First Novel Award 2020 Shortlist Announcement
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First Novel Award 2020 Longlist Announcement
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First Novel Award 2020
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The Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors for a novel in any adult fiction genre

Winner: £1,000 + Agent Introduction  

Runner up: Manuscript Review + Agent Introduction

Highly Commended: Agent Introduction

JUNE 1 – THE COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED. DO NOT SUBMIT AS YOUR ENTRY WILL NO LONGER BE ELIGIBLE AND YOU MAY BE CHARGED

To Enter Simply click on the Pay Now Button.

You will be directed to Paypal to make one payment of £20 per entry.

After the payment is successful, you will be directed to the submission page automatically.

This year we are offering up to 10 free entries for UK based writers on low incomes.
If there are more than ten applications the most promising ten submissions will be selected by the BPA team.

See submissions details below for more information

Judges:

Literary Agents: Caroline Wood and Carrie Plitt of Felicity Bryan Associates

Author: Anna Hope

The team at Blue Pencil Agency will oversee all submissions.

Submission: Opening chapter or chapters up to 5000 words plus a 300 word synopsis and a covering letter

Entry fee: £20 for each submission. Online entry only. 

Timetable: Enter now

Closing date: May 31, 2020

The long listed writers will be contacted by email with announcements of the titles on the website in July.

Short listed writers will be asked to submit 20,000 words (includes the initial entry).

The winners will be notified by email and announced on October 30, 2020.

Favourite Lines: we will post our favourite lines on social media from April until the Long List announcement in July.

What we’re looking for:

· any genre with the exception of children’s fiction and non-fiction.
YA is permitted provided there is an adult crossover.

· a strong voice.

· an original and unforgettable story that grips the reader.

· an attention grabbing first paragraph.

About our Judges
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Caroline Wood, 2020 First Novel Award Judge

Caroline Wood was a film producer before joining Felicity Bryan Associates as a literary agent in 2006. She represents a number of award-winning and top ten best-selling authors including Jonathan Coe, winner of the Costa Novel Award 2019, Damon Galgut, twice shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Louis de Bernieres and acclaimed literary fiction writers Anna Hope, Liza Klaussmann and Gill Hornby. She is looking for literary fiction – contemporary and historical – upmarket women’s fiction and crime. She loves the editing process and is keen to find one or two exceptional debut authors to add to her list in 2020.

Interview with Caroline Wood

Questions & Answers with Caroline Wood

Carrie Plitt is a literary agent at Felicity Bryan Associates where she is building a list of both fiction and non-fiction. She was named a 2018 Bookseller Rising Star. The authors she represents include Sunday Times bestseller Reni Eddo-Lodge, Wellcome Prize winner Will Eaves and Richard and Judy Book Club pick Alex Reeve. She is looking for writers of literary fiction, book club fiction and upmarket crime. Prior to joining FBA, she worked at the literary agency C&W and in the rights department at Penguin Books. She also hosts a monthly books talk show and podcast on NTS Radio called Literary Friction.

Interview with Carrie Plitt

Questions & Answers with Carrie Plitt
Carrie Plitt, literary agent
Anna Hope, judge for 2020 BPA First Novel Award

Anna Hope studied at Oxford University and RADA. She is the acclaimed author of novels Wake and The Ballroom, both of which have sold in over 15 countries. Her contemporary fiction debut, Expectation, explores themes of love, lust, motherhood and feminism, while asking the greater question of what defines a generation.

interview with Anna Hope

Questions & Answers with Anna Hope

Eligibility
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  • Authors must be over 18 years old at the time of entry.
  • The Award is open to unrepresented and unpublished authors of fiction at the closing date of May 31, 2020.
  • Writers must advise the organisers if they accept representation during the judging period or win any other prizes. They may still be eligible for the Award.
  • Self-published authors are accepted. Entrants who have had other types of books published such as non fiction, memoir or poetry are also eligible.
  • The novel must be completed or close to completion at the closing date of May 31, 2020.
  • Long-listed or short-listed entries in other competitions are eligible.
  • Entrants may submit more than one novel but as separate entries.
  • Entries must be written in English.
  • Entries can only be submitted electronically via this site and payment made via Paypal.
  • Entrants may withdraw entries but fees cannot be refunded.
  • Judges’ decision is final. Judges are unable to comment on individual entries.

How to submit
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  • Please enter through the link on our website
  • Upload your opening chapter or chapters up to 5000 words plus a 300 word synopsis and a covering letter with some information about yourself/career as a writer. Your submission should be three separate documents.
  • Please ensure that the file name is the title of the story and ensure that this is also in the subject line of your email.
  • Entries must be in either a doc., docx, or pdf. No other formats will be accepted.
  • Entries must be double spaced in a clear font (Times New Roman or similar) and pages numbered.
  • The novel’s title must be on every page but your name should not appear anywhere on the story.
  • The covering letter should include the following details: your name, the title of your novel, your email address and telephone number, a brief CV or publication history and the genre of your novel if applicable (e.g. uplit, romance, contemporary, historical, psychological thriller, fantasy, crime, women’s, literary)
  • Please tell us how you heard about the BPA First Novel Competition Award? This helps us make the best decisions on marketing to help writers find our Competitions.
  • Click on the Pay Now button on the page and pay the fee.
  • If payment is made using a different name, it is essential you include that name in the email you send with the story.

JUNE 1 – THE COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED. DO NOT ENTER AS YOUR ENTRY WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE AND YOU MAY STILL BE CHARGED.

Assistance to writers on low incomes 

This year we are offering up to 10 free entries for UK based writers on low incomes

If there are more than ten applications the most promising ten submissions will be selected by the BPA team.

Please click here to Contact BPA with your application and proof of financial eligibility such as: Jobseeker’s Allowance; Disability Benefit; Income Support; Working Tax Credit; Child Tax Credit; proof of being a full-time student; Housing Benefit; proof of being a full-time carer.

All details will be kept confidential.

Before entering, please ensure to familiarise yourself with the Rules, Terms and Conditions, and Privacy Policies. Entering the Blue Pencil First Novel Award is taken as your full agreement. Do not enter after the closing date of May 31 as your entry will not be valid.

Interview with our Judges
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Caroline Wood, agent at Felicity Bryan Associates

Caroline Wood, 2020 First Novel Award Judge

When reading submissions, what is it that makes you want to read on?
A compelling voice, characters I care about, a great opening, a vivid setting, atmosphere.

What do you look for in that first chapter?
I want to be drawn into a world: it could be an intriguing prologue, a great hook, a mystery I want to know the answer to, great dialogue, a compelling character, beautiful, transporting writing.

Any tips for the first page?
Work and rework it. Agents and publishers make quick decisions and it’s the one page they are all going to read. As for the content, there are no hard and fast rules but you don’t want the opening page to read like a synopsis and it’s amazing how many do. You want to plunge the reader into your story, so something active – a character doing or saying something – rather than a passive description can often work well. Adding a prologue that might be a taste of an event later on in the book, something the reader doesn’t entirely understand at this point, can also be very effective.

At what point do you read the synopsis?
Usually after I have read the pages. I want to judge the opening of the book as a reader will not know the story to come.

You describe yourself as representing literary fiction and well written commercial fiction, including crime and thrillers. Is there a quality that you feel is integral to all the authors you’re attracted to?
Great story-telling. Narrative tension – literary fiction needs it too! And characters I care about. Also, I want to be left with something at the end of the book.

Expectation, Anna Hope’s third novel, has been highly successful. Can you tell me why you think that is?
It’s a very honest, heartfelt and authentic book about female friendship over time, and it has connected with women readers of all ages. It shows us what goes on behind closed doors in a brave way. It’s also very sexy and moving.

For writers that don’t necessarily fit with the genres you currently represent, is it still worth their while to enter the competition, i.e. sci-fi, fantasy, horror?
To be brutally honest, I would say no. It will be hard for me to judge books in these categories as they are not genres that I myself read.

Who are your favourite authors of our time? And the classics?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Anne Tyler, Ann Patchett, Maggie O’Farrell, Coetze, Ondaatje early McEwan, most William Boyd.
In terms of classics – Steinbeck, Fitzgerald, John Williams (Stoner), LP Hartley (The Go-Between)

How do you think your view will compare to Carrie’s and Anna’s?
I might care a bit more about pace than Carrie and Anna, and I will be less drawn to experimental writing.

Any other advice for entrants?
Be ambitious. The market is saturated and your book needs to stand out. Think of the two-line pitch. Fiction about non-fiction is popular at the moment, fiction that feels relevant and teaches us something. Historical fiction needs to have a contemporary resonance.

Interview with our Judges
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Carrie Plitt, agent at Felicity Bryan Associates

Carrie Plitt, literary agent

When reading submissions, what is it that makes you want to read on?
For me, it’s a combination of great writing, a voice that feels unique, and a sense that I want to know what happens in the plot or to the characters.

What do you look for in that first chapter?
A first chapter needs to grab the reader by the shoulders, shake them, and make them desperate to read on. I talk to a lot of writers who tell me that their book really gets going in the second or third chapters, but if that’s the case then you probably need to cut or significantly change the first chapter. It’s also important that the first chapter is not just telling you about the world you are entering and the characters you are meeting, but instead thrusting you into it.

Any tips for the first page?
I read a lot of over-written first pages. Strip it down to the essentials! And don’t begin with the weather or someone waking up.

At what point do you read the synopsis?
It depends. Sometimes I don’t read the synopsis at all, if I don’t want to know how a book ends. But I usually read it after I have read the first three chapters to make sure the book has a clear narrative direction.

You describe yourself as having an interest in books about the issues facing society today. Can you expand on that?
I love books that respond to the things we are thinking about deeply in our present moment. They don’t have to be set now, but I am always looking for books about things like race, class, gender and the environment.

You represent Alex Reeve whose novel, The House on Half Moon Street was chosen for The Richard and Judy Book Club in 2019. How do you feel this will impact his career as a writer?
The Richard and Judy Book Club was a great chance for Alex to be found by readers who may not have picked up his book otherwise, and it definitely was a factor in his publishers commissioning at least 4 books in the Leo Stanhope detective series.

Who are your favourite authors of our time? And the classics?
My answer to this question changes all the time, but my favourite writers of our time at the moment are Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Marilynne Robinson and Elena Ferrante. My favourite classic writers include Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner and Graham Greene.

How do you think your view will compare to Caroline and Anna’s?
Caroline and I have some overlapping taste and some diverging taste. But I think we will all know good writing when we see it.

Any other advice for entrants?
Make sure you’re not the only person who has read your novel before you send it off. Find a friend who you trust to give you fair and constructive feedback.

Interview with our Judges
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Anna Hope, Author

Anna Hope, judge for 2020 BPA First Novel Award

What will you be looking for in the competition line up?
Quality and diversity. Honesty. Bravery.

Any advice for the first page?
I think the most important thing is to have the voice there on the page. It doesn’t matter if the voice is shouting, whispering, seducing, crying…it needs to be present from the first word.

Top three tips for the first chapter.
Well, you need to make sure that the voice is there, that the story is up and running, ideally that it ends at a point that makes the reader want to read the second chapter. And, of course, that it’s as strong as it can possibly be.

What advice would you give to writers submitting to agents and competitions?
To remember that whoever is reading your novel is likely to be busy – to be fitting the reading in around a myriad of other responsibilities and so to remember to delight them, to really give them something wonderful, something that they can’t bear to put down!

What are you reading at the moment?
I’m in Mexico, researching my next novel and am deep into Malcom Lowry’s Under the Volcano. Sometimes I think it’s the greatest novel I’ve ever read – at other times I’m wondering where his editor was – but I’m loving it.

Tell us a little bit about your writing day.
I haven’t written regularly since last spring, and I’m actually about to start writing in earnest this morning, so I’m delighted and daunted in equal measure. But broadly I get up, see my daughter off to childcare, then drink coffee, sit down, and get to it for four hours. If I’m writing a first draft I try to write at least 1000 words a day. Sometimes it’s less, but it’s often more. The second, third and subsequent drafts are different, involving more hard thinking and problem solving, but the hours remain the same.

You said in an interview with Tonya Cowan that you felt free when you realized you didn’t have to be brilliant. You could just be yourself and not write for a nebulous “market”. Is that a piece of advice you’d give to any debut author?
Definitely. Also, somehow, to allow yourself to be the writer that you are rather than the author you think you should be. Often our internalised ideas about what sort of writer we should be can get in our way. But working through that is a long process and can’t be forced. Sometimes it takes a whole novel in a voice that isn’t quite yours to realise your authentic voice is hiding somewhere.

Wake, was your debut novel, but it is your third novel, Expectation, that has been an incredible success. Why do you think that is?
Well, I don’t really know. I do know that I tried to write as honestly as I could about difficult experiences and emotions – I hope that has resonated with people.

Did you find your training as an actor helped you as a writer?
It’s hard for me to say, but in purely technical terms I hope that my dialogue is strong as a result of reading so many scripts.

How do you think your view will compare to Carrie and Caroline’s?
I suppose I’ll be looking for a pure reading experience rather than thinking about selling the book.

Key Dates for the BPA First Novel Award 2020
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Entries
Opens
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Jan 24th, 2020

Entries
Close
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May 31st, 2020

Shortlisted
Writers Revealed
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July 30th, 2020

Winner
Announced
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October 30th, 2020