Final advice from the Discoveries judges

In the last few days before a deadline, some of you may be looking for tips to make your work the very best it can be, while others may simply be looking for words of encouragement to help you take a deep breath and press SUBMIT once and for all. Whatever camp you fall into right now, we’ve got you! Here are the five Discoveries judges on their very best tips for going over your work at the final stages, as well as a reminder of why you should enter.

For more information on the Discoveries programme, head over here. Well done for getting this far – and best of luck!

Editing your entry

Kate Mosse: My top tip for editing is that in your first draft, just get it all down – you won’t really know what novel you’re writing till you’ve got the first draft. It’s like trying to paint the walls of your house without a roof being on it. You need to get the structure in place before you know what you’ve got in your hands. But then when you start to do the editing, what I do is say: What purpose is this chapter serving? Is it background? Is it plot? Do you need all of that? And if you do, is it in the right place? If it is about character, are you giving too much away? Be very rigorous with yourself, every word, every chapter has to earn its place in your book, because only you can write your book. So that is why I think editing is so important and can be marvellous and joyous. Because that’s when the magic happens for me.

Anna Davis: When you’re editing your material for Discoveries, it’s really important to just take that extra bit of time to get it as strong as you can. We know that it’s a work that’s still in progress. But you can still just give yourself a bit of edge here by reading it over cutting bits that are unnecessary thinking about whether you’re moving your story forward, right from the off and establishing your main character within your first page. See if it does that, see if it asks a question that we’re going to want to know the answer to make sure that you’re landing something that’s really going to make us take notice.

Chibundu Onuzo: Before I got published, I didn’t know anyone in publishing industry and didn’t have any literary friends. But I had friends who read books, I had friends who read books, and enjoyed books. At the end of the day, when you write a book, you’re not writing books for agents to read, and you’re not writing books for editors to read, you’re writing books for everyday people who walk into shops and buy books. So their feedback is also very useful and very important. They may not send you a three-page document that is as articulate as an editor mind. But if someone who enjoys reading read your book and says, ‘I didn’t understand this, this doesn’t work.’ Listen, because at the end of the day it is readers that read books. Lean on your friends and family members for feedback.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave: Read aloud. I am a broken record on this. I cannot overstate the importance of reading aloud. That’s really where you hear where the rhythm starts to dip or you’re maybe indulging yourself in your writerly impulses a bit too much, what matters to your reader what’s going to really stick with them when they are reading this to themselves. 

Lucy Morris: One tip for the editing process is to try and take some time away from your work before you start editing it. If you can put it away in a drawer for a bit, you’ll give yourself the best chance of going back to it with fresh eyes and seeing what you spot.

Why should you enter?

Kate Mosse: Discoveries is there to amplify women’s voices. All of us who are already published we want more of you on the shelf beside us. Writing is a community and the Women’s Prize is about women’s voices. The most important thing is that every woman who wants to tell a story should have the right to be supported to get that story out there. Not everybody is a writer, but many people feel that kind of untold story inside them. So, Discoveries is for you. We love receiving everybody’s work. We love seeing the incredible talent out there.

Chibundu Onuzo: Why not? You’ve been sitting on this manuscript. And you’ve been wondering, how am I going to get published and I don’t know anybody in publishing… Well, this is the sign. People are creative. People are always looking for signs that they should do things. This is your sign. I’m telling you to enter and see what happens you have absolutely nothing to lose. So go for it.

Kiran Millwood Hargrave: I really would encourage you not to overthink, just enter if you’ve got a story burning or an idea burning, or just the seed of a story. That’s all we need at this stage. We’re here to really search and reach out to you as much as you reach out to us. So meet us halfway and send in your entry.

Anna Davis: Even if you don’t know quite where your novel is headed, why don’t you just have a go at writing an opening, you never know where it may lead to. And this is a situation where anyone could be chosen. You’re just as likely to do well in Discoveries whether you’re picking up a pen for the first time, or if you’ve done loads of courses and mentoring and degrees. This is a very equal situation where it’s all just about the words on the page, and not about having qualifications and particular experience. So just go for it. And you’d never know. 

Lucy Morris: It’s free. So why not? And it may give you the boost, the motivation, the guidance you need to start a novel, progress a novel, or even finish one.

Best of luck preparing your submission to Discoveries. We’re so excited to read your work!

The Women's Prize Podcast

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