This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
I’d entered three chapters and a synopsis of the book to the Sunday Mail Fiction Competition just a day or two after I’d got back from two weeks in Spain. I’d gone away specifically to knit together three years of work on The Bally Novel (as it was affectionately known at the time) into something resembling a full draft. I’d entered the competition a day or two after I got back to ‘keep it real’ and to justify the time away, not because I had any real expectation of getting anywhere with it. I thought the draft was nowhere near polished enough to make much sense to anyone except me but because a publisher was going to read every entry perhaps, just perhaps, I’d be lucky enough to be offered the opportunity to resubmit when it was finally ready. Just to be shortlisted made me feel like a winner; perhaps I was closer to finishing than I’d thought.
I worked all through that night getting the manuscript into readable shape. Other than the first three, there were no chapter breaks. The manuscript was littered with notes to self to check this and that, to add in more description or take it out, to reorder scenes, even to consider changing the time frame and one of the locations. But suddenly, after years of writing, rewriting and tinkering (also known as procrastination), there was no time to do any of it. I deleted all those notes and footnotes one by one, which may sound meticulous and thorough of me but it wasn’t; I was too tired to remember there was a ‘delete all’ option.
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Off it went. I waited. I pretended to forget about it but of course I didn’t.
Thank you very much for sending us the full manuscript of ‘Ursula’s Secret’. After careful consideration of all the entries…
Ah well, never mind, I thought, and clicked.
I'm pleased to tell you that ‘Ursula’s Secret’ has been chosen as the winner of the Sunday Mail Fiction Competition.
I stopped reading, went back to Dear Mairi and started again. My heart thudded and there was a buzzing in my head. I knocked my chair over as I backed away from the computer as if it were flashing some about-to-destruct warning. I made for the kitchen, regrouped, then crept back to the screen. It was still there. It still said the same thing. I didn’t sleep much that night and got up several times to check I hadn’t imagined it.
I resolved to tell no one until I’d signed the contract. Just in case. But at work the next day someone who knew I’d entered the competition asked me if I’d heard anything and finally I said the words out loud. My novel was going to be published. Sharing it made it real, although the champagne she ran out and bought certainly helped.
Things moved very quickly after that. The contract, the edits, the proofs, cover design and blurbs, promotional materials and so on – the experience has been amazing, as have the team at Black and White Publishing. To work with people who believe in the book and who want to help make it the best it could be is just brilliant.
Ursula’s Secret launches on November 4th at Waterstones, Princes Street in Edinburgh. I’ll always be so grateful to the competition judges for selecting my manuscript as their winner but now I’m holding my breath all over again to see if it’s a winner with the people who really count: the readers. Here’s hoping.
Ursula's Secret by Mairi Wilson is out now.