First Drafts Competition 2017

Key dates
Longlist announced: 4 September 2017
Shortlist announced: 2 October 2017
Winner announced at Waterstones Piccadilly: 9 November 2017


This has been a bumper year for our competition, with almost three times the number of entries compared to previous years, and we were hugely impressed by the standard of writing and the variety of styles and subject matter. In recognition of this sheer wealth of talent, we have decided this year to start with a longlist of 21 entries, before embarking on the wonderfully hard job of whittling down to the final shortlist.

The longlisted authors and titles are:

Jacqui Bealing | The Debussy Suite
Annetta Berry | The Binding Frame
Sylvia Carr Clebsch | SAFE
Finn Clarke | Call Time
Melanie Corrigan | Figurine
Megan Graham | If I Should Fall
Ellen Hardy | The Ark
Elinor Johns | Our Father, Ghosts and Car Trips
Tony Leonard | The Last of Us
Nikki Marmery | Isla Maria
Laura Martz | The Elephant
Thomas McColl | Tell Me What It Means
Valerie O’Riordan | Fiasco
Karan Paige | The Wedding Picture
Michelle Penn | One O’Clock Jump
Richard Phelps | Crooked Beak
Tabitha Potts | Inheritance
Sophie Powell | Miss Mitchell’s Comet
Victoria Richards | Killing Kittens
Kathy Stevens | Lonely Child
Andrew Stewart | Summerland

Congratulations to the longlisted authors, and thanks to everyone who entered the competition for giving us such an interesting, varied and accomplished batch of manuscripts to read.

We will be announcing the SHORTLIST on 2 OCTOBER, and then the WINNER at a prizegiving event on THURSDAY 9 NOVEMBER at Waterstones Piccadilly in London where the judges will discuss the entries and what impressed them about the shortlisted works. This year’s judges are publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster Margaret Busby, OBE; literary agent Rebecca Carter of Janklow & Nesbit; writer and West Dean’s creative writing MA co-ordinator Martine McDonaghRich Naiff of Waterstones Brighton; and writer and creative writing teacher Umi Sinha. Do join us if you can.


First Drafts is an annual event organised by Myriad to uncover exceptional new voices. It is at the heart of Myriad’s mission to discover and nurture bold and exciting writers. There are very few competitions for a work in progress and this is a brilliant opportunity for aspiring authors to get their work noticed by publishers and agents.

Myriad and West Dean College invited previously unpublished writers to submit entries of up to 5,000 words from a novel or short story collection in progress.

The prize is a week-long writing retreat in the luxurious surroundings of West Dean College near Chichester, detailed editorial feedback from the judges and six months’ mentoring from a Myriad author.


Now in its eighth year, First Drafts has a track record of launching writers who have gone on to enjoy creative and commercial success. Stephen Mullan, shortlisted last year, has won a TV deal and a German publisher, even before the UK edition of his novel is published.

Most recently, Vanessa Savage, last year’s First Drafts winner, and previously shortlisted, has signed a six-figure deal for the the novel that was extracted for the competition,  The Murder House, plus a second psychological thriller. 

‘Being shortlisted and then going on two years later to win the First Drafts competition was a huge confidence boost’, she writes. ‘It made me believe I was writing something worth reading. The feedback from the judges was invaluable and the winner’s announcement event was a prize in itself. Finding time to write has always been an issue and the prize of a week’s writing retreat at West Dean offered me a dream-come-true opportunity to spend time working on my book. Now both the books entered into the competition are going to be published! I would recommend the First Drafts competition to anyone.’

Other past successes include 2010 winner Kirsty Logan, who used her retreat to write a short story that she later expanded to become her novel, The Gracekeepers (Harvill Secker); 2013 winner The Gift of Looking Closely by Al Brookes was Guardian Self-Published Book of the Month; a sample of Juliet West’s novel Before the Fall (Pan) was shortlisted in 2013; American short story writer Owen D. Cluer (winner, 2014) was signed by literary agent Becky Thomas (Johnson & Alcock); and Paul McVeigh’s novel The Good Son, shortlisted in 2013, was published by Salt and won the Guardian Not-the-Booker Prize.

Swan Song, by Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott (pictured), was shortlisted in 2015. It went on to win The Bridport Prize Peggy Chapman Andrews Award for a First Novel and will be published by Hutchinson in 2018. We’re proud that First Drafts has played a part in launching Kelleigh’s writing career:

‘I don’t think you could possibly know how much your early support of Swan Song meant. Myriad validated that I had created something special, and gave me the momentum to sprint forward and never look back. To now have everything come to fruition is amazing, and I know what a hugely significant role you and Myriad have played in that journey’.

Myriad has published several writers brought to its attention through the competition, including Lisa Cutts,Never Forget by Lisa Cutts whose crime debut Never Forget was been optioned by a major TV company; Nina de la Mer, author of the acclaimed novels 4 a.m. and Layla; Hannah Vincent, whose debut, Alarm Girl, came out in 2014; S.E. Craythorne, author of How You See Me, and Sara Marshall-Ball, author of Hush, both published in 2015.