D is for… Pt 1

D is for …

dodgems, dalliance, dalmations, doggerel, diamonds, debris, dentist, dreadlocks, dunces, dryads, doppelganger, double-decker, drivel, and deadlines. Let’s go with the last one.

Deadlines rule a writer’s life. Whether it’s the date for the final draft of your book to reach the publisher, or an article to be submitted to a magazine editor or your blog posted on a website, work has to be done on time. You cannot keep anyone waiting. You have to fulfil the terms of your commission. If not, there’ll always be someone else eager to fill your shoes – or rather your column inches.

I like deadlines. it’s something to work towards. It keeps you on track, away from frivolous activities such as going to the cinema, having a meal with friends or taking the dog to the vet. Of course, if you organise yourself properly – even if it involves flow charts and spreadsheets and coloured pens to set out your timetable, Time will become your friend. And if you actually submit your work early, you will be given a gold star and more work to keep you busy, if you’re lucky.

And then there are the writing competitions. Something to keep you occupied between jobs. It’s just another aspect of your work and the freedom to write what you want makes it more enjoyable. You are using the same skills and the conditions are the much the same: someone wants to see your work by a certain date, and if they like it, they may publish it and pay you something or give you a little gift. But remember, if a professional writer enters a competition and wins the jackpot – the money is taxable.

The prize money received is treated as a professional receipt as you entered the competitions of your own accord so should be included on your self employed schedule for this source of income. As the prize is taxable then the competition entry fees will be an allowable expense against such income. HMRC

Sorry to rain on your parade.

It’s been a good summer for competitions, plenty of opportunities to show off in a variety of media – short stories, flash fiction, poetry, essays and life-writing, and win prizes. Someone, or a panel of people, is waiting to read your stuff, pass judgment and reject or reward you for your efforts. I take entering competitions  seriously. If I’m paying an entry fee then I need to make it worth my time and effort. If the prizes are particularly good then the stakes are high.

Apart from the usual well-known international short story competitions  –  Bridport, Bath, Bristol and Mslexia which I have frequently entered (but failed even to be shortlisted), I have had a go at some new ones this year. Humour and travel/memoir writing have featured in the ones I have chosen, as well as the quality of the prize. I have entered four competitions – three entries for one of them because I really, really want to win this particular one. I’m not going to mention them in case I jinx them. Two judged – wasted postage; two left  – full of hope. I stay positive. I always think I’m going to win. You just never know what tickles the judges’ fancy. Because it doesn’t win a place, it doesn’t mean that your work is rubbish. I’ve been placed in a few competitions and had stories included in a couple of anthologies of winners but not the Big One. My time will come, I’m sure.

Last year I broke my rule about telling friends and family about what I was hoping to win in a competition. I had already booked my flight to Iceland (in my mind) for the prize of attending a Writers’ Retreat and selected which special notebook to take and which woolly hat to pack. Even discussed what souvenirs to bring back. I’ve been a little more circumspect this time although I have kept all of February 2018 deliberately free. I’ll say no more!

But it is hard work entering competitions. Just making sure you follow the How To Enter and the Rules of Entry stated on the website is bad enough – never mind making sure you have proof read your entry to death. If you make the slightest error in the layout, the word count, putting your name on the entry when it should be anonymous et al, you will be disqualified, and no entry fee returned.

Don’t dawdle, dodge or deviate from the requirements. Don’t leave it till the day before the deadline to send your entry. You’ll regret your haste.

D is for Deliver