Last Friday, bestselling authors from around the globe gathered at CrimeFest in Bristol to hear the announcement of the Debut Dagger long list...
For fifteen years the CWA has been encouraging new writers with its Debut Daggers; a crime novel competition that attracts hundreds of entries from all over the world. Last year’s winner was from Australia and previous short lists have included authors from India, Canada and New Zealand- so it really is very much an international competition.
This year I plucked up the courage to put myself forward.
‘Believe in yourself,’ my husband said. ‘What have you got to lose?’
The entry fee of £36 is steep compared to other writing contests but I wanted to know if my book was good enough to stand out from the crowd. And given the reputed quality and quantity of the entries, not to mention the judges themselves (most of whom are linked to major publishing houses) I figured it would be a good test of my manuscript’s potential. Plus of course the winner is more or less guaranteed a publishing contract- a juicy carrot indeed.
As it turns out submitting stood me in good stead for the querying process as well. You have to send in your first three thousand words along with a short synopsis, which is pretty much what agents ask for too.
Tightening my opening pages, making them as tense and exciting as possible, and condensing my plot into a one page summary taught me a lot about editing. And it was also helpful when it came to pitching to agents later.
As the announcement date drew closer I tried telling myself it was a long shot and plenty of people get publishing contracts without winning competitions. But still, I couldn't help hoping and by last Friday I was as tense as the time I accidentally drove a golf buggy onto a dual carriageway (true story).
I couldn't make it to CrimeFest this year and had just put my boys to sleep when the email came through. The subject line was- Debut Dagger Longlisted. I opened it and screamed.
‘What’s wrong, Mummy?’ said my youngest rushing out of bed.
‘Nothing’s wrong,’ I said hugging him tight and suffocating him with kisses. ‘I've just had some very good news.’
That night I didn't sleep a jot.
Victoria Slotover has written for the Daily Express and Ham & High newspapers and won the 2013 Full Stop Short Story Competition. Her crime novel, Broken has been long listed for the 2017 Debut Daggers. She is represented by Alice Lutyens at Curtis Brown