I hope you enjoy these handy tips and links. My recommendations, other than the Faber one, come from direct experience, be it with the ASA mentorships, Varuna fellowships, RADF grants or manuscript appraisal services (as noted in my author’s bio)
1. Are you at the starting stages of your novel? Check out Angela Ackerman’s suite of fantastic tools here, including the writers thesauruses, and her collaborative project One Stop for Writers, with challenging prompt sheets that inform your story structure and encourage you to develop well-rounded characters. Jericho Writers in the UK also offer an impressive suite of videos, workshops and tools to help your craft, and a service called Agent Match that is internationally focussed. (For more on agents, see point 4.) A good story begins with a cutting-edge synopsis. Did you know that some competitions test your synopsis only? See Adventures in Fiction and scroll down.
2. Need a mentor to look over your early drafts? Expect to pay upwards of $1000 AU per average manuscript length (80-100K) potentially funded through an arts council grant (eg Queensland regional arts council funding) or apply through a competitive process to the Australian Society of Authors. If you need time away from your usual rushed routine to develop your work and receive help from a mentor, consider the Varuna route. Private industries may also offer subsided places or scholarships to cover mentorships (eg Faber Academy.) Although American manuscript appraisals can be cheaper, and there are some excellent services out there (Christine Stewart, for instance), you will need to take into account different cultural expectations in novel pacing, language and trending topics.
3. Want to test your completed, unpublished manuscript in the competition market? Here is a list of ‘first novel’ competitions that will keep you busy from January through December. Go to that competition calendar button below.
4. Looking for a publisher? If you’re chasing an Australian publisher, send a sampler of your work to Pan MacMillan’s Manuscript Monday, Allen & Unwin’s Friday Pitch, Penguin’s Monthly Catch or Hachette’s cold call submission process. Smaller publishers like UQP have more limited submission windows. Want to try for the American market? In America it’s industry mandated that you have an agent, meaning there are thousands to choose from, with books to assist you in the search, such as the year-appropriate Guide to Literary Agents, which categorises agents by their genre specialties. No American agent check is complete without going to Manuscript Wishlist. If you’d like to know more, apply through my contact form for a free power point presentation on how to match the right agent to your story and track your success.
5. Think it would make a great movie? Enter it in the Cinematic Book competition run by Screencraft.
A former gymnast is handed the crushing news that her much-loved brother is dead. As Gabby makes the gruelling trip back to Montreal she begins to question how the verdict could be suicide. Before long, Gabby realises her brother, before he died, read her secret diary.
And now she begins to see an alternative to the idea he died by suicide. What if he’d been out to expose the truth behind why Gabby quit gymnastics?
The Trophy Room, now in its late-development stages, has been awarded two stipends, including an RADF conference travel grant to pitch the story in America. It also made the quarterfinalist position in the Screencraft Cinematic Book Competition for 2020.
It’s just another fine day at Minnie’s famous Manhattan bakery. Customers are pouring in and the coffee is running hot. But the atmosphere curdles the moment a young woman walks through the door and claims the bakery owner is her mother. Minnie takes umbrage. She’s never had children, so the claim is preposterous. And yet there is a sinking feeling that somehow this stranger is cutting an ugly path back to the past, a past that Minnie has desperately tried to forget.
Crazy About Cakes is a foray into conservative 1960s Joh Bjelke Peterson era in Brisbane, when paranoia ruled the day and corruption was never more than one brothel away.
Previous drafts of Crazy about Cakes have attracted two Varuna fellowships, and the manuscript has twice been long-listed for the Mslexia international novel competition. It has also attracted an Australian Society of Authors mentorship. It will be shopped to publishers and agents in 2022.
It is 1979, Iran, and Parisa Mahmoud is a 19-year-old Tehran university student with plans to earn a degree in translation and travel the world. But everything changes when the Shah is deposed and a new revolutionary government is installed. Classes are put on hold and students everywhere must reconsider their options.
Parisa is approached to use her translating skills in the American Embassy hostage crisis. What starts out as a peaceful, three-day siege, soon becomes a situation that spirals out of control.
Now Parisa is trapped in a job that will lead her to translate lists that mark people for execution – without a fair hearing and in the dark of night. Parisa, who fears for her own life if she quits the job, can either continue to translate documents that aid in executions or strike out with a daring plan to save those on the list and escape Iran.
The Executioner’s List is a work of historical fiction largely based on research into the American Embassy hostage crisis in Tehran. My novel is in its second draft and will be presented to publishers and agents in 2022.
This list is international in scope, but I’ve crafted it primarily with writers of adult fiction in mind.
Owing to covid complications, some of these competitions may not be running in 2021. Listed are the months when the competition closes.
Minotaur First Crime Novel (closed Jan 2021; assume Jan 2022 same)
Miami Book Fair novella competition (submission deadline dates unspecified; unsure if it’s going in 2021)
Allen & Unwin Crime Fiction Prize (closed for Feb 2021; likely reopens August 2021 for 2022)
Grindstone (used to stage three comps per year; website not updated to 2021 details yet)
City of Freemantle Hungerford Writing Award (biennial, so 2022 next round.)
Queensland Literary Awards (check your own state for details)
The Valerie Parv award (romance or romantic elements)
Page Turner awards (note there are also mentorships available here)
Publishable by QWC (open to all Aussies)
The Vogel (for under 35s)
The Virginia Prize (June early bird but October final)
The Daily Mail (for women writers but unsure if it’s continuing)
The Novel Prize (for 2022)
Chapter One by AAWP (note: nothing posted yet for 2021)
The Richell (details to come)
The Next Chapter (Wheeler Centre) key dates will be announced here
Check on the progress of the 2022 Dorothy Hewitt prize
The McKitterick (closing date for 2021 already passed but check for 2022)
Michael Gifkins (for those with NZ citizenship)
Ronald Sukenick Innovative submission awards (check closer to the time for new dates)
Penguin Literary Prize (this year’s prize already closed)
Mslexia (check website for more details; biennial competition)
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