We all know how hard it is to get a novel published from the slush pile. However, if you’ve won a competition with your manuscript (or even just been placed) it will make your covering letter stand out from the masses. So if you’ve got an unpublished manuscript in the drawer why not polish it up and try one of these competitions (or you could write something from scratch…)
Nemesis Debut Novel Competition
Nemesis is a small publisher looking for a debut novel to publish in 2012.
Manuscripts for the competition should ideally be between 70,000 and 130,000 words with no restriction on genre. There is no entry fee and email submission is preferred. All entries must be accompanied by a synopsis of no more than 1,000 words and an author bio of no more than 500 words.
The closing date is 14 August 2011 and the winner will be announced by 30 November 2011. Full details are here.
Mslexia Novel Writing Competition
Mslexia is looking for novels by commercially unpublished women novelists. Any genre is acceptable apart from books aimed at under 13s. The finished novel must be at least 50,000 words.
First prize in this competition is £5,000 plus Mslexia’s stamp of approval, which will ensure agents and editors are keen to read your full manuscript.
Submit the first 5,000 words of your novel in the first instance but the manuscript must already be complete. Short-listed entrants will then be asked to submit their full manuscript.
Closing date is September 30th and the winner will be announced in the MAR/APR/MAY issue of Mslexia. Full details are here.
World Book Night Books
If reading novels rather than writing them is more your thing then see here for a chance to become the next owner of my World Book Night books. There’s only a day or so to subscribe to this blog and thus get yourself in the draw.
I found the book totally confusing until I got to grips with its singular structure.
In chapter one, Irina, the heroine, has to decide whether to kiss another man, Ramsey (she already has a long-term partner, Lawrence). After chapter one, the story splits in two with alternate chapters following what happens to Irina if she goes ahead with the kiss and the intervening chapters dealing with what happens if she doesn’t kiss Ramsey. The two strands share a final chapter.
In summary – it’s two books in one.
Once I got the hang of this I thoroughly enjoyed the book (thanks for lending it to me, Alison!) I preferred the ‘unfaithful’ strand of the story – maybe because in books its interesting to watch characters make risky decisions that many of us wouldn’t dare to take in real life.
Shriver says of the book, ‘Hingeing the book on this single decision allows me to explore the implications, large and small, of whom we choose to love’.
She also describes it as ‘participatory fiction’ – at the end of the book you know the results of both courses of action, so with hindsight which choice would you have made? Would you have chosen to kiss or not to kiss? It’s a very hard question to answer since the ultimate outcome is the same for both strands of the story – they share the final chapter. I think the unfaithful Irina had more of a roller-coaster ride along the way but the faithful Irina didn’t have an easy time of it either.
I suspect it must have been quite fun to write a novel with this type of structure. Usually, at each turning point, our characters must follow only one course of action and we never get to explore how things might have developed had they chosen a different path. Shriver is able to examine the impact of both possible outcomes on all her characters - Irina, Lawrence and Ramsey.
The Post-Birthday World is a book worth reading.
Talking of books, I’ll be drawing the next keeper of my World Book Night books on 1st June – see here for details.
The library was full of leaflets for poetry competitions. I only do poetry very badly so I won’t be entering but here are the details for the rest of you:
- Sonnet or Not organised by Cannon Poets. Choose one of the traditional sonnet forms or experiment with alternative 14 line forms. First prize £250 and entry fee is £4 for the first poem and £2.50 for each additional poem. Closing date is 31st October 2011. For full details email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Nottingham Open Poetry Competition. First prize £300 and entry fee is £3 per poem or £10 for 4 poems. Closing date is 6th September 2011. Full details plus last year’s winners are here.
- Torbay Open Poetry Competition. This is organised as part of Torbay Poetry Festival and has a huge £800 first prize plus a Prizegiving Party in Torquay. Entry is £4 per poem or £10 for 3 poems. Closing date is 31st August 2011. An entry form is required and I suggest you use the contact form on the Festival website to request one.
In case you’re wondering – the illustration is William Blake’s poem ‘The Tyger’.
If you’re not yet signed up for a free email subscription to this blog, use the box on the right to enter your email address and you could become the next keeper of my World Book Night books.
We’ve decided to decorate the ‘office’ (or rather the tiny room off our bedroom which estate agents call a ‘dressing room’ and most of the neighbours have turned into an en suite). This has meant emptying the room completely – including all my writing files dating back to the millennium – which is when this room last had a make-over.
“You can get rid of all those, can’t you?” said my husband.
My first inclination was to refuse to throw away so much as a single sheet of my scribblings but eventually I did agree to have a sort through them. In the end a lot of things went – stacks of rejection letters (why did I ever keep those in the first place?), articles & features that never made it into print and whose ‘hook’ has long since passed and stories that are not suited to the narrow range of magazines that now take them.
However, I did put aside a few things that can be recycled. I found a story with a neat twist ending of the type favoured by Take a Break and, with the benefit of 10 years hindsight and a better knowledge of the womag market, I think I now know how to improve it. I need to change the male point of view character to a female, inject more dialogue and tighten the whole thing up.
And if the story is a success, I’ll be using the money on some curtains or wallpaper!
Try digging out some of your own very old writing and look past what might be a cringe-worthy style. Are there some ideas there that, with re-working, would suit today’s publications?
And while we’re on the subject of recycling – don’t forget that I’m looking for a new home for my World Book Night books. Full details here.
How much are you prepared to pay to enter a writing competition?
Entry fees can range from nothing to £10+ and if you enter a lot of competitions (which many of us do due to the dearth of short story markets) it can get very expensive.
Personally, I prefer a smaller percentage ratio given the large amount of entrants that most competitions attract – if I’m paying £5 then I’d like the first prize to be £100. However, if the money is going to charity or a critique of each entry is included in the fee then I am happy to make an exception and pay more.
Paying a fee to enter a competition does sharpen the mind. If I’m paying for entry then I won’t send an existing story that ‘almost’ fits the requirements - I will write a new one that fully embraces the theme of the competition and, as far as I can tell, fits the style required.
But there’s nothing to beat the gay abandon induced by free competitions with email entry. There is literally nothing to lose with these comps (not even the price of a large letter stamp and A4 envelope). It is a terrible shame not to enter them - so if there’s no time to write something new then I dig an old story out of the archives and give it a quick polish.
Yesterday I did just that and sent an entry in to this competition:
Write a story for bedtime - this is sponsored by A. Vogel Herbal Remedies and it is an Adult bedtime story they are after (no, not that sort of adult). The story must be between 1500 and 3000 words and four prizes will be awarded – 1st: £500, 2nd: £300, 2 x 3rd: £100 each. Additionally, there is an extra £50 to be had if your entry is chosen as ‘Story of the Month’.
Womag writer Della Galton is one of the judges and ‘due consideration will be given by the judges on the appropriateness of the short story for bedtime’. The current ‘Story of the Month’ is written by one of the judges and fits neatly into the Womag mould with a nice, happy ending.
Closing date is 28th October 2011.
Prima is a monthly women’s magazine that offers several slots for the aspiring writer to see their name in print:
- The letters page – every letter published wins a year’s subscription to the magazine and the star letter wins a skin care set worth £64. All the letters referred to previous items that had appeared in the magazine.
- Each month the letters page also features a poem. In June’s issue this was written by a man in praise of his wife.
- The Home life page ‘is your chance to pass on good ideas for the benefit of other Prima readers and, in doing so, encourage the highest quality service and great value for everyone’. Each contribution to the page receives £25. In June’s issue the contributions included a reader’s favourite shop, a picture of grandchildren, a suggestion for a day out and a couple of product recommendations.
- The Readers’ Kitchen page wants your recipes and tips plus recommendations for a favourite cafe, food shop or gadget. Recipes receive a year’s subscription to the magazine, tips and cafe or other recommendations earn £25.
- Picture Perfect - £25 for each photo printed on this page. June’s page is a Father’s Day Special and each picture includes a dad with young children.
- Do you have a winning story? - this page asks for 400 word stories. Reading the June winners, it looks like either fiction or real life experiences can be submitted. The winner receives £200 and two runners-up each receive a year’s subscription to Prima.
- Reader’s tips are dotted throughout the magazine – each one receiving £25. Plus the best tip receives £50.
- Wise Words - each month Prima is looking for wise words on a set theme. The June issue sets the theme ‘The best things in life are free, such as…’ and offers £25 for those chosen.
Why not nip out and buy a copy of the magazine? Study the style of your chosen section and then compose your contribution to fit. If you don’t try you won’t succeed!
And don’t forget to sign up for a free email subscription to this blog if you want a chance to be the next home for my World Book Night books.
- Patsy Collins’ blog is full of writing and reading related competitions. They range from prize draws to win a book through to more challenging writing projects. Patsy’s entry into the Readers’ Digest 100 word story competition was selected to appear on the Readers’ Digest website and can be found here (6 May 2011 story).
- Tracy Fells’ blog ‘The Literary Pig’ offers ‘a safe haven for all those afflicted with the unbearable urge to write’. Tracy has just completed the first draft of a children’s novel and has had various successes with short stories and flash fiction. In case you’re wondering, ‘The Literary Pig’ is a red cuddly toy with a starring role in Tracy’s blog.
- Julie Phillips’ blog Article Antics is devoted to those of us who write magazine articles. Julie is currently doing a Journalism course and her blog charts the ups and downs of her own writing career as well as giving useful advice and inspiration to anyone else interested in writing short non-fiction.
- Marilyn Rodwell’s blog God of the Cocoa is about her writing journey towards completing a trilogy of books. The books are set in Trinidad where Marilyn was born and brought up. Marilyn is also the organiser of the Romantic Novelists’ Association Birmingham Chapter – which is how I met her.
- Helen Yendall’s blog is full of information on market opportunities, writing events and other snippets. Helen was the Warwick Poet Laureate for 2006 – 2007 and she also writes fiction for women’s magazines and articles. Helen is a creative writing tutor and also my writing buddy.
I hope that, like me, you’ll find some interesting and useful things on the above blogs. Since I started this blog 6 months ago, I’ve discovered a whole new community of writers on the web. Most of us are unlikely to ever meet face to face but there is a supportive camaraderie amongst the writers I’ve come across which can be most comforting when things aren’t going well and the rejections are coming thick and fast!
I did promise you (under the terms of the Versatile Blogger Award) 7 favourite blogs and I’ve only listed 5. This is because 2 of my selected bloggers haven’t yet replied to my invite to accept the award. If they accept the award in the near future then I’ll give them a mention in a later post.
Don’t forget to sign up for free email updates to this blog (see the box on the right) if you would like the chance to be the next keeper of my World Book Night Books.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I attended a World Book Night event in Birmingham back in March. Several different books had editions specially printed to be given away on World Book Night (there were one million volumes in total). At the back of each book it states:
“Once you have read it, please pass the book on to someone else.”
So, now I intend to send the books I received on the next stage in their journey and I’d like them to go to a subscriber to this blog.
The books are:
I will choose the lucky recipient by picking a name on June 1st from everyone on my email subscription list as at midnight May 31st.
If you are an existing email subscriber to this blog then you will be automatically entered into the draw to receive the 3 books. If you are not an existing email subscriber and would like to be in the draw for the books, please use the box on the right-handside of the screen to register for an email subscription – it is free of charge and you can un-subscribe at any time.
If the winner has anything writing-related that they wish to promote then I will also give that a mention when I announce the winner.
The winner will be contacted by email to obtain their postal address – if I get no reply within 14 days then I will draw another winner. The winner must have a UK postal address.
I’m looking forward to sending the books on their way!
P.S. The World Book Night event will be repeated again in 2012 but the date will be moved to 23rd April – the international day for celebrating books.
Many thanks to Susan Jones for sending me this great award!
The rules of the award state that I have to tell you 7 things about myself and then pass the award on to 7 more deserving bloggers. So here goes!
- I am a campanologist (church bellringer) and have rung 2 peals in my ringing career (a peal is 3 hours of non-stop ringing).
- I’ve been writing on and off for around 17 years but only started taking it more seriously two and a half years ago when I teamed up with my writing buddy Helen Yendall.
- I have run 2 Half Marathons (both in Birmigham – 2008 & 2010) – I think they were the result of some sort of panicky mid-life crisis!
- In my day job I am a computer programmer – so often don’t fancy writing in the evening when I’ve stared at a computer screen all day.
- I love watching ‘murder’ drama serials on TV such as Midsomer Murders, Waking the Dead, Silent Witness etc. If you throw in some red wine and dark chocolate then I’m really in heaven!
- On William & Kate’s wedding day I attended (& helped organise) my first ever street party. It was great fun and our road is now looking forward to another for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee next year.
- I love routine! All the bank holidays over the last few weeks have played havoc with my writing time so now I’m looking forward to getting back to normal!
Next week I’ll announce the 7 worthy blogs that I’m passing this award on to.