What did winning the Exeter Novel Prize do for me? Well, I’d have to take a few steps back and start with ‘What did entering for the Exeter Novel Prize do for me?’ I’d already been working on ‘Sealskin’ for a few years, just ambling along enjoying the journey. For a first novel, I think that’s fairly normal. But then the team at Creative Writing Matters dreamed up the Exeter Novel Prize, and just to support them, I decided to enter. That meant two things: presenting the first ten thousand words and writing a synopsis.
The writing was ready to go, but getting the synopsis into shape was tough, partly because I didn’t yet know how the novel would end. But if you’re going to submit to an agent or a publisher, a good synopsis is essential, so even if you get nowhere in the competition, you’ve come out of it a little more ready for the next stage of the journey. I’d have gone on putting it off indefinitely, so that was a big plus.
Fast forward to the awards ceremony, and the huge cheer when – as the only local author – my name was announced. I’d won! Broo Doherty, the judge, who is also an agent with DHH Literary Agency, handed me her card and said ‘Congratulations. Send it to me when you’ve finished it.’ That was the second spur. It took me three more months to get to the end. Broo came back with some editorial suggestions, and when she came to Exeter for the second awards ceremony, she finally took me on.
I’m sure the Exeter Novel Prize helped get me a publisher too, both in the UK with Orenda Books, and in America with Europa editions. The roundel on the front cover of every paperback attracts readers as well, so it really is the gift that keeps on giving. But simply entering for the competition helped to put me in a good place for everything that comes next. I owe huge thanks to Creative Writing Matters and Broo Doherty for opening the door – and good luck to all who accept the invitation to step through. It is worth it!
What they did next...
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