Why Awards Matter to Debut Writers

On a morning in July, one of my writer friends texted to say congratulations and shortly after my honey had to inform our neighbors here in San Miguel that the screaming from our rooftop (where I was eating breakfast) was not the murder of an American expat, but squeals of writerly delight. 

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I'm beyond proud to have been announced (completely to my surprise) as a finalist for the Rising Star Award by Women's Fiction Writer's Association and two weeks later as a finalist in the Colorado Gold Novel Contest.

Both of these are competitions for new (unpublished) writers that are judged by published writers. The Rising Star Award is part of a set of activities run by Women Fiction Writer's Association (WFWA), a supportive, amazing, talented community of writers to which I am beyond proud to belong and the Colorado Gold contest is sponsored by Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Association.

For my non-writer followers I know you're thinking something along the lines of That's cool for you Lainey, but what's the big deal with an award that writers give to other writers?

So let me try and explain why these things matter, and why we almost had to call La Policia to calm me down and get me off our rooftop Terraza. You see, writing is a hard and solitary activity. It's just you and your computer staring at each other for six to eight hours a day (on a good writing day), which is manageable for a few weeks, but writing a book takes years of your life (yes, years I'm not joking). During which time you start asking that computer screen questions such as:

Is this total crap?

Am I wasting my time here?

Will anyone ever read this book and think they didn't waste six hours of their time reading it? (yes that is the average time to read a 100,000 word book, that took at least a year or two to write, edit and perfect).

Not buying it? I can assure you my writer friends are nodding their heads right now. So how do you keep yourself going?  You find your tribe. A set of people who will be honest with you, but supportive and on your side. A group of people who will never say seriously you gave up a good day job to do this? What do you want, to work in Starbucks the rest of your life?  And will give you feedback that is not Wow that was not interesting at all, but instead You had me until page three, but I don't understand your character's motivation when they entered the cheese maze? 

This is why validation from awards matters. They don't actually say your book is amazing. They don't even say, for sure, that your book will find a publisher or even an agent (the first step in that route).  What they tell you is that a jury of your peers think you aren't wasting your (or your reader's) time.

Believe me, after a year and a half of talking to a piece of polarized glass and liquid crystal, getting a message from a group of published authors that your stuff is worth their time matters enough to make you scream from the rooftop (literally).