Grazia First Chapter Competition: 5 Authors Give Us Their Tips On How To Write A Novel

15 May 2014

The entries are in for the Grazia First Chapter competition are now in, and our panel is busy reading through your submissions to see who will join their at the Bailey’s Prize for Women award ceremony on 4th June – where the lucky winner will be presented with a prize of £1000.

But if you missed the deadline you can still get involved. Aspiring writers can join Grazia on the evening of Monday 2nd June at the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Room to get advice from some of the best names in the business on how to get your first novel published. Bailey’s Women’s Prize co-founder and best-selling novelist Kate Mosse will chair an entertaining and illustrious panel including award-winning author Sarah Waters, prolific literary agent Felicity Blunt, debut novelist Emma Healey and Baileys Prize shortlisted writer Charlotte Mendelson. And if you can’t wait until then, they’ve all given Grazia some exclusive tips:

‘Set a target and stick to it’- Sarah Waters, novelist:

Be disciplined. I aim to write 1,000 words a day. Some days I'll sail past that target; most days it's like a pushing a boulder up a hill. But I keep going, however hard it is, and however uninspired the words seem to be. It's much easier to return to them later and begin to make them better than to keep staring at a blank screen. 

‘Make people want to read more’ - Felicity Blunt, literary agent

“Work on your synopsis as seriously as you would your first chapter. Think about what compels you to crack the spine of a book - it's the blurb on the back. If you don’t like the sound of it you put it down, and agents work in the same way. Think back to when you first had your idea for a book, what was that idea. That’s your starting point.”

‘Bring your fictional world to life’ - Emma Healey, debut novelist

Make yourself visual aids. Gather material in order to make your fictional world as rich as possible. I draw plans of houses, make maps of areas, collect photographs, technical drawings and postcards of paintings so that I know what surrounds my characters and I can always find something for visual inspiration. You can do this with other senses too; I know many writers make playlists, for instance.

‘Write what you know – not what you think people want’- Charlotte Mendelson, novelist

Don't assume writing is for other people.  Your life has been full of pain and love and longing and fear; write about that. Don't write for money or fame. There are many more sensible and lucrative jobs than writing. Don't write cynically; it isn't 'easy' to produce good thrillers, or children's books, or commercial fiction. And there's no shame in plot. An author's job is to entertain, not to produce yet another beautiful description of dust-motes swirling in a beam of light.  

‘Don’t leave home without a notebook’- Kate Mosse, novelist

You think you'll never forget that 'brilliant' idea, but good ideas vanish just as easily as bad ones! You don't have to write the whole scene, but find trigger words that will remind you of the specific moment or thought you had.
To book tickets for the brilliant Bailey’s Women’s Prize and Grazia’s writer’s evening visit


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Caz Louisa (Wed May 28 17:32:56 BST 2014): When will the results for the first chapter competition be revealed? x
Mary Fitzpatrick (Fri May 30 14:44:31 BST 2014): I take it the winner has been notified?
Sheila Hughes (Mon Jun 02 12:47:06 BST 2014): Cheeky, but this is my non winning entry. I am not a natural short story writer, it's not my area of expertise. But I am happy with my little offering. Having the courage to enter was a bit deal for me and I am proud of myself. Hope you enjoy.!141&authkey=!AN91Y39KzZfE_8g&ithint=file%2c.docx
Sheila Hughes (Wed Jun 04 09:39:18 BST 2014): l am a crime novel writer. l sketched out a great story in my mind for this book and wrote the chapter from that. The book ending has a hell of a twist. Very dark really.
Sheila Hughes (Fri Jun 06 15:00:43 BST 2014): Could you please tell us when are the winning stories printed?