Put my Red Planet Prize entry in the post yesterday. Gave it one last read and tweak before consigning it to the Royal Mail and moving on. However I did not kiss the envelope before I sealed it down, unlike some other scribes I could name [witness their freaky lip-smacking superstition here and here]. I'm not knocking superstition, you understand, but kissing envelopes ain't one of mine.
When I was reading every unsolicited submission sent to 2000 AD, the weekly comic was getting a fistful most days. Since some came from the nuttier end of the spectrum, I took a few precautions. Opening unsolicited submissions with a letter opener, not your finger - you never know what's lurking inside. I'm not saying people embedded razor blades in their envelope, but it felt like that if you dragged your fingers across unclamped staples.
If the submitter was kind enough to include a stamped, self-addressed envelope, they got a reply. [If they were obviously talented, they got a reply anyway, but that was one in 50 submissions at best. More like one in 100.] But I never, ever licked the supplied envelope before sticking it down. Who knows where that envelope's been before it got to my desk? You want me to swipe my tongue across that? Not without dinner and movie. Maybe flowers too.
Hmm, seem to have wandered off the point. Oh yes, my RPP entry. Having planned to write a new piece for the competition, I couldn't get happy with either of the efforts I was developing. The Revengers felt too generic, too familiar - lacking the mad spark of originality I wanted. I'm still fond of My Family of De'ath, but that feels like a story in transition, so that's gone back into my subconscious for further percolation. Time make a wine, y;know.
In the end I went back to Families At War, my WWII domestic drama and gave that grud knows how many polishes. Those ten pages gleam. Not perfection but they're as good as I'm gonna get them right now. Let's face it, RPP is such a long shot - 2000 entries last year for one first prize. Twenty people got a Tony Jordan masterclass for their efforts, but even that's still one in 100 odds. If you're realistic, those are some very long odds.
I'm not knocking the RPP. The deadline's a brilliant motivating tool, there's no fee for entering and it persuades people who've never sent their work anywhere to have a go - that's the first step on the long path to a writing career. But having read for the likes of Scottish Screen, TAPS and GMAC, I'm also aware that every entry is just one amongst so many on a reader's desk. Standing out from the crowd ain't easy. Good luck to us all.