In the run up to Christmas, the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency will be posting an entry from one of our authors each day, offering anything from writing tips and their inspiration, to Christmas memories and their wishes for the year to come.
So this time last year, my chance of getting a book deal seemed only a little less likely than the prospect of waking up on Christmas Day to discover Ryan Gosling gift-wrapped at the end of my bed.
December 25th came and went. The closest I got to Mr Gosling was a DVD of Crazy, Stupid, Love. And as for that book deal . . .
. . . But I DID have a book: written, revised and parked on the hard drive of my computer. I thought it was quite good, although the publishing industry seemed mysteriously to disagree. I heard many sob stories about ‘publishing in turmoil’. I was warned, ‘All the really good literary agents get three hundred queries a week – and take on about four clients a year.’ I was advised, ‘Self-publish and hope to make a splash’.
But then I discovered there’s another way for a writer to get noticed.
Actually, the whole thing was an accident. I was playing around on Twitter instead of, er, working, and I happened to see a Tweet about a writing competition. What appealed to me about this particular contest was that the deadline was the following day – and there was a prize of £1,000.
Before anyone could say, ‘You’re supposed to be writing a thousand words today’, (if only my dog could talk, perhaps I would become the prolific writer I aspire to become) I observed myself responding to the deadline.
First three chapters: PRINT
Application Form: PRINT
Postbox: MADE IT WITH FOUR MINUTES TO SPARE
And that was how I came to enter the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2013.
You’ll be thinking I won the Competition, right?
I made it as far as the shortlist – a lot further than I had ever hoped for – and after the prize-giving dinner, I discovered someone had gone home wearing my coat. . . which contained my house keys. . . which led to a Night To Remember. . . which is a whole different story. . .
. . . And that was the end of that.
Except it turned out to be just the beginning. Within the space of six weeks, I had acquired an agent and a book deal. Put simply, the Competition increased my visibility within the publishing industry and jump-started the writing career I’d been chasing for longer than I’d spent believing in Father Christmas.
Your turn next?
There are dozens of competitions for writers. I just had a quick Google and discovered there’s currently a £50,000 publishing deal on offer, open to anyone who has never been published or self-published.
Of course, I thoroughly recommend the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize 2014. Or if you’re up for a spot of razzle-dazzle, take a look at Bookstar 2014 – ‘the world’s first talent show for writers’ – where finalists will get to stand on stage, and read the opening of their book to a panel of judges.
Talking of which, here’s my top writing tip: Always read your work out loud. I find that every time I stumble, or fluff a line, it’s because I’ve written a clumsy sentence.
How will next year turn out? If you’d like to find out what happens to me and my book, I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter @ComedyKaren. I’d love to hear from you – especially if I’ve inspired you to get competitive in 2014.