The Bath Novel judges have started releasing ‘teasers’ for their short list – and many, like myself, will doubtless be desperately persuading ourselves that our plots somehow resemble those described below. Try as I might, however, it can’t be done. Another competition entry bites the dust…
There is, however, much to be learned. My book isn’t actually bad (it’s been long listed in one competition and came third in another), but clearly it isn’t good enough. My opening page in particular lacks the impact to stand out against competition like this:
- ‘Stranded time-traveller misfit goes on the run.’
- ‘Two families bound together in the aftermath of tragedy.’
- ‘Young care leavers are re-homed in a remote Cornish resort.’
- ‘Spare and tenderly written story of siblings reunited in rural Ireland.’
- ‘Tightly written tale of a divided community. Interesting, vivid characters with exceptional sense of place.’
- ‘A summer fling, an affair and an unexplained death during a family holiday.’
There is a pattern here: strong and well-written characters combined with drama and a vivid sense of place. Something that reaches out from the page and grabs the reader.
I wish the writers of the above books every success and am enjoying a frisson of vicarious pleasure at imaging how they must feel at the moment. Well done to every one of them.
A member of ninevoices recently drew our attention to an excellent post by Fiona Mitchell on what can be learned from rejection. She wrote amusingly of her ‘Folder of Doom‘, containing a sheaf of rejections, but listed five positive things that she’d learned from them. Well worth studying. So I’m not about to make a drama out of not getting on this short list. Nobody died. Nobody took out a big pointy sword and threatened me with it. I simply need to give my opening a bit (maybe even a lot) more welly and keep my sense of humour handy. And there are plenty of other competitions out there.
Check out Fiona Mitchell’s encouraging piece here: https://fionamitchell.org/2018/05/09/5-types-of-rejection-letters-and-what-you-can-learn-from-them/
Costa Book Awards, Elinor Olifant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman, Goodhouskeeping Novel Competition, Lucy Cavendish Prize, Margaret Kirk, Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre, Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller, Scottish Book Trust First Chapter Award, Shadow Man
I’ve just caught up with the fact that Richard and Judy have launched another competition to find a first-time author with the potential to become a best-selling writer. Previously Tracy Rees, author of Amy Snow, and Caz Frear, author of Sweet Little Lies went on to enjoy fantastic sales after being chosen by them.
‘Search for a Bestseller‘, supported by W H Smith, is accepting manuscripts from unpublished writers until June 14th. Richard and Judy will then themselves be leading the selection process, helped by editors and agents. The winner will receive a £30,000 publishing deal with Bonnier Saffre, and specialist advice from literary agency Furniss Lawton.
Aspiring authors must submit 10,000 words of original fiction aimed at adults, plus a synopsis of the full novel and a short author biography, via Richard and Judy’s website: http://www.richardandjudy.co.uk/richard-and-Judys-Search-For-A-Bestseller-2018/711
Great novels rarely spring fully formed from their writer’s laptop. I’ve recently finished (and been bowled over by) Elinor Olifant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. As a work-in-progress, this book was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Prize. In 2014, it won the Scottish Book Trust First Chapter Award, allowing Gail to spend valuable time shaping and editing at Moniack Mhor Creative Writing Centre. Then, in 2017, she was the Costa Book Awards winner. Not an overnight success, then. A hard worker rewarded.
Most novels evolve and grow over time. Entering your manuscript into competitions can give you the impetus to finally finish your book. A long-listing, or short-listing might provide the spur to invest in a writing course. Like Gail Honeyman, Margaret Kirk, who won the Good Housekeeping First Novel Competition in 2016 with Shadow Man, credits a crime-writing course at Moniack Mhor with ‘literally changing my life’. Something about that bracing Scottish air perhaps.
Competitions are a tremendous encouragement. Even if you don’t win. Even if you aren’t short-listed, or long-listed. Competitions concentrate the mind. They glue you to that laptop into the small hours and get the book written. Then all that’s needed is editing, persistence and yet more editing.
My apologies for being a bit late with this, but you still have time to enter some first-rate competitions.
Enter full length playscripts for the Nick Darke Award, which has a £6,000 prize, funded by Falmouth University. There is no set theme, but your entry should not have had a production, rehearsed reading or won any other competition. Details: http://www.falmouth.ac.uk/nickdarkeaward. Deadline 21 May.
Short fiction is invited for a new RETREAT WEST CHARITY ANTHOLOGY to support the 2018 Hundred Years March. In November, women in East London will be marching to celebrate the centenary and acknowledge that women’s rights still need to be fought for. All profits will be sent to Hestia, a charity supporting adults and children in time of crisis, including domestic abuse and slavery. Entries should be between 300 and 3,000 words and address themes which are detailed on the website: https://retreatwestbooks.com. Closing date 27 May.
The Wundor Short Fiction Contest 2018 is open for entries of up to 45,000 words. Enter novellas, short stories, or even flash fiction (from a single page to 45,00 words) in this competition for unusual fiction. The winner will receive £500 and their book will be published by Wundor Editions. Two runners-up will have extracts of their work published on the website and be considered for publication. The entry fee is £10 and the closing date 31 May. Details: http://www.wondoreditions.com
The 2018 Yeovil Literary Prize offers four categories: Submit a synopsis and the opening chapters (up to 15,000 words) of a NOVEL. Prizes are £1,000, £250 and £100. The entry fee is £12. SHORT STORIES up to 2,000 words. Prizes are £500, £200 and £100, with an entry fee of £7. POETRY, up to 40 lines. Prizes are £500, £200 and £100. Entry fee £7, £10 for two or £12 for three. WRITING WITHOUT RESTRICTIONS. Prizes £200, £100 and £50. Closing date 31 May. Details: http://www.yeovilprize.co.uk
Solution Loans is running a free-entry spring short story competition for stories on the theme of The Wedding Gift. There is a first prize of £200 and online publication, and three runners-up will each win £50. Entries should be between 1,500 and 2,500 words. The closing date id 31 May. Details: http://writ.rs/theweddinggiftcomp
A competition in which fees of £5 per entry will support the animal care Lord Whisky Sanctuary Fund seeks poetry with a maximum of forty lines on the theme of ‘Animals‘. Prizes will relate to the total number of entry fees received – thirty percent for the first prize, ten percent for the second prize, and two further prizes of five percent. Details: http://www.lordwhisky.co.uk/news-and-events. The closing date is 31 May.
Welsh Poetry Competition for a poem of 50 lines maximum on any theme. Prizes are £500; £250; £100. 17 runners-up will be published on site and in an anthology. Entry fee £5. Details: http://www.welshpoetry.co.uk
John Austin Baker Creative Writing Prize for a poem or flash fiction on the theme: Marine Life. Entry fee £5. Prizes: £500; £250; £100; vouchers for children’s winners. Details: AngSocWelAnimals@aol.com
Peggy Chapman Andrews First Novel Award. 5,000-8,000 words, plus synopsis. Fee: £20. Prizes: £1,000 plus mentoring and possible representation; £500 plus manuscript appraisal. £100, plus partial appraisal. Details: http://www.bridportprize.org.uk/peggy-chapman-andrews-award-first-novel. Deadline: 31 May.
Frome Festival Short Story competition for 1,000-2,200 words, on any theme. Prizes: £400; £200; £100. Winning entrants published on the website and may be sent to Women’s Weekly and/or Frome FM for consideration. Entry fee: £8. Deadline 31 May. Details: fromeshortstorycompetition.co.uk
Please take care to check all details before entry.