As I write this, the deadlines for the Salt Short Story, Poetry and Flash Fiction Prizes, the Scott Prize for an original collection, and the Crashaw Prize for an original poetry collection are fast approaching. All the competitions are part of Salt’s dedication to discovering new writing and emerging authors. The details of all the prizes can be via the links above. Just be sure to get your entries in before Halloween.

I myself have entered a short story, a piece or two of flash and, in what may well prove to be an act of over confidence, a collection of my short fiction for the Scott Prize. When I started readying my entry I was so focused on what I thought would fit the thematic overview of my idea for the collection that I didn’t truly understand until very late in the process the real outcome of sifting through four or five years of work for the best writing I managed to squeeze out of myself during that time. I didn’t realise that, as the filtering process went on, that I would become more and more severe in my appraisal of my writing, jettisoning personal favourites of mine, stories that I loved for one reason or another, simply because they just weren’t up to snuff.

After a good few weeks of sifting I ended up with a manuscript:

Hopefully what is in these pages is the very best of my short fiction distilled into 160 pages or so. I am eternally grateful to Jodi Cleghorn, whose close reading and comments on a good number of the stories contained within helped them avoid disaster as I redrafted, and to Sara Crowley, who gave freely of her time to read the collection-in-progress as a whole and commented freely and with a clear eye.

Now, having gone through this process I feel I have reached the end of something. In fact, after completing the final checks on the manuscript and emailing it off this morning, I felt it necessary to do one more thing. Necessary to go into my writing folders and archive all my short fiction completed thus far into one file dated 2008-2012. In it now sit all the drafts and all the final versions of my short fiction, tucked away in a quiet corner of my writing folder. That chapter of my writing life is now closed and I have clean, empty WIP, Short Fiction and Flash Fiction folders in which to work up new ideas.

Even if this collection fails to win a spot on the shortlist, if it never sees the light of day, this has been a worthwhile and necessary step on my writing path. A clearing of the way, allowing me to stop tinkering with the stories of the last few years and move on to newer projects. That was the real outcome of this process. So I pack my little manuscript off to go fend for itself, I already have an idea for a second collection focused around one key idea and a list of half-dozen or so story ideas I plan to begin to fill it with. Then of course there is the half-done novel that will be getting some much needed TLC after the half-term break.

It feels like the end of something, certainly. But more than that, it feels like the start of a new period in my writing life. Roll on the next bit.