First Drafts Competition 2017

Entry to the 2017 First Drafts Competition is now closed.

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Myriad and West Dean College invited previously unpublished writers to submit entries of up to 5,000 words from a novel or short story collection in progress.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. The winner will be announced at an event at Waterstones Piccadilly in London on Thursday 9 November.

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.

This year’s competition will be judged by industry professionals and acclaimed authors:

Margaret Busby, OBE, publisher, editor, writer and broadcaster
Rebecca Carter, Janklow & Nesbit
Martine McDonagh, West Dean College; author of I Have Waited and You Have Come, After Phoenix and Narcissism for Beginners
Rich Naiff, Waterstones
Umi Sinha, Writing Clinic; author of Belonging