Do you ever imagine topping the bestseller charts with an edge-of-your-seat thriller? Or a heartwarming romance, an atmospheric historical adventure or perhaps a multi-layered literary masterpiece?
Well, now is your chance to fulfil that dream, because today the Daily Mail and one of the world’s biggest, most respected book publishers launch our search for the UK’s brightest new literary talent — and the prize is every writer’s fantasy.
The winner of our competition will receive a £20,000 advance fee, the services of top literary agent Luigi Bonomi and guaranteed publication by Penguin Random House UK.
Want to write your first novel? The Daily Mail and one of the world’s biggest, most respected book publishers are launching our annual search for the UK’s brightest new literary talent
This is our fourth year of running the competition, and our previous winners prove that this could be the launchpad for a successful career.
The winner of our 2016 competition, Amy Lloyd, whose book The Innocent Wife became a bestseller published in 18 countries and was snapped up by a major film studio, has just had her second novel, One More Lie, published.
Lizzy Barber’s My Name Is Anna, winner of the 2017 competition, was published to rave reviews in January.
Last year’s winner Georgia Fancett, interviewed here (see box far right), is just adding the finishing touches to her novel The Fifth Girl before publication. And it all started with this competition.
By entering the Daily Mail competition your novel leapfrogs the notorious ‘slush pile’ of unsolicited manuscripts at a publishers’ office and comes straight to the experienced, commercial experts who can judge your potential.
They will then team you up with an editor who can lead you through the process of shaping your plot, refining your characters and sharpening your dialogue.
And, even if you don’t win the competition, you might be signed up to write your novel anyway, as several previous runners-up have been. So there’s absolutely no excuse not to have a go.
To be in with a chance send us the first 3,000 words plus a 600-word synopsis of the complete work: beginning, middle and end (see box below for details of how to enter)
Your entry can be a contemporary story about families or relationships, a thriller or an historical adventure, as long as it is aimed at adults (not children) and has not been previously published in any format (including eBooks or self-publishing).
The only categories not allowed are sagas, science-fiction and fantasy. Entrants must be 16 or over — but don’t worry, there’s no upper age limit!
And we don’t need the finished novel, just the first 3,000 words plus a 600-word synopsis of the complete work: beginning, middle and end. The synopsis should concisely describe the plot and characters so that the judges can see where the story goes and whether the lead players will engage their interest.
See the box below — the full terms and conditions you must sign up to are available online.
HOW TO ENTER
Please read carefully because any entries that do not meet the rules will be discounted.
Full terms and conditions, which you must agree to and be bound by, are available online at dailymail.co.uk/novelcomp
1. Submit your entry consisting of the first 3,000 words of your novel in the English language, and a synopsis of the rest of the plot in no more than 600 words. All entries to be printed on A4 paper with double spacing in font size 12 point Times New Roman.
2. Entries are to be posted to Daily Mail First Novel Competition, c/o Penguin Random House Group, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road, London SW1V 2SA by 17.30 GMT on Friday, June 14, 2019. Entries received after this date will not be judged. (PLEASE DO NOT SEND YOUR ENTRY DIRECT TO THE DAILY MAIL.)
3. All entries must include a cover sheet with your full name and contact details (including home and email address). You must also confirm that you have read the full list of terms and conditions available online.
4. Entrants may submit only one entry to the competition. No manuscripts will be returned, so keep a copy of your work.
5. All entries must be original, previously unpublished works of fiction on any subject or genre apart from Sagas, Science Fiction or Fantasy. Entrants must not have previously published a novel — this includes novels that have been self-published or are available only as eBooks.
6. Entrants must not be currently represented by a literary agent.
7. All entrants must be in a position to deliver their complete manuscript no later than end of January 30, 2020 should they win.
8. The competition, which is free to enter, is open to anyone aged 16 or over who is a resident of the UK or Republic of Ireland, except for employees (and their families) of the Penguin Random House UK group, Associated Newspapers Ltd and any other company that is associated with the competition.
But before you start typing, read our advice from the writing experts: literary agent Luigi Bonomi, who receives thousands of unsolicited manuscripts every year; Selina Walker, one of publishing’s most respected editors; best-selling popular novelist and TV presenter Fern Britton; and crime writer Peter James.
They will tell you how to make your novel stand out, and what vital elements it needs to be successful. They shall also be judging the competition, along with the Daily Mail’s literary editor, Sandra Parsons.
Literary agent Luigi Bonomi, who represents bestselling writers Fern Britton, Susan Lewis, Amy Lloyd and Simon Scarrow
GRIP ME FROM THE FIRST PAGE
Luigi Bonomi represents bestselling writers Fern Britton, Susan Lewis, Amy Lloyd and Simon Scarrow.
I would love to find a novel that grabs me from the very first page and keeps me hooked.
It should draw me into a world of its own where I cannot wait to see how the characters I love will deal with the situation they find themselves in.
Whether this is crime or general women’s fiction, what matters most is that the story has to hold up to scrutiny — the plot needs to make sense throughout, and the characters need to be believable.
Think carefully about what it is you are writing and ask yourself if the story delivers on this front, exactly as you had intended when you first thought of it.
So much of what we read in the news these days seems unbelievable — how people behave towards each other and the webs they sometimes create to keep the edifices they have built standing. All of this makes for great crime fiction.
But equally captivating are the positive stories we read — of love lost and found, of the journeys we take in our lives and within ourselves, and how this can play out within couples and friends and between parents and their children. This competition is a great vehicle for your novel to be discovered. Be brave, take that leap and start writing now.
Selina Walker is publisher at Century and Arrow Books, part of Penguin Random House and one of the industry’s most respected editors
I LOVE TWISTS AND TURNS
Selina Walker is publisher at Century and Arrow Books, part of Penguin Random House.
As an editor and publisher I love nothing better than a good mystery with twists and turns. Harlan Coben is the master of the double twist, and his new thriller, Run Away, has an ending so audacious that you gasp with shock.
The ability to create characters so real you can reach out and touch them is vital, too.
Later this year I am publishing an extraordinary historical novel about the true story behind the writing and publication of Doctor Zhivago, called The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott. It is about spies and secrets and illicit passion, and why books are so important to our lives.
I read it in a sort of trance, and put it down with a real sense of loss as I said goodbye to people in the novel I cared about so deeply.
Finally, you have to consider the location of the novel. Imagine how important setting is in Peter James’s Brighton detective novels, which create a world that is so vivid and tangible you feel you can step right into it.
It can be somewhere you know intimately in this country or abroad but let us hear, see, taste and smell it so it comes alive in our minds.
Crime writer Peter James has written 35 novels, including bestsellers starring Brighton-based DS Roy Grace
THE CHARACTERS MUST ENGAGE US
Peter James has written 35 crime novels, including his bestsellers starring Brighton-based DS Roy Grace.
What makes a great crime thriller, above all else, are great characters. Scrupulous research is crucial, because the more ‘real’ a story feels, the more impact it has.
Plotting with shocks and unseen twists is what crime readers expect, and that is what writers must deliver — but without engaging characters, the best research in the world, and the cleverest plots, will never captivate a reader. Think back to all the great novels we’ve ever loved — what is it we remember most about them?
Was it the plots of the Sherlock Holmes stories, or was it the characters of Holmes, Watson and Moriarty? We recall the forensic dignity of Miss Marple, and the quirky charm of Poirot, far more than Agatha Christie’s plots.
It’s not the plot of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca that we remember most vividly, it’s Mrs Danvers. We love the monstrous charisma of Hannibal Lecter, the quiet intellect of Morse, the invincibility of Jack Reacher, the chaotic life, yet brilliant mind, of John Rebus.
Great crime writing, like all literature, is about great characters. Nail them — those we will love and those we will love to hate — and the story will take care of itself.
Best-selling popular novelist and TV presenter Fern Britton
CREATE A WORLD THAT YOU KNOW
Fern Britton, a TV presenter and author, has written nine bestsellers. Her first novel, New Beginnings, was published in 2011.
I started writing my novels around eight or nine years ago. My first novel New Beginnings was about a woman in television as that was something I knew a lot about.
Fortunately it did well enough for me to be offered a two-book deal from publishers HarperCollins.
I was free to choose my own subject, location and characters — it was most liberating. The greatest character I knew was Cornwall itself. My heart is firmly planted there. I have known it since I was tiny and it has been my work place, home and friend all my life.
I write stories about normal people dealing with the mess in their ordinary lives. I passionately believe that no one is all good or all bad, and that bad things happen to good people and vice versa.
We cannot help but create mess in our lives, but the secret to success is how we deal with them.
- ONE More Lie, the new book by Amy Lloyd, our first competition winner, is out now, published by Century at £12.99.
Winning helped me to trust my instincts
Georgia Fancett, 52, won the Daily Mail First Novel competition with her upcoming debut The Fifth Girl
Last year Georgia Fancett, 52, won the Daily Mail First Novel competition with her upcoming debut The Fifth Girl.
The great thing about winning the competition is that I get to work with an editor and it’s completely changed the way I approach the book.
One of the best pieces of advice Selina Walker gave me was not to overwork anything — if it’s not working, do something else for a while.
I’ve also realised that you have to enjoy your main characters.
When I started the book I had a minor character — a detective who was quite a grumpy old man — but I enjoyed writing him so much that I realised I need to make him a central character.
The previous lead character became much more peripheral.
It felt like a weight lifting off my shoulders to realise that I could change things. As I grew fonder of him I changed his name slightly to Peter Rawls, because I felt softening the character gave him a new identity.
I have learned to trust my instincts and let characters go if you don’t feel them and they don’t really talk to you — it shows in the writing.
Winning the competition has changed my life in some ways, although I work with my husband in our business making vehicle alarms, so I was always able to take a lot of liberties.
But the good thing is that now I can be truthful when I disappear because I am working on the book. I still get up at 6am to have quiet time to write, which is one of the best things about running your own business.
I haven’t really done anything with the money. I sort of feel like I can’t spend it until my book is actually published — although I did take all the family away for a break, which was lovely, especially as my eldest daughter, Calico, is expecting a baby in July.
The book’s publication date has been slightly delayed because my original editor moved abroad, but at least the gap gave me some time to start thinking about my next novel!
I haven’t shown anyone the revised manuscript yet; I feel that just working with Selina is enough support for me and I don’t want too much input from too many places.
My husband, Ben, has read some of it and loves all the changes I’ve made. He’s been so proud of me for winning.
As a surprise Christmas present, he had the Daily Mail feature about me winning the competition framed and it hangs on our wall. It’s a good reminder for me to diet…
MY TOP TIPS for writing success
1. If you don’t feel the character then maybe you shouldn’t be writing them. The reader will see through anyone you don’t care about.
2. Take a writing course of some sort. You will learn so much from the tutors and from other people in the class. It made a massive difference to me — you take so much for granted but learning about the narrative voice and structure is invaluable.
3. Learn to let go of any characters, names and storylines that you are struggling with.
ONE More Lie, the new book by Amy Lloyd, our first competition winner, is out now, published by Century at £12.99