Three Things You Need To Know To Win A Writing Competition

Over the last few weeks, in between writing my next book, looking forward to the imminent publication of book three, a psychological thriller entitled THE HIDDEN WIFE, and signing on some very exciting dotted lines (actually that’s artistic license, it’s all digital signatures these days), I’ve been involved in more mentoring.

When I got my first book deal, back in 2016, I promised myself I’d Pay it Forward by helping unpublished writers whenever I can. I taught creative writing classes for years and love talking about and teaching writing. I’ve also run a fair few workshops, the latest one for ChipLitFest which was great fun and I hope useful for the participants.

After three books I think I can help, but of course I don’t have all the answers. Frustratingly, I’d imagine, the solutions can often only come from the authors themselves, but maybe I can point them in the right direction. (My first mentee, Nikki Smith, has signed a two book deal with Orion.)

My latest project came via a friend who really is the loveliest of people, and a very keen supporter of writers although not an author herself. Nicky Pettitt approached me to offer her beautiful Cotswold Airbnb as a writer’s retreat, free of charge for one lucky winner who would not otherwise be able to afford a few days away to concentrate on their novel. (I’m also chucking in some free mentoring during their stay.)

The competition is now closed to pitches and we are beavering our way through the entries as they come in but there are a few commonalities I’ve noticed, not only this time but in previous mentoring competitions I’ve thrown out, and I thought it might be worth sharing them.


This should precis the FULL story, beginning, middle and end. Including spoilers. This is not the time to hold back as the purpose of the synopsis is to show the scope of your story and how it plays out, right to the end.

Opening Paragraph

Something should happen. This may sound daft but you need to grab your reader here. Make them want to read on, and on.

Show not Tell

Ask yourself, ‘Does your reader need to know this?’ And if so, ‘Do they need to know now?’ If the answer to both those questions is yes, then fine, but there is still the need to proceed with caution. Info dumps or reams of description slow down the pace. The author’s task is to keep those pages turning.

The quality of the entries has been phenomenal, as is always the case. There is so much talent out there and I’m sure I only scratch the surface!

But also I see similar issues cropping up again and again.

I hope that highlighting these will help not only those of you who apply to work with me, but also anyone sending out their work to competitions like the GWN short story competition I’m judging, and those of you submitting to agents.

I’m sure a well constructed synopsis and a punchy opening paragraph will attract their attention for all the right reasons. Good luck!

Amanda x