eHarmony and Trapeze Books recently announced the launch of the Write Your Own Love Story competition – a creative writing competition for unpublished writers dedicated to finding the new great love story. The winner will be offered a publishing contract with Trapeze – worth £10,000 – as well as mentoring from Trapeze author Anna Stuart. One lucky runner-up will be offered a free place on one of Curtis Brown Creative’s six-week online courses (Starting to Write Your Novel, Write to the End of Your Novel or Edit & Pitch Your Novel).
For those wishing to enter, Trapeze’s Editorial Director Sam Eades, one of the judges, offers some top tips to make your entry stand out …
Edit, edit, edit
We are asking for the first 5000 words, and they will need to be as polished as they possibly can be to make a good first impression. When you’ve finished writing it is time to edit. Read through them as a reader, not as a writer, making sure every sentence flows from the next and that each paragraph flows from the next and that your line and chapter breaks are in the right place. Watch out for repetition of words, check your spellings and your grammar, be ruthless about your adjectives and your adverbs. Read your dialogue aloud to make sure it is authentic. During the editing phase every word must earn its right to be on the page, which is particularly important when you only have 5000 words to showcase your story!
Follow the rules
Make sure you supply a biography, synopsis and 5000 words by 30th July 2018. We won’t consider entries submitted after the deadline, as it isn’t fair to the other entrants. And we want the first 5000 words… not 5000 words from the middle or the end!
Jump straight in
Don’t render your world and your characters in too much detail with long descriptive passages during your opening. Instead plunge the reader straight into the world and let us orientate ourselves. Readers are sophisticated, and will be able to fill out worlds in their own imaginations as well as realise your character’s place in it.
What is the story you are trying to tell?
Jonny Geller did a fantastic Ted Talk about what makes a bestseller where he talked about the story that happens in the spaces between the words. If you want your story to resonate with readers, what is the bigger story that you want to tell? We are all so different, yet there are experiences that are common to us all. Tap into those experiences and your story will become much bigger and find meaning.
Don’t worry about giving us a happy ending
Some of the best love stories such as Gone With the Wind don’t have happy endings. To experience great love, no matter how fleeting, is just as powerful as a long romance that ends in happy old age. Don’t be afraid of showing the darker side of love – obsession, jealousy, apathy, heartbreak, grief. All we need is to care about your characters and be invested in their story.
When writing your synopsis make sure you have enough twists and turns in the story to sustain a full-length novel, you need more plot than you think! To help with this have a think about what storytelling expert Katherine May calls the magic triangle – your story must have characters, context and a concern. Think about who your main characters are, do you have a lead? Or two protagonists? Your context is the world they inhabit, the time and the place that will be specific to your story and will have its own boundaries. Your concern is what drives the story, and can also be referred to as conflict. What motivates your characters, what drives the action? Outline these three things and then think about how your characters, context and concern relate to each other. Interrogate each of these elements if your story isn’t working!
Some of you will be reading this and thinking that you’d love to enter but don’t have time. If you want to be a writer, make the time. Get up earlier, use your commute in a different way, use every bit of spare time that you have. If you don’t enter, you won’t win!
Find more details on the Write Your Own Love Story competition, including submissions guidelines here.
Discover our 6-week online courses starting this September: Starting to Write Your Novel, Write to the End of Your Novel and Edit & Pitch Your Novel (a free-place on one of these courses will be offered to one lucky Write Your Own Love Story runner-up).