Monday, January 22, 2018

January's Competition Monthly

A new year, a new start. Francesca hopes you'll find something familiar, or even better, something outside your comfort zone in this latest selection of competitions.

When I first attended Adult Education creative writing classes I'd written several short stories and poems, but not a lot else. Our tutor (author Elaine Everest), encouraged us to try our hand at all sorts of different writing. We had a go at scripts, several forms of poetry, articles, flash fiction, tips and fillers, leaflets, non-fiction books, novels and a few more things besides.

One of the most valuable aspects of these classes was that we were also encouraged to submit to all sorts of markets. Between us, we've ended up with a whole heap of different genres and types of writing published in different arenas. This success is largely due to us being pushed to write and submit outside of our comfort zone. Today, now running her own classes, Elaine still encourages us to try new things, giving us challenges that we might not normally tackle.

It's a new year, so why not try a competition outside of your comfort zone? Or dig out work you've abandoned in order to write something else. The selection this month includes short stories, novels for adults and children, script writing, poetry, flash fiction and two humour competitions. Perhaps you fancy yourself as a Ben Elton or Carla Lane? Perhaps the new Mike Leigh? Have a go and see what new doors you can open.

Good luck to you all, and don't forget to let us know of any successes you have.

Kelpies Prize 2018
Theme: Children's novel set in Scotland for either 8-10 or 12-15 year olds.
Prize: Winning author, £2,000
Closing date: 28 February 2018
Entry: Free

Bridgend Writers' Circle Short Story Competition
Theme: Open. 1,500 – 1,800 words
Prize: £200 / £50 / £30
Closing date: 1st March 2018
Entry: £5 / £7.50 for 2

The International Windsor Fringe Award for New Drama Writing
Theme: Plays of 30 minutes max, 6 actors max. Only amateur playwrights.
Prize: 3 winners selected for stage performance.
Closing date: 5 March 2018
Entry: £10

Brittle Star Short Story Fiction Competition (also poetry)
Theme: Open, 2,000 words max.
Prize: £250 per genre / £50 pg / £25 pg
Closing date: 14 March 2018
Entry: £5 / £3.50 each subsequent

Writing Magazine Humour Short Story Competition
Theme: Humorous short story, 1,500 – 1,700 words.
Prize: £200 plus publication in magazine / £50 plus publication online
Closing date: 15 March 2018
Entry: £5 / £3 for subscriberss

Edge Hill Short Story Prize
Theme: Single author collection of short stories, published between 1st Jan & 31 Dec 2017 (not self published)
Prize: £10,000 / £1,000 reader's choice.
Closing date: 23 March 2018
Entry: Free

Retreat West Flash Fiction
Theme: 'Forgetting'. 500 words max. No children's stories
Prize: £200 / 2 x £75
Closing date: 25 March 2018
Entry: £8

The International Rubery Book Award
Theme: For international and self published books.
Prize: £1,500 plus read by top literary agent. Catergory winners £150 each. No publication date restriction. All genres.
Closing date: 31 March 2018
Entry: £36

Twisted Mysteries Writing Competition
Theme: Read the brief, but basically what lies beneath the surface in 1933.
Prize: £100 / £50 / £25 plus all winners published in an eBook anthology.
Closing date: 30 March 2018
Entry: £5

Scottish Arts Club Short Story Award
Theme: Open. Max 1,500 words. Unpublished writers only (novel and short story)
Prize: £1,000 / 2 x 100 / Scottish prize £500
Closing date: 31 March 2018
Entry: £10

Writers Bureau Short Story Competition
Theme: Open. 2,000 words max.
Prize: £300 / £200 / £100 / £50 plus a WB course for all winners
Closing date: 31 March 2018
Entry: £5

Writers' Forum Fiction Competition (also poetry)
Theme: Open. 1,000 – 3,000 words
Prize: £300 / £150 / £100
Closing date: Rolling.
Entry: £6 / £3 for subscribers
(Writers' Forum also have a flash fiction competition each month, but the duration for each is short and you'll need to look for the current theme)

Bristol Poetry Prize
Theme: Open. Up to 100 lines.
Prize: £600 / £300 / £100
Closing date: 31 March 2008
Entry: £6
Details  (scroll down)

Wergel Flump Humor Poetry Contest
Theme: Humorous poem up to 250 lines
Prize: £1,000 / £250 / 10 x £100
Closing date: 1st April 2018
Entry: Free

Looking Ahead:

First Novel Prize
Theme: Novels over 50,000 words
Prize: £1,000 / £250 / £100
Closing date: Open February 1st - 31 May 2018
Entry: £25

Francesca Capaldi Burgess has been placed or shortlisted in a number of competitions including Winchester Writers' Conference, Twyford Writers, Chorley & District Writer's Circle, Retreat West,, Meridian Writing, Flash a Famous Phrase, Wells Festival and Writing Magazine. She's had stories and a serial published in magazines worldwide and in three anthologies, including Diamonds and Pearls and 100 Stories for Haiti  plus a few articles and a poem. She is a member of the RNA New Writers' Scheme and the Society for Women Writers and Journalists. Francesca runs a writing blog along with RNA member Elaine Roberts called Write Minds.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Hints and Tips for New Writers #1

When I joined the RNA as a new writer, (after ‘practising’ on and off for donkey’s years), I knew nobody. The famous names were daunting. I had no clue about how to format a ms – not knowing it meant manuscript. People talked of genres, (((shrugs))) and a dénouement was foreign to me (sorry!) Then I joined ROMNA – we didn’t have the RNA Facebook page back then, or these weird things called blogs – or vlogs – or authors talking about their work on YouTube (as far as I recall). Nor did I want to look a fool and ask daft questions EVERYBODY knew the answer to – or so I thought.

I then joined ROMNA and became a serial lurker. Gleaning information and gaining invaluable awareness of the writing world. Sometimes I even knew the answer to a query and posted it – and was taken seriously. I know, who’d have thought it?

Then one day, I was in my writing room staring out of the window, daydreaming – a lifelong habit, I cannot lie, and wondered at the knowledge I had gained over the years regarding this business we call writing. I realised I could not have been the only new writer who did not know it all, and decided others might feel the same. So as this New Year begins, and new writers join us, here are some hints and tips that might be of help or interest… 

1) Write some pages in longhand from the book of your favourite author. This helps get you started.
2) Writers are readers first.
3) Welcome criticism. Seek it out at every opportunity.
4) Try not to get upset if you think the criticism is harsh, don’t be offended – even if you think it’s wrong. And always thank those who take the time to offer it. You never know when you might need to ask their advice again.
5) Right click on a word to use the thesaurus. Do it again on the new word, and make the best use of your vocabulary.
6) After editing the work on screen or in print, read the text aloud; awkward sentences or errors that sneak through earlier edits show up readily when reading out loud. Or use Word’s Speech feature and have the computer read it back. This allows you to catch errors you have missed – especially missing words or words that ’sort of sound the same’ but are spelled differently (e.g. Front me instead of ‘From me’).
7) Write as if you’re on deadline and have 500 words to make your point. Then do it again. And again.
8) Download a memo app or voice recorder on your phone – invaluable for when you have that great idea and can’t find a pen or paper.
9) After starting her fourth book last year, bestselling saga writer, Mary Wood, keeps right on to the end of the road to get the first draft done in 5-6 weeks (and breathe). So, reading and editing what she did the day before is not for her. However, something that she is unsure of could send her off track as she tries to find the details she needs. A killer when she aims for 5000 words a day. So, she came up with this little trick.  “I write with tracker on, so when I am not sure of anything, I write what I think it is – then create a comment. In the box I write what is concerning me and I need to check, and then go forward, knowing that I can easily track something in my polishing up and check it out. Before I used this method, I would probably have cut my wordage to around 2000 words a day as I stopped writing to trawl the Internet looking for facts.”  
Thank you, Mary! I am sure your tip will be of immense help to some of our new writers.

                                              And last, but by no means least:

10) If there is something you don’t know, or you’re not sure of – ASK SOMEONE WHO DOES! The RNA usually know something or someone who can help you. And remember, no question is ever wasted!

N.B. If you have a favourite hint or tip, don’t keep it to yourself, send it to me at and I will share it with reference to you on next month’s blog.

Happy writing, lovelies.

Sheila Riley

Sheila joined the RNA in 2004 as a new writer. Since then she has written best-selling sagas as Annie Groves. She's a member of the North West Chapter of the RNA and loves to catch up with writer friends at the regular Southport lunches.


Mary Wood's latest book, Brighter Days Ahead, is available now.

Brighter Days Ahead is a moving story set against the backdrop of the Second World War, from Mary Wood, author of In Their Mother’s Footsteps.

War pulled them apart, but can it bring them back together?

Molly lives with her repugnant father, who has betrayed her many times.

From a young age, living on the streets of London’s East End, she has seen the harsh realities of life...
When she’s kidnapped by a gang and forced into their underworld, her future seems bleak.

Flo spent her early years in an orphanage and is about to turn her hand to teacher training. 

When a kindly teacher at her school approaches her about a job at Bletchley Park, it could be everything she never knew she wanted.

Will the girls' friendship be enough to weather the hard times ahead?

Friday, January 12, 2018

Ask the Industry Expert: Literary Agent Kate Burke

It's a pleasure to welcome literary agent Kate Burke to the RNA blog today for an interview with Helena Fairfax. Kate is with Diane Banks Associates and worked previously at Headline, Penguin, HarperCollins, and as Editorial Director at Century (Random House). Thanks so much for joining us, Kate!

Please tell us a little about Diane Banks Associates, how long the agency has been established, and how you came to join. 
helena fairfax, literary agent, kate burke, diane banks
Diane set up the agency in 2006 after a career in publishing on the rights side. I head up the fiction side of things for the agency and we also have a non-fiction agent, a children’s/YA agent and a broadcast agent, so we are a full-service agency, handling all rights (translation, film & TV, audio, speaking engagements, etc) in house.

I joined five years ago and also came from the publishing side – I had been an editor for ten years, publishing all types of commercial fiction and editing lots of bestselling authors (Marian Keyes, Fern Britton, Lisa Jewell, Jane Fallon, Jane Green, Cecelia Ahern, Penny Vincenzi to name but a few!) I loved my time as an editor but what I really wanted to do was seek out new writers, so switching sides and becoming an agent was the perfect solution. From my experience at four major publishers, I know what editors are looking to acquire, what they want to see in a submission letter, how they want a book to be pitched to them and, above all, I know that a manuscript needs to be up to scratch before an editor can consider it and share it with their team, so I offer my clients extensive editorial feedback before submitting their manuscripts to publishers.

What genres do you represent personally?
My main areas of fiction are women’s/contemporary romance, historical, psychological/domestic suspense, crime, thrillers and sagas. I’m always looking for new writers in these areas.

You've had extensive experience in commissioning and publishing commercial fiction. What is it about a book that makes you decide it will sell well? (Difficult question, I know…!)
This probably sounds a bit basic but I need to be gripped by the writing and want to read on! It’s all about engaging the reader – I can work with a writer to fix a plot, timeline or structure of a novel – but that writing quality – the flow of words, the telling of the story, characters that feel real – needs to be there from the outset. What’s also needed (for me to see its selling potential) is an original storyline/hook, one that I can pitch to editors in just a couple of sentences.

Have you noticed any particular trends in romance recently, and if so, what do you think is going to be big this year?
I wish I had a crystal ball to predict what will be big this year! Sadly, I don’t, but dark women’s fiction (often labelled domestic or psychological suspense) continues to sell well and I think that trend of exploring the darker side of relationships and romance isn’t going away. That said, I think there has been so much dark and thrillerish romance published over the past few years that readers are now ready for something more uplifting! I think we will see more romantic comedies coming out over the next year or so – warm, romantic, life-affirming reads that will provide a nice balance to all the darker, creepier novels out there.

Do you ever find authors outside the slush pile? If so, how?
Rarely but it does happen. Sometimes I’ll meet authors at literary festivals or conferences and they’ll pitch their novel to me or sometimes a friend or contact of one of my authors will send their manuscript in. The slush pile is usually where I find most of my clients though.

What advice would you give someone submitting to you?
Know your audience and read widely in the area in which you’re writing. It really helps to know who you’re writing for and which genre your novel would fit into. I like it when writers can position their novel in terms of genre and comparable authors, and they know who they are writing for.

I would also advise that writers check out our submission guidelines on our website before submitting and that they send over clean chapters (ie, not ones riddled with mistakes!) Also, it helps if they get my name right on their submission email (if I had a dollar for every time I received an email saying ‘Dear Katie’…!)

What’s your favourite romance novel of all time?
Oh, so hard to choose! Not strictly romances, I know, but it’s a tie between The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro and The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Oh, and I love Jane Eyre. Sorry – this question is impossible to answer!

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have two small children so very little spare time these days but reading is my favourite past-time and I love the cinema and theatre too. 

If you could describe your working day in just three words, what would they be?
Emails, edits and negotiations. (Sadly, there’s no time for reading at my desk so that gets done outside of the office!)

Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions, Kate. It's been a great pleasure getting to know you. Wishing you and Diane Banks Associates all the best for 2018!

If you've enjoyed Kate's interview, or have any questions or comments at all, please let us know. We'd love to hear from you!


About Helena

Helena Fairfax is a romance author and freelance editor. Her latest novel – a feel good contemporary romance called Felicity at the Cross Hotel – is just the type of warm, romantic, life-affirming read Kate mentions in her interview. You can find out more about Helena's books and her editing services on her website