lucky enough to receive a New Writers Award this time round, you can always apply again next year. And putting down in words what you want to achieve is a sure-fire way of setting you on the right path to getting there.
Find out more about the New Writers Awards here.