Daily Mail Penguin Random House New Crime Novel Contest Now Open

If you’re an aspiring crime/thriller novelist – and you live in the UK or Republic of Ireland – here’s a contest you should definitely consider entering.

The Daily Mail Random House New Crime Novel Competition is free to enter. The winner will receive a £20,000 advance fee, the services of a top literary agent, and guaranteed publication by Penguin Random House UK.

Your story can be detective novel, crime or spy thriller, or psychological chiller. Entrants must never have had a novel published before (in any format, including ebook or self-published) and must be 16 or over.

You don’t need to submit the finished novel, just the first 5,000 words plus a 600-word synopsis of the complete work. The deadline is 5 May 2017, so at the time of writing you have just over a fortnight to get your entry written, polished and submitted.

All entries have to be typed and printed on A4 paper with double spacing in font size 12 point, Times New Roman. They must be posted or couriered to Daily Mail First Crime Novel Competition, c/o Penguin Random House Group, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA. All entries must include the entrant’s full name and contact details (including their home and email address) and confirmation they have agreed to the full terms and conditions.

For more information about the contest, including tips for would-be authors, visit this page of the Daily Mail website. For the full terms and conditions and details of how to enter in PDF format, click on this link.

Good luck, and happy crime writing!

 

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Ten Top Tips for Winning Short Story Contests

Ten Top Tips for Winning Short Story Contests

As well as being fortunate enough to win several short story contests, I have been asked to judge a few. So I thought today I would share some tips that come at least partly from my judging experience..

1. Most important of all, obey the contest rules. It they say the maximum is 1500 words, don’t submit 2000. An entry that clearly breaks the rules has no chance of winning.

2. Don’t enter the same story in more than one contest at a time. It will be embarrassing to both you and the organizers if the same story wins or places in both contests, and you may end up forfeiting your prize (or prizes).

3. Try to come up with an original idea or angle. Remember that your story will be competing with many others, so avoid the predictable plots that have been done to death, or at least give them a fresh twist. A clever double-twist ending that surprises the judges and subverts their expectations can be a winning formula.

4. Twist endings aren’t essential, though (unless that is specified in the rules). A story that engages with the reader on an emotional level and leaves him/her something to ponder can also be a strong contender in a short story contest.

5. Other things being equal, avoid submitting stories that are laden with doom and gloom. As a judge I’ve been amazed (and depressed) by the high proportion of miserable, downbeat tales that are entered in competitions. That’s not to say such stories can’t be good, but judges are only human. Faced by story after story brimming with misery, when we come across a tale with a bit of humour it really stands out. So go easy on the negativity. Witty, humorous stories (even dark humour) are far more likely to catch the judge’s eye, partly because they are so unusual. And even if you don’t end up winning, my fellow judges and I will be grateful to you for brightening our day!

6. Avoid cliches such as ‘she was a mine of information’ or ‘he was as cool as a cucumber’. These are signs of lazy writing and won’t impress the judges.

7. Likewise, try to avoid stereotyping. Just as judges are familiar with all the usual plot twists, so they can recognize flat, two-dimensional characters. Admittedly short stories don’t allow much space for characterization and character development. But if you can go beyond the standard stereotypes and present readers with interesting and surprising characters who spring to life off the page, it will greatly boost your chances of success.

8. Check and double-check your spelling, grammar and punctuation. No story that demonstrates a lack of attention to the basics of good English is likely to win a contest. Ideally, have someone else who is good at this check your entry for you before submitting it.

9. Don’t be too despondent if your story doesn’t win or even place. In most competitions there are hundreds of entries, and luck and the judges’ personal tastes inevitably play a part. I have had a story come nowhere in one contest and win another. If you are confident of the quality of your story, give it another polish and send it out again when a suitable opportunity arises.

10. If possible, though, take the trouble to read the stories that do win and see what this tells you about what the judges were looking for. Compare your own story honestly with those of the winners and see what they did that you didn’t (although bear in mind my comments above).

Good luck, and I wish you every success entering short story contests!

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Sign up now for this free screenwriting course

Sign Up Now For This Free Screenwriting Course

If screenwriting is something that interests you, you might like to sign up for the free introductory course currently on offer via FutureLearn (a UK-based educational initiative that advertises short online courses from British and international universities).

The course title is An Introduction to Screenwriting and it comes from the University of East Anglia. It starts on 8 May 2017 and runs for two weeks with an estimated time commitment of three hours per week.

An Introduction to Screenwriting is an online course for anyone new to scriptwriting and for more experienced writers who wish to raise their scriptwriting to a professional level. It does not require any previous experience of studying the subject.

On the website, it says:

You’ll learn from a mixture of basic theory, script analysis and practical exercises. We will explore key principles as they’re expressed in great films, then immediately apply these concepts. Videos, articles and discussion steps will offer you the opportunity to learn and engage with other learners on key concepts and ideas.

By the end of the course, you will understand the key concepts necessary to write an effective screenplay and be fluent in the language used to discuss the form.

The course is run by screenwriter Michael Lengsfield and his colleagues at UEA’s School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing.

An Introduction to Screenwriting is free of charge and open to anyone anywhere in the world. There is, though, a paid-for upgrade as well (costing 49 UKP) with a few extra features. In particular, you get a certificate at the end and can continue to access all the course materials indefinitely. With the free version you only get access for up to a fortnight after the end of the course – so if you don’t want to pay the fee you may need to do a bit of copying and pasting to keep all the materials for future reference!

For more information about the course (including a video trailer) and to register, visit the Introduction to Screenwriting information page of the FutureLearn website.

FutureLearn have lots of other interesting free courses, incidentally, on subjects ranging from anatomy to physical theatre, cyber-security to discovering dentistry!

I have taken a number of Futurelearn courses myself and always find them stimulating and thought-provoking. Another big attraction is that you get to interact with fellow students from all over the world.

  • If you are interested in screenwriting, you might also like to check out Movie in a Month, a high-quality CD-based course from my publishers WCCL. As well as in-depth advice on screenwriting, this also includes over 800 actual movie scripts and treatments you can learn from.
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