Friday, 13 May 2011

The Debut Dagger and Rejection

In February I entered the Crime Writers Association
debut dagger competition. The competition required you to send in the first 3,000 words of your novel and a synopsis.

I had more than 3,000 words already down, so thought, yes, I can do that. I spent an incredible amount of time editing, having not realised what the editing process would be like and practically rewrote every sentence.

I sat and completed pages of character sheets and wrote the synopsis, happy that I knew the people living in it and where they would be going. I knew that after only starting writing in October 2010 it was against the odds that I would come anywhere near obtaining this coveted prize, but you know how you get in your own little writing world. This book is great! I held an inner hope.

Yesterday that hope was crushed as I read on the website that the shortlisted entrants have been notified by post. I haven't received any post. So, it's either got lost (that's a Possibilty right?) or they didn't shortlist me.

I am surprised to hear myself saying this but I'm actually a little hurt. A serious rejection, without a rejection letter. My work wasn't good enough, not polished enough or just a rubbish idea.

I'm in the middle of my work in progress at the minute and I'm already struggling with feelings of uselessness. Feelings that whatever I create is just a great idea and a great plot in my own deluded head and no one in their right mind is ever going to want to take it on and take it out there to eager readers. I've read on blogs that writing the middle section of the novel is the difficult bit but I took that information with a pinch of salt. Now that salt is burning the back of my throat and I can't swallow because I just failed at the debut dagger.

I failed. I'm useless. I have to try and find it within myself to get back on the keyboard and ride it again.

I know this feeling will pass but it's a strange place to be sitting, only halfway through the novel, knowing I have so much work left to do, yet not knowing if my work will ever make it.


  1. You've got to dust yourself off, and get back at it.

    Just keep at it and you'll get there eventually.

    I try and look at it that I enjoy writing, if I get paid for it even better... (Though eventually I would like to get paid for it, because then I have an excuse to write all day and not seek a job once kids have left nest! lol!)

    Try to enjoy writing for just writing... the business aspect of it will come.

  2. I hope that one day soon you'll come back to this blog post and smile. One day soon, when you're successful and without this blog post you'd struggle to remember how it started.

    Yes, it's a strange place to be sitting. The 'risk of the trade' we're all quietly taking when we decide to write. You lick your wounds and jump back into the thick of it.

    Good luck, Rebecca!

  3. Sorry you didn't get picked but at least you tried. I wouldn't expect you to be fine w/ not getting picked. I'd want to cry to, hell, I probably wouldn't write for a few days while I pouted.
    Keep your chin up.

  4. I'm so sorry you didn't get shortlisted and you have every right not to be okay with it, you're only human after all!

    The main thing is that you believe in your work, and that you keep writing. I echo Astrid in the hope that one day this post will make you smile.

    Sending you a hug :)

  5. The most important thing you have to remember is that it's not that your work's no good, it's that, at the moment, it's not *as* good as some others that entered the competition.

    You know, as an author, that you have to be able to work through rejections (says she who hasn't even got that far yet!). Keep going with it.

    So do that, keep going, and keep reading and keep improving.

    Hugs x

  6. I entered the Debut Dagger too and, like you, haven't been shortlisted. Yes, it's gutting, but I bet that if you looked over your entry now you might be less than happy with it anyway. By that, I mean in the months that have passed since entering it, you've probably honed your writing some more, worked on your plot and your characterisation. Which is my long-winded way of saying it's the book you're writing NOW that's important, not the competition. Yes, winning would have been great, but think of all those successful crime writers who didn't need to win to get a leg up into the industry. Aim to be one of them instead - that's what I intend to do! Good luck, and keep going!

  7. Teresa - I do enjoy the writing (well most of the time!) I'm sure a couple of days will see sulk over and back to tapping away on the keyboard. Thanks Teresa.

    Astrid - That's the great thing about blogging isn't it. We record how we feel on the journey and it's there, a permanent reminder, something to look back on. Yes, I hope one day I can look back on this post and smile that I didn't need the debut dagger to get my work out there.

    Patricia - Thank you. I knew I wouldn't get shortlisted but that hidden hope is still there when you submit isn't it. It will be a forgotten memory in another day or two.

    Sarah - Thank you. I do enjoy writing the story, bringing it to life and yes, I hope to look back on this post and smile :)

    Claire - I know there will have been a lot of talent within the entries. I will move past this. It's one rejection. There are many more in my future, but first I have to write it :)

    Anonymous - You're right, it will be redrafted with the rest of it when I've got to the end of the first draft. It's just when you submit you can't help but have that tiny bit of hope, otherwise there would be no point in entering. I don't need this, it's not the only way to get published (and it doesn't promise that anyway) it was just a great opportunity. I will keep going :)

  8. Oh dear Rebecca. Welcome to the "I Suck" club! So happy to have you here with us... where our egos run rampant and convince us that we are worthless, our ideas are terrible and no one will EVER buy our books anyway so why bother?

    HUGE HUGS and positive energy. Take your time. Process it and let it go. But don't for a second undervalue it. It's important to feel that sting. The victories later will be all the sweeter for it.

  9. I know saying it's all part of the process doesn't take the sting away, but rejection is an integral part of becoming published (for most writers). You're now part of the club!

    Learning from it, and moving on with greater determination will only make you a better writer.

    Persevere, Rebecca.


  10. Rejections are never a happy moment. I always throw a big pity party for myself, wallow in it, then take a deep breath and move on.

    Keep going!

  11. I’m sorry you didn’t get selected. But it shouldn’t be a reason to think “I’m failed” or “I’m useless”. It’s not the end of the world. You are a writer and writers should inspire others. Try to start with a new spirit and one day you could be among the debut dagger panel of judges. Good luck.

  12. Patti - Thank you. I'm just about picking myself up from this now. I certainly won't get published if I don't keep trying will I. At least I'm a member of a great club! :)

    Eden - I think our work can only get better if we are faced with questioning it can't it? Thank you for your kind comment.

    Talli - Boy did I throw myself one great pity party! I'm just recovering from it now and have since picked my laptop back up. Onwards and hopefully upwards :)

    Kriverston - Now that would be good, to be on the panel! I love the internet for how it does allow writers to connect and talk to each other about these things. Writing is a lonely singular process, but sharing it certainly does help.

  13. That sucks, I'm sorry that they didn't let you know. Maybe your masterpiece did get lost on the way to them - it probably happens to somebody.

    On the other hand, I'm glad to hear that your recovery has started already!

  14. It's something that goes along with being a writer. The judges' decision is always a subjective one, although it's tough not getting through. Being told that doesn't make it any easier, though...
    Good luck with your novel ;-)

  15. Kelworthfiles - I hope it didn't get lost. I think I'm happier to know it got there, but didn't cut the grade (this year) I'm definitely typing again :)

    Cathbore - Thank you. I'm back on task now and though I may doubt myself I know that this first draft is just a skeleton, a long idea. After that is done I have to mold it into life. This was just adip in the road. :)

  16. They can't possibly let all those who don't make the short list know, unfortunately - too many! But it's not a rejection in one way,simply not winning a competition.

    And it sounds as though you unpicked your novel to the nth degree. You didn't lose its freshness, did you?

    The story of the book: A Beginning, A Muddle, An End. We're all the same, pubbed or unpubbed. And we still worry when we send that book out.

    It can't be easy to find time to write, let alone re-write, when you have so much else to deal with. Thinking of you.

  17. Thank you Lesley.

    That's a good point about whether I picked it to death. I may well have done. It's a whole new learning process for me and one I'm loving to be honest. The muddle is a great description!

  18. I just discovered today that advance letters were sent out! Boo! I was waiting until the last minute.

    I wouldn't worry about the whole thing. Chances of being shortlisted are around 1%-2%. Most entries will probably be good to very good. It must be a difficult job judging the thing, and throw into that the preferences of the judges as well. It's like drawing up a list of top 10 favourite crime books...everyone would be different (mine would have no Ian Rankin and a bias towards historical and noir).

    I'm assuming now that my one hasn't got through, as I have no letter to my knowledge. Still, my own effort is 75,000 words long, the synopsis and first chapter were looked at by a literary consultant prior to Debut Dagger, and it's been reviewed piecemeal by a writing group, with enthusiastic feedback as well as constructive criticism. So, I know it's good enough to be published, and I bet yours is too. So, curse silently under your breath, and get submitting to publishers. Need to build a profile for it as well, and this blog looks like a good start. As a final thought, an agent told me that writing success depends on luck, talent and persistence....any two of these will do. Perhaps luck has not been with you this time, and persistence will pay off.

  19. List is here:

    Looks like lit-fic is the order of the day. The plus of that is that literary writers usually need a leg-up in the commercial world. My effort certainly isn't literary!!!

  20. Thanks for the link Blackdogstories. It does look rather literary. I am more commercial. I have come to realise that just because I didn't make the shortlist on the Debut Dagger, does not mean I'm hopeless. It was one competition. I'm sorry you weren't shortlisted but love that you know you can do this. Wishing lots of luck!