It was October 2017 when I sent the email that would change my life. This email was my entry to the Flash 500 Novel Opening and Synopsis competition and attached to it were the opening chapters of my novel. It was an impulse decision, as I don’t usually enter competitions, but there was something about this particular one that sounded tempting: it was open to all genres, there wasn’t a long wait for results and the entry fee was reasonable. I’d be foolish not to enter the psychological thriller which was failing to tempt an agent.
I pressed ‘send’ and then forgot about it, only remembering when I received an email, in December, to say that the short list was up on the website. I was so sure my novel hadn’t made it, that it was the end of the day before I looked. Running my finger down the list, I was surprised and delighted to see that my novel was there. This was starting to get exciting! I loved what I’d written but hadn’t had the confidence to think that someone else might too. Maybe I had a chance after all.
This time, as I waited for the final results, I was nervous. Excited. What if I made the top three? But why would I? There were so many great novels out there, competition was bound to be stiff. Anyway, I’d made the shortlist and should be happy with that.
On the day of the results, it was my grandson’s school Christmas concert. I was late. I was stressed. I remember muttering under my breath as my phone pinged a message while I was trying to find a parking space. I didn’t have time for this! As I ran into the school, I checked the message. It was from a writing friend: Wendy! Have you seen? You’ve won! I hadn’t seen. I hadn’t had time to check the website. Could it really be true? But the concert was starting. I couldn’t take it in properly. My novel had actually won a competition!
The success of my novel in the Flash 500 competition made me reconsider my options. The process of finding an agent had been a slow and demoralising experience but the competition was proof that it wasn’t just my mother who liked my novel. What if I submitted it directly to one of the publishers who took un-agented submissions?
I sat down and made a list of who I could send to and the publisher, Bookouture (who I’d heard good things about) was at the top. With racing heart, I wrote my submission (my Flash 500 win having pride of place in the opening paragraph) and sent the novel off.
When I received an email from one of the editors just a few days later, saying she loved it, I could hardly believe it. I was offered a two-book deal which I accepted and, in May, my novel What She Saw was published.
It’s a dream come true and I have Flash 500 to thank for it. My advice, if you’re not sure whether to enter or not, is do it! You never know… you might just win.
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