A writing competition changed my life – Eva Holland

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By Eva Holland

‘Imagine winning that,’ I thought when I spotted an article in Good Housekeeping magazine about a writing competition for unpublished novelists. The winner would be offered a publishing deal with Orion. My shelves were full of Orion books and to be published by them was the stuff my dreams were made. I was writing a psychological thriller about the aftermath of a pupil-teacher relationship. I was more excited about the story than I had been about any other project and planned to start seeking an agent as soon as it was finished. ♥

I entered the competition and then I imagined. Mostly I imagined my manuscript getting lost in the post or the judges gently sliding my efforts onto the recycling pile with a sad smile. But of course I also imagined winning. That’s what writers do, isn’t it? We imagine ourselves and our characters into all sorts of situations, some of them far beyond the confines of reality.

Weeks passed and I kept imagining. I kept working on the novel, too. The process of entering the competition had given me a new degree of conviction that this was the story I wanted to tell. I started getting up horribly early to write before work. I was sitting at my desk writing away when the editor of Good Housekeeping rang to tell me I had won. My book was going to be published. All of a sudden I had an agent, an editor and a deadline.

9781409157038Then came the task of finishing the novel. There were months of days spent in my dressing gown hunched over my laptop. There were gallons of coffee and a thousand scribbled Post It notes. There were low points, wobbles in confidence and hours spent writing a single sentence only to delete it again the next day. There were many drafts. There were amazingly and insightful and supportive notes from my editor. There was the day I lost my voice after reading the entire manuscript out loud to myself twice. Most of all, though, there was the thrill of my story taking shape and becoming something that lived not just in my mind but on the page, something that others could read and share.

A year and a half on from reading that article in Good Housekeeping, The Daughter’s Secret is about to be published. Thinking about the thousands of entries writing competitions attract and agents’ towering slush piles, it’s easy to believe that your manuscript will never be the one to be picked up, to be read and loved, to find its way out into the world. But someone’s has to be and it could be yours.

The Good Housekeeping novel competition will run again in 2016. Imagine…

Eva Holland is a thirty-four-year-old freelance copywriter and public relations consultant with a lifelong love of words and stories. She grew up in Gloucestershire and studied in Leeds before moving to London where she lives with her husband. The Daughter’s Secret is her first novel.

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