Nikki Logan: Women’s Prize Discoveries Competition Shortlistee – Jericho Writers
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Nikki Logan: Women’s Prize Discoveries Competition Shortlistee

Nikki Logan: Women’s Prize Discoveries Competition Shortlistee

There are so many opportunities out there to get your work discovered – and creative writing competitions, in particular, are a brilliant way to hold yourself accountable. Jericho Writers member Nikki Logan is a great example of taking a chance that greatly pays off.

With her very first creative writing venture having made it to the Women’s Prize Discoveries Competition shortlist, we know she’s on her way to big things. We caught up with her about how things have been since the competition, and what she found useful along the way.

JW: Hi Nikki! So, tell us a little about your background as a writer. When did you start writing?

I’ve been a copywriter since 2009 and had articles published in regional magazines, newspapers and trade publications, but I didn’t start trying my hand at creative writing until about five years ago when I decided to write a novel inspired by my Grandad’s life story. Even though I was a writer, it was at that point I realised just how different copywriting is to creative writing and I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing.

During the first lockdown in 2020, I was furloughed and took the opportunity to hone my skills in storytelling. I had a four-year-old to entertain in and around the house and was pregnant with my second child at the time, so I started with a free and flexible eight-week course online, Start Writing Fiction, through The Open University. It gave me a first look at some of the techniques and skills needed to write fiction – but I knew I had so much more to learn.

I researched online creative writing resources and came across Jericho Writers. Due to lockdown, they were hosting their Festival of Writing online from June until September for the first time, so I signed up. I learnt so much and there was a real sense of community, so I joined the Summer Festival in the following year, too, and then became a member. The Summer Festivals have helped me transform my creative writing, so much so that I’ve been able to make the opening of my novel strong enough to stand out from over 2,500 entries!

The Summer Festival of Writing logo

JW: You were recently shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction’s Discoveries Competition – for your first creative writing project, no less! What was the process there? Did you know you would be entering the prize before you had finished your work?

This is the second year the competition has taken place. I was aware of it last year, but wasn’t in a position to submit, so I made a note of this year’s deadline and worked towards it, more for accountability than anything else. The Discoveries competition is quite rare as it’s for unpublished women writers who are not required to have finished their novels. And it’s free!

To enter you only need to have written 10,000 words of your opening, which you submit with a synopsis. I knew this was an achievable goal to help me progress my novel and actually wrote quite a bit more before the deadline. If I’m honest, I didn’t expect to get anywhere with it, knowing it was such a big competition and this was my first creative writing project that I’d not let anyone else cast their eyes on! I had no idea if what I’d submitted was any good.

It’s also a development programme, not just a competition. Practical support is offered as part of the prize for longlisted and shortlisted entrants, which will be a brilliant help.

The Summer Festivals have helped me transform my creative writing, so much so that I’ve been able to make the opening of my novel strong enough to stand out from over 2,500 entries!

JW: How have things been since being shortlisted?

It’s been such an incredible experience already. I was shocked when I found out I was on the longlist of 16 out of over 2500 entries. Then a couple of weeks later I was shortlisted down to six, and was named the Discoveries Scholar at the end of the competition.

Since then, I’ve attended the hugely celebrated Women’s Prize for Fiction event held at Bedford Square Gardens, London, in June. This was amazing. I joined them for an evening of readings by the six shortlisted authors and then the next day for the ceremony, when Ruth Ozeki was announced the winner with her novel The Book of Form and Emptiness and gave the most inspiring and touching speech. I was also lucky enough to join an intimate in-person workshop with the wonderful Kate Mosse and JoJo Moyes, who imparted their wisdom on translating novels for screen and theatre.

If I’m honest, I didn’t expect to get anywhere with it, knowing it was such a big competition and this was my first creative writing project that I’d not let anyone else cast their eyes on! I had no idea if what I’d submitted was any good.

As a longlistee, I have just completed a brilliant two-week online Discoveries Writing Development Course held by Curtis Brown Creative (sponsors of the competition). I received such encouraging feedback and guidance from our tutor, author Charlotte Mendelson, as well as the other longlistees, who are an incredible group of talented writers and have already become such a friendly and supportive network to turn to.

As a shortlistee, I have been invited to attend studio sessions with Audible (another sponsor of the competition). And as the Discoveries Scholar, I have been awarded a place on a three-month Curtis Brown Creative course to help me complete my novel, which I am so excited about!

It’s all felt quite surreal. Since being shortlisted, I’ve even had literary agents approach me requesting my manuscript!

JW: What kinds of resources shaped your writing to be what it is now?

I’ve signed up to various webinars and listened to podcasts with authors – I love The Honest Authors’ Podcast by Gillian McAllister and Holly Seddon. I’ve also carried out years of research on the topic and themes of my novel. It’s surprising how much my research has shaped my writing, even down to the much smaller storylines. It’s helped me add depth by really being able to “show” scenes, rather than “tell” so readers hopefully feel transported into the story. I do try not to refer back to research before I write a scene, though, as I have enough understanding and it helps the story come across more naturally.

It’s all felt quite surreal. Since being shortlisted, I’ve even had literary agents approach me requesting my manuscript!

Jericho Writers’ Summer Festival of Writing has been the greatest resource I have relied on. I still refer back to my notes on webinars like Debi Alpers’s expertise on voice and psychic distance and Rebecca Horsfall’s session on ‘Show, Don’t Tell’. I also enjoyed hearing tips from authors like Julie Cohen on plotting, Philippa East on getting a publishing deal, and Cesca Major, whose scene outline template I use religiously! It was exciting to join webinars with literary agents too, like Laura Williams, Liv Maidment and Juliet Mushens, who really helped demystify the steps to getting a novel published.

Enter as many competitions as you can. If you succeed, they can be a great platform for exposure and endorsement and, if nothing else, they give you a deadline to progress your novel. What have you got to lose?

JW: Do you have any advice for writers in the middle of their early projects?

As someone who is still in the middle of an early project, I understand how isolating writing can be, especially when you’re putting in so many hours without knowing if what you’re producing is any good or not. I would definitely recommended joining writing groups and communities or even just finding one person in a similar position to you for encouragement, feedback and a bit of accountability.

Don’t be afraid to put your work out there for critique. It’s daunting, but I have done this since entering the Discoveries competition and it’s been invaluable as well as made me even more excited about completing my novel!

And finally, enter as many competitions as you can. If you succeed, they can be a great platform for exposure and endorsement and, if nothing else, they give you a deadline to progress your novel. What have you got to lose?

About Nikki

Nikki is a copywriter from Suffolk who is currently writing her first novel inspired by her grandfather’s experience as a post-war Caribbean migrant in Deep South USA and England.  

The opening of the story was recently shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction Discoveries 2022 competition.

She was also chosen from the shortlist of six as the Discoveries Scholar, winning a place on Curtis Brown Creative’s three-month Writing Your Novel course.  

She is drawn to character-driven novels and believes fiction is a powerful tool to entertain as well as inform and influence social empathy, changing the way people see the world.  

Follow Nikki on Twitter. 

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