• West Cork Literary Festival 8-15 July 2022

CWA Debut Dagger Submissions Tips!

Writing.ie | Guest Bloggers | Crime Scene

Louise Phillips

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CWA Debut Dagger submissions close on 28th February, and here are some great tips for this and future competitions….

Details of Debut Dagger Submissions HERE 


Debut Dagger Tip from a Shortlistee and Published Author
by Victoria Selman, author of Blood For Blood (shortlisted for the Debut Dagger as Broken in 2017 and now widely published to acclaim)

You only have three thousand words to hook the judges’ interest. Make every one of those words count by ramping up the tension and polishing your prose till it sparkles.

By Debut Dagger reader #1
Every book must have a beginning, middle and end. Every chapter must have a beginning, middle and end. Every scene must have a beginning, middle and end. Every paragraph must have a beginning, middle and end. Think before you write.

By Debut Dagger reader #2
Characterisation: Make sure all your characters are memorable. Think about characters you have found memorable when reading. What is it about them that has made them so memorable?

Fill in the back story for each character. You may not need much of the detail in your book but it will mean you really know each character and how they will behave.

Avoid stereotypes. It can help to discard your first idea for a character; instead create a different one, one that is more interesting.

Allow your characters to drive your plot, don’t force them to fulfil your plot ideas.

By Debut Dagger reader #3
I’m not fond of prologues which seem increasingly popular because they can slow down the way the reader is pulled into the story – I want to be asking ‘What on earth made that happen?’ almost from the first paragraph. It may be that this is what the central character is also thinking or it may be something slightly off-beat, but I want to be grabbed quickly. And, for me, even in crime where plotting is essential, Character Rules!

By Debut Dagger reader #4
Read your entry out loud to yourself.  This will help you identify a narrative voice that feels “wrong” somehow when read by someone else, and will also help with punctuation marks and spotting small typo and grammatical mistakes.  Even better, get someone to read the entry to you out loud!

Don’t find different ways to say “said”.  And don’t overuse the thesaurus!  There is nothing wrong with saying “said” several times on a page if people are speaking.

Don’t go overboard on the bodily functions and feelings.  Do they have to feel about to faint?  Can’t they just faint?

Ensure your point of view is consistent.  Don’t be “out cold” and somehow manage to still see what’s going on around you to continue with the story!

Don’t go overboard on descriptive language.  If the night is cold, it doesn’t also need a lot of similes and metaphors to go with it.  Also – don’t overtell.  Use your characters to explain things.  Instead of just saying “It was a cold night” say something like: “Jo tugged at her scarf pulling it further up her exposed neck.”

Finally…by a Debut Dagger judge
My top tip has to be making sure that when you write the synopsis, you know what the overall storyline is. As a judge, I want to know what happens – not just be left with hints! You need to bear in mind what specific area of crime fiction you’re writing in – procedural, suspense, and so on – and keep in mind who your ideal reader would be.

Keep an eye on the CWA Debuts website too for even more tips and hints.

Read the rules, make sure you don’t submit over the wordcount, email secretary@thecwa.co.uk with any questions or queries (preferably before 28 Feb) – and get your entry in on time!

After 28 February please direct any questions or queries toadmin@thecwa.co.uk

Good luck!

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