Hello and welcome back.  This week I am lucky to have Writers' Forum competition winner Susi Dillon blogging about her determination to succeed.  Read her WoW below. (C'mon - catch up! - Words of Wisdom!  And I don't mean Norman.)
Over to you Susi…

I first started writing almost fifteen years ago. I’d been reading some pretty rubbishy books, so I thought how hard can it be? I signed up for a correspondence course advertised in many of the upmarket newspapers and magazines. A couple of weeks later by snail mail (no internet then!), my course material arrived. I bought a new spiral notebook and fresh pencils and I was ready to write my novel.

Well, wrong, I didn’t have a clue. I lost confidence pretty quickly because it was difficult and after a month, maybe two, gave up and put all the material away. I didn’t look at it again until just a few years ago and I was surprised to see that my half–baked novel wasn’t bad. 

I was lucky enough in the summer of 2011 to discover that my local library hosts a writing group the third Saturday of every month. Joining was one of the best things I’ve ever done. The group has published as well as unpublished writers. They were very friendly and very kind about my first attempts at short stories, which I have to admit were pretty terrible.

Then I took the bull by the horns and decided to attend a week’s residential course in Oxford in March 2012. I couldn’t escape - no TV, no radio, no Wi-Fi (but a very nice little pub down the end of the lane. Ahem!!). Assignments were delivered each morning to be read out in class and critiqued. This is where I met your lovely blogger, Jacci. She had the room directly above mine and we’d meet in the hall for a chinwag from time to time (Ahhh, Luigi!). The course for me worked. For some people it didn’t. I took away confirmation that I could write if I put my mind to it. 

The next two years I worked very hard on learning how to spell and punctuate again. I also read anything I could get my hands on and ripped stories/novels apart looking at plot and characterization etc – those that worked and why and those that didn’t work and why. 

I wrote many short stories too, but I only had a few I felt were worth submitting to competitions. The first one went as far as Highly Commended (I thought I was the bees knees then). The next two crashed and burned, as well as two flash fiction contests I entered.  The fourth story went to Highly Commended again. Then I spent the next three months writing my eventual winner of a story. I got so tired of it I could have thrown it out the window, but I kept at it. I have two very good buddies in my writing group who were happy to critique my efforts. After about the fifteenth draft, I called a halt. You have to know when enough is enough and leave your story alone. Too much fiddling can make it stale and contrived. I submitted the story and two months later I got an e-mail telling me I’d won. I was walking on air for days.  At the moment I have two other stories out in the market place and I am doing research for a novel about India, plus I work part-time. Your writing will only improve with effort and if you put yourself out there. Yes, it hurts when you get a rejection, so put the story/novel away for a bit and then go back to it. You’ll be able to see your mistakes. Find someone you trust to read your manuscripts and ask them to be honest. Don’t lose heart or your enthusiasm for writing. I look back on things I wrote a year ago and shake my head and think how far I’ve come (and how far I still have to go!).

Hang in there. Keep working at your craft and I wish you the best of luck, fellow writer.

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