My entry for the Mslexia competition has been sent off. The acknowledgement SAE hasn't arrived yet, which gives my brain the perfect opportunity to go: 'But what if it got lost? What if it never gets there?' I trying tell my brain to be patient but experience has taught me that getting my brain to shut up is about as easy as squeezing blood out of a stone.
Entering this competition made me think about my work from a reader's point of view. Not for the first time, obviously, but in imagining the Mslexia judges reading my work, it all feels a bit more real than it ever had before.
And it got me to thinking about how I read books, which is certainly different to how I did ten - or even just five - years ago.
Take those ones I read over the summer. Some books were better than others, naturally, and a couple of them annoyed the heck out of me, but for reasons that I'm not sure would have bothered me if I didn't write as much as I do.
The best of the books I enjoyed were the ones where I got so lost in the story that I forgot I was reading. I could just sit there, compulsively turning the pages, unable to concentrate on anything else. There was at least one which I stormed through in less than forty-eight hours, simply because I couldn't not read it.
Others... well, one in particular comes to mind. I shan't name names, simply because I wouldn't want - however incredibly slim that chance is - for the author to read it, but it did irritate me. The plot was painfully slow moving, and the characterisation - a bit ropey from the start - became so increasingly ridiculous that it was a mammoth struggle to even finish the damn thing.
But judging by the amazon reviews for this book, I am by far in the minority in my views. Am I just wrong (entirely possible) or am I so used to reading stories in an editing frame of mind that the smallest mistake leaps out of the page?
It's so difficult to just read as a reader now, I think, because I've learnt to 'read as a writer' and can no longer switch that skill off. Inconsistencies in plot, an odd clumsy phrase, a repetition of a word three times in a paragraph - it all snatches me out of the narrative in a way it never did before.
Sometimes I miss being able to get easily lost in a story and miss the little bumps along the way. But I suppose this skill is a valuable one, and will lead me to books which are truly excellent. In my opinion, obviously. One man's trash is another man's gold, or something along those lines.
I just hope that one day, my writing will be someone's gold.