The deadline for the Tom Fitzgibbons Award is looming. For details go to: http://www.storylines.org.nz/Awards/Tom+Fitzgibbon+Award.html
The Tom Fitzgibbon Award is a great opportunity for an unpublished author. My first book In Too Deep was short-listed for the Tom Fitzgibbon Award and later published by Scholastic NZ Ltd, and two writers in my writing group were winners, one going on to win in a NZ Post Book Awards. So get that manuscript in the post.
But wait, before you do so, here are a few things to go over before you submit
Make your first chapter count
Chapter one is your chance to make a first impression – it has to be a good one. If nothing else, the first chapter has to establish, without doubt, the story goal or question – will the girl get the guy, will the guy make the team etc. Without the story question, the reader will get to the end of the chapter and go ‘so what?’ What you want is: ‘what happens next?’
Writing 101 emphasizes the importance of characters. Have you done a character analysis, worked out what motivates them, or de-motivates them? No matter what the plot calls for, you cannot have a character act out of character unless there is a good reason for it. Actors use a phrase when getting into a scene – what is my motivation here? The same should apply to your character too – what is motivating him/her in this scene? If there isn’t a good enough reason, you’re going to have to think about rewriting it.
Lots have been written about plots, and I won’t attempt to go into them all here. However, we tend to think of plots of being linear, getting from point A – the beginning, to point B – the end with the twists and turns in between. But we also have to think of plots as circular as well – do we come back to the story question asked in chapter one when we get to the last chapter, and do we answer that question? It doesn’t have to be an ending that the reader particularly likes but at least one that they can live with.
Finally, for that final polish, have the manuscript professionally assessed. Yes, it costs money and yes, there will be some comments you won’t agree with, but part of being a writer is taking criticism and turning it into a positive. It’s not too late, there are assessors with quick turnarounds but if that manuscript is not really up to scratch and the timeframe is too short for entry, hold back for another year. Don’t submit a hasty and unpolished manuscript if you know that there are serious flaws. Good things come to those who wait – especially those who wait with a professional, polished, sparking manuscript.