Tuesday, 3 April 2012

C is for Competitions

Competitions can make us work harder. Competitions can make us turn outwards and consider the reader, having written a book for ourselves. Competitions present us with deadlines.

The submission process for a novel writing competition is somewhat like submitting to an agent or publisher. This can be good practice, and I've found I add a layer of polishing and editing that perhaps in the whole manuscript, didn't seem to need it.

I had some really helpful advice about competitions from a previous tutor and have used it to some benefit (runner up for the Mslexia novel competition anyway):
  • Treat the submission as a piece in its own right. It doesn't strictly have to be the first 5000 words (but don't exceed the word count) but could be edited to get a bit more story in. If it says 'first chapter or 5000 words, whichever is the shorter' and you have really short chapters, consider amalgamating scenes into bigger chapters. You will be at a disadvantage if you put in 800 words, say. This is your showcase.
  • End your submission on a plot point that makes the reader want to read on.
  • If your first scenes are slow, consider starting your novel at a point of huge tension and excitement (maybe do that anyway).
  • Check and double check the exact rules. If they want a synopsis of the whole book, provide it. If they want 10,000 double spaced words, don't exceed the specifications. Be especially careful about whether or not they want/allow your name on the entry.
  • Make sure you have written the whole book, if you might be asked to submit it. Some competitions are just for the first chapter.
  • Spend plenty of time on the synopsis - it won't win by itself but it might help judges choose between finalists.
  • Submit it with time to spare - it's heartbreaking to miss the deadline!
There's a novel writing competition at the Yeovil Literary Prize that might be worth a look. Sophie Hannah will be the judge and several previous winners have gone on to be published (£1000 prize, too). It all adds to your writing CV and gives you something positive to put in your query letter.   

14 comments:

  1. Its great to have some idea and some pointers about competitions. I am not anywhere near entering any but one day I might be and this is good to know. Thanks

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    1. Thank you, Kate, worth a try, anyway. Some are free to enter and have cash prizes!

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  2. there's a pile of good advice here. I've got to follow it, to learn at your feet, sensei.

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  3. Follow the advice, grasshopper! Win money (spend it on cars?? Really??? Don't let my husband read your blog!)

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  4. Great advice Reb! I just wrote an article and struggled. I swear the word count was too low ;D

    Your blog is pretty; I will be back :D
    Great C post

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  5. Thanks for the reminder about how beneficial competitions can be. I just may find one to enter.

    I also enjoyed reading the post from yesterday. Glad to hear I am not the only one with friends who wonder why I bother with a blog.

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    1. Thank you Maryann, I've become a great fan of blogging. I've met some lovely people who come up with great ideas!

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  6. Great advice! I think competitions can be good practice for submitting later on, and you can get some really good feedback from your judges, whether with a critique or not.

    I'm your co-host for the A-to-Z! If you didn't get an email from me the other day, it may have gone in your spam box. Please feel free to contact me via my profile or reply to that email if you need anything or have any questions.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

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    1. Thank you, Shannon, and thank you for co-hosting the A-Z, I've read some fascinating blogs since Sunday!

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  7. These are great tips! I've done a few writing competitions, and have found them to be very useful in getting me to discipline myself to meet deadlines.

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    1. I use them for deadlines - which I chose for D!

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