In terms of catching you up as to where I’m at currently, something else I did at the beginning of the summer was to write the script for the first episode of a CBBC-style series. As you may remember, last year I did a short online course on “Writing Drama” with Oxford Uni and this idea was my assignment for that. The BAFTA/Rocliffe Children’s Writing comp was coming round again (I hadn’t had time to prepare for it last year) and so I wrote the script, polished it with a little help from some friends and sent it off.
I blogged earlier this year about my changed attitude to competitions – how I’d always avoided them, but had decided to embrace them instead. Well, I’d now like to tell you that I’ve gone back towards my previous opinion on competitions. While there can be benefits to them – especially if you read posts/articles written by their winners! – for most people they’re a waste of time!!
There may be a bit of bitter and twistedness in there, for sure 🙂 But there’s also a good amount of open-eyed realism. I didn’t get anywhere with the Mumsnet/Janklow and Nesbit competition, which was a relief as it turned into a bit of a debacle. The winner wasn’t even a Mum (and lots of people went up in arms that she shouldn’t therefore be on Mumsnet or eligible for the comp) and it was obvious that J&N went for a book that they felt best fitted into the current market and their business plan. Nothing wrong with that as such, they are a business after all, but it’s demoralising to others who didn’t win and therefore assume that their book is no good (which may be far from the truth).
At least with competitions, you usually get the results pretty quickly. For BAFTA/Rocliffe, I heard within a few weeks that I hadn’t been shortlisted, which was naturally a bit of an ego bash, but was okay too as it clarified that I should keep focusing on my YA WIP. Then last week I had another email from them with details about the 3 winners, all of who had previous screenwriting credits and one of whom teaches a Screenwriting MA. Eh? I thought the competition was to discover new raw writing talent? Hey ho…
Nevertheless, as the CBBC-style script is complete, I’m about to submit it to the BBC Writers’ Room’s open Drama Window. Given that I wrote it with CBBC in mind – and only 2 of the 9 synopses I saw from BAFTA looked like they could work for CBBC – it’s probably a better forum for it to be considered in. I don’t expect anything to come of it, which is okay as I'll then think again about novelising it at some point. While I can totally see how it would work as a TV series, it would also make a wonderful middle grade (8-12 year-olds) book!
Competitions are horribly similar to interviews – it’s not always about how good your book is, or how right you’d be for a job, but about how well you sell yourself on the application. So many great books or perfect candidates can be overlooked in those processes.
Despite my caution and cynicism about competitions I am also considering entering my WIP into the Bath Children’s Novel Award. I probably will – you do have to be in it to win it, it’s true – but at the same time I just don’t think my WIP is the sort of book that wins prizes. That’s not to suggest it isn’t well written – I’ve done my best! – but as I realised very quickly when doing my English Literature and Language degree, there’s a big difference between books that are critically acclaimed and those that are commercially popular and successful. I think I’m capable of writing the former – and perhaps I might one day – but the story I want to tell (hopefully!) fits more into the latter category. Those books don’t generally win prizes, at least not until after they’re already successful.
Ah well, what do I know anyway? I’m just an unpublished wannabee! All I can do is write to the best of my ability. Success – either in competition results or in readers’ hearts – is beyond my control, but I’ll give it my best shot! Watch this space, but don’t hold your breath 😉