donderdag 13 februari 2014

Highway's End

Last year, I entered the Paul Harland Prijs, the largest/ most famous Dutch fantasy/SF/horror writing competition. To be honest I hadn't planned on entering at all; I felt like I didn't have a good enough story and I wasn't even sure if I was good enough as a writer to stand a chance. It was sort of unfortunate that an idea popped into my head 1,5 week before the deadline that just wouldn't leave me alone, so with one week to go I decided to go ahead and write it down.
What followed was a crazy week that existed of writing, editing, writing, more editing, bothering people to proofread and more editing. Needless to say I was exhausted after a week and I had gained new respect for my boyfriend's patience and understanding as I probably wasn't the most fun person to be around (granted, I don't think my being stuck to the computer can be considered 'around'). But in a week I had my story and I sent it in. I had -no-idea what to expect. As I only had a week I had no time to take some distance from the story or to take the time to digest the feedback from my proofreaders. It had also turned out to be completely different from anything I'd written before; a male protagonist and a horror story.

The Paul Harland Day was this weekend (roughly 6 months later). It was an amazing day with a magical realism workshop, great speeches and a really interesting panel with publishers (which was even more interesting for me as my academical background and my hobby really came together there). I had a great time, much more so than I had expected as I'm generally not a big fan of big events with loads of people I don't know. Thankfully I went with a friend, which helped a lot, and I met some really nice people! My big goal for next year is to talk to more people (gulp). 
The result of the competition was announced at the end of the day. Of course I didn't win or even make it to the finals, but that didn't surprise me. I have learned a lot about writing the past couple months thanks to a writing course with Tais Teng and I knew my story didn't have the proper editing, as I simply didn't have enough time. I was very surprised to learn that my story had made it to the top 25%, though! I was 45th out of 206 stories! That place made me really happy and it was a lot more than I had expected, so I was really excited. It also gave me a lot of confidence that I might be able to make it to the finals, one day, especially with all the things I've learned.
I recieved the feedback from the jury yesterday. It was all positive:

'Goed verhaal. Je stijl is prettig. Je hoofdpersoon heb je een eigen stem gegeven en je wisselt op een vlotte manier af tussen dialogen, gedachten, beschrijvingen en verhalende tekst. Dit geeft het geheel vaart. Het is gemakkelijk om met de hoofdpersoon mee te leven en op te gaan in de spanning van het verhaal.
Het eind is verrassend. Je hebt er echt naar toe gewerkt; de spanningsboog staat strak en komt tot een origineel hoogtepunt. Heel goed gedaan.'

and

'I liked the opening of this story. You presented the reader with an interesting scenario—a tree at the end of a highway which makes the reader want to know why. I also found the voice to be quite engaging '

I'm really happy with their comments, especially because they touched upon some parts which I wasn't sure about. Unfortunately they didn't give me any points on which I could still improve the story, which I would have liked, but I'm going to focus on the things they said were good about the story and try to use those to further improve my next stories.

For those of you who are curious about the story, you can download it here. The story is in .epub file and you should be able to read it on most e-readers, tablets or just your pc (install adobe digital editions for free if you don't have the proper program). Yes, the story is in Dutch. I might translate it to English one day, who knows.

As for further projects... I'm still waiting for the results of another contest and I will most definately join the PHP this year again, together with the Fantasy Strijd Brugge! I'm also still working hard on the ebook I'm going to publish with Tais Teng and Simone Ooms, which should be available in March. I'm also currently editing The resurrection of the Guardians, so expect the ebook version of that somewhere this spring. Loads of exciting projects!

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