In part one of this series of posts reviewing my writing life in 2021, I talked about how my major goal for the year was to get a piece of fiction published.
A secondary goal was to get paid for a piece of fiction if possible.
You may be reading this and thinking surely writers should be paid for every piece they publish, but this isn’t always the case.
After “Mirror Mirror” made it into print, I went on something of a roll.
I also had longer short stories published in “Legends of Night” and the upcoming New Tales of Old Vol. 2, again published by Black Ink Fiction.
Compensation for each of these was a gratefully received complimentary copy of the eBook for each title.
But I still had that goal of receiving a cash payment for my work, and with that in mind I kept entering short story contests and paid market calls in the hope of success.
When it came, it came in the place I felt to be the least likely of all.
Short story competitions are super competitive.
Whereas in an anthology submission call your pitching for a varying number of vacant slots, for competitions it’s normally only the top story that gets published (although the 2nd and 3rd placed entries may win a cash prize).
I’d been submitting to the Writers’ Forum monthly competition for many years (in fact, an early version of Mirror Mirror was entered in the competition back in 2006) and hadn’t been successful.
Then, at the start of the year, I entered a new story into the competition, the first one I’d entered for a while.
And it was a stunning surprise when I got editorial feedback saying it was a possible finalist with a bit of polishing.
So polish I did, and I resubmitted with bated breath, but the deadline passed and I heard nothing, so I wrote it off as another near miss.
In the meantime, I began work on another story called “Hope in the Dark.”
“Hope…” was a very different story for me.
I took elements from real life that were happening around me or to people I knew, and wove into that a story built around the enemies to lovers trope.
The result was a story with what I felt were some nice original characters twists, but also one that touched on a real world issue, namely how we care for relatives with diseases such as dementia and Motor Neuron Disease.
I polished it as best I could, crossed my fingers and submitted to Writers’ Forum again.
And once again the editorial comments said possible finalist once polished.
Needing help, but unable to afford an editor to look over my work, I turned to the next best thing; Grammarly.
After another round of Grammarly-assisted edits, I hit send and crossed my fingers. And this time… I hit gold.
A day or so before the deadline I got an email advising me that “Hope…” had been shortlisted and I would hear more shortly.
Cue a wait of what was really just a few weeks, but felt like a lifetime.
I was hopeful at this point. I felt the story was good, and I had my fingers crossed that it would scrape in to third place.
But time went on and I heard nothing. I started to doubt whether it was any good at all.
Then, on a cold and wet Tuesday in summer, I got confirmation.
“Hope in the Dark” had won first place.
I had to read the email two or three times to digest it, and it took me another couple of hours to finally believe it.
After years of trying, finally… finally one of my stories had won a competition in Writers’ Forum.
“Hope in the Dark” was published in the November issue of Writers’ Forum and a few weeks later I received a cheque for the prize money, along with a complimentary copy of the magazine.
For the first time I’d been paid for my writing, and with that cheque I achieved the second of my goals.
And then a strange thing happened.
Between the publication of the story and the arrival of the cheque, I got hit by a bolt from the blue that would change my writing life forever… (to be continued).