Ok so now I have a dilemma. The lovely Helen Yendall over on her Blog About Writing posted a link to another children’s novel competition running this autumn, this time with The Times and the publisher Chicken House.
If you follow my blog, you may know that I am writing a Young-Adult book – Dragon Wraiths – to enter in the Mslexia Children’s Novel competition.
Now I have to decide whether to continue to aim for the Mslexia competition, or to change direction and enter this one with The Times and Chicken House instead. They each have their pros and cons.
The deadline for the Chicken House is later than the Mslexia one (26th October vs. 10th September) but the entry is a full printed manuscript, up to 80,000 words (suggested minimum 30,000 words, which is the same as Mslexia). In the first instance, Mslexia are asking for the first chapter, up to 3000 words, with the full manuscript and synopsis to be sent later, if you are shortlisted. Now this is where the comparison gets tricky.
As well as the wanting the full manuscript, Chicken House state:
Each entry must be accompanied by a brief synopsis, plot plan and a letter of submission explaining the book’s appeal to children. (A plot plan is a chapter-by-chapter breakdown, with a couple of sentences on each, paying attention to the roles of the main characters, dramatic high points, and the most important strands of the plot. The synopsis should be no more than a page, and should give an overview of the complete story, including key characters, events and settings.)
So, how confident am I about my writing? Do I feel my opening chapter has enough impact for me to take the easier (more lazy) route, or will my story come across better will a full synopsis?
The latter, of course.
I’ve already discussed how I’m worried my first chapter alone isn’t enough without a synopsis, because the dragons don’t come until a third of the way into the book. On the other hand, writing the synopsis is going to be hellish, because the novel skips between two worlds and two timelines, using different fonts (at the moment) to keep it all separate. Also the plot-plan is going to highlight my weaknesses when it comes to planning, as I’m not sure every chapter has a dramatic high point and so on.
There are other differences between the two competitions: the terms and conditions for the Times competition are much more thorough, including lots about the paper having rights forever to publish excerpts of any entry for free. That kind of stuff worries me, but I’ve convinced myself it’s just free publicity, assuming all excerpts are accredited to me as author.
Getting down to the nitty gritty of money, entry into Mslexia is £25 whereas the Times / Chicken House is £15. The minimum winner’s pot, as I read it, is £5,000 and £10,000 respectively. That’s pretty irrelevant: I don’t expect to win, really, although there’s no harm in hope.
The Times/Chicken House Ts & Cs have an interesting one-liner on what they are looking for:
The winner will be the entrant whose story, in the opinion of the judges, demonstrates the greatest entertainment value, quality, originality and suitability for children aged 7-18.
That’s a tall order for any author, but something we should all aspire to. I have no idea whether my idea is original and I don’t know any young-adults to try it out for entertainment or suitability. I guess these are things outside my control in a way. I find the story entertaining, and I like Young-Adult fiction (I’m re-reading Philip Pulman’s His Dark Materials at the moment, and finding it hard to put down, even though I’ve read it before)
Despite the entry cost I am extremely tempted to submit to both competitions. I can’t find anything in the rules expressly forbidding it. I would love to double my chances of at least getting some great feedback and the Times/Chicken House competition offers editorial feedback to the 20 shortlisted entries. That is something I can aim for.
Of course, there might be a problem if I won both competitions, but wouldn’t that be a nice problem to have? 😉