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12 January 2022

Final advice from the Discoveries 2022 judges

by Discoveries Author Interviews, Discoveries, From the Agents, Writing Tips

CBC and Curtis Brown are proud to be partnering with the Women’s Prize Trust and Audible to run Discoveries, a writing development prize and programme, which offers practical support and encouragement to aspiring female novelists of all ages and backgrounds, from across the UK and Ireland.

The final week for you to send in your submission to Discoveries 2022 is here – be sure to enter via the submissions portal by 11:59pm on 17 January 2022.

Discoveries invites unpublished women writers from across the UK and Ireland to submit the opening of a novel in English, of up to 10,000 words. Unlike most initiatives of this kind, writers are not required to have finished their novel, and Discoveries is completely free to enter.

The winner will be offered representation by Curtis Brown Literary Agency and a cash prize of £5,000, plus the opportunity to workshop their manuscript with an Audible commissioning editor. All 16 longlisted writers will join a bespoke, two-week online Discoveries Writing Development Course taught by author and CBC tutor Charlotte Mendelson (shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2008 with When We Were Bad). All 16 writers will also receive an annual Audible subscription. Read more about the full selection of prizes on offer to longlisted and shortlisted writers here.

The 2022 judging panel will be chaired by Kate Mosse, international bestselling novelist and Founder Director of the Women’s Prize, and includes esteemed writers Ayisha Malik and Irenosen Okojie, Curtis Brown literary agent Lucy Morris, and Anna Davis, Founder and MD of CBC.

Here the judges share their thoughts on why you should enter Discoveries and what you can do to make your entry stand out…

Why you should enter

ANNA DAVIS: Why should you enter Discoveries? Well, why not? Put yourself out there – you never know where it might lead. You could end up on a fantastic writing course, you could end up winning representation. But if you don’t, you could nonetheless still produce something that is meaningful to you and that sets you on a path with your writing – and helps you to take your writing seriously.

LUCY MORRIS: It’s free to enter and you don’t need to have finished the novel – just to have started one, and have some idea of where you’d like it to go.

AYISHA MALIK: It’s an opportunity to finally be heard – to test your own personal boundaries as well, and to be vulnerable and get that support that you might be lacking.

IRENOSEN OKOJIE: I wish the opportunity existed when I was an emerging writer. I would have applied, so please just do it. Don’t think about it, just polish the work, get it in – and fingers crossed.

KATE MOSSE: Don’t put if off! There’s no excuse, get to your laptop whenever you can. Five minutes here, ten minutes there… 17 January is the closing date – so don’t be late! Just enter and see what you can do. You will never know unless you try.

What they’re looking for

KATE MOSSE: What we’re looking for in a winning entry is imagination, a different kind of voice, enthusiasm – we’re looking for promise and potential.

IRENSOEN OKOJIE: Quality, rich, lively writing that makes me excited to know what happens, that makes you feel immediately invested. I’m also looking for a narrative arc – we need that spine for the story.

AYISHA MALIK: A unique voice and unique style. It doesn’t necessarily have to be polished. Something that might make me laugh and cry at the same time.

ANNA DAVIS: I want to find compelling characters, exciting stories, great ideas, stylish writing… I don’t expect it all to be finished and polished – I just want something that’s going to make me want to read on.

LUCY MORRIS: We want to get into the worlds that you want to build. Characters that won’t let you go… And when you’ve got those first 10,000 words our hope is that the Discoveries programme will help you write the rest.

Editing your entry

ANNA DAVIS: When it comes to editing and polishing your work, my first tip is to print it out and read it on paper. There’s something about actually seeing your work on the page, rather than looking at a screen. Really try to sit back from it and see it the way that a reader would.

IRENOSEN OKOJIE: Read the work out loud. I think a lot of people don’t do that, and when you do, you can hear the rhythms in the sentences, you can listen for things that maybe don’t work.

AYISHA MALIK: Look at things like structure, and characterisation, and pacing. Are you following the classic three-act graph in your story? How are you adapting that in your chapters, and in your scenes, and even in your paragraphs?

LUCY MORRIS: So, there are little tricks you can do. You can change the font in your Word document. You can change the colour, or even the font size – and sometimes that can really help you spot those inconsistencies, those unanswered questions.

KATE MOSSE: If you are very sensible, you will double, double, double check before you send it in because it’s that old cliché: you’ve got one chance to make a first impression.


Find out more about Discoveries 2022 and how to enter. Entries close 17 Jan 2022.

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