How can I win this writing bursary?
August 22, 2006 1:35 AM   Subscribe

How can I win this writing bursary?

A new writing bursary has come to my attention, the award is DOUBLE my current salary [go read that again - DOUBLE] and is essentially for a prospective author to take a year off and concentrate on finishing a novel. Needless to say, the prospect of anything that's double my salary hurls me into throes of ecstasy, but this is "getting paid to write, no really, it is," so my hunger to win this is... huge.

It's a simple enough procedure to apply: just outline ideas for the novel, how I intend to spend the 12 months off [uh, writing?], and a 2k-word-long writing sample. I feel that what they want in the application is so fiendishly simple, it'll be hard going against and standing out with every MaryJane and their Chick Lit shenanigans wanting to win it too. [I write fantasy, btw]

This is the sort of award that would literally - literally now - change my life. I really can't stress that enough. I'd be writing this novel anyway, even if there wasn't a chance of winning this bursary, but come on, double my salary and a whole year off!

Ahem. I need advice on sounding confident and capable on the application form. Any tips on what the writing sample should be like would help too. Has anyone ever won a big bursary like this?

[And no, I don't kid myself in thinking all I have to do is enter to win, I'm sure there'll be hundreds of others applying. I just want to put my very best foot forward and be content within myself that I did the very best application I could]

Thank you, thank you very much!
posted by Chorus to Writing & Language (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Around 80% of the entries won't follow the brief. Your entry should be part of the small number that follow the instructions to the very letter. However simple.

I'm serious, I won one writing competition because my entry was the only one that actually followed the instructions.
posted by randomination at 2:14 AM on August 22, 2006

Might I suggest making the writing sample the first 2 pages of the novel? This would both serve the purpose of showing just how great a writer you are, and drawing them into the story, making them eager for more and wanting to give you the money to finish. I would be more likely to submit the first few pages of a larger project than a 2 page essay in either case, as it seems more applicable to the project.

In the "how you would spend the 12 months off section" I wouldn't blow that off. Make them at least believe you are a serious writer who gets up and writes 5 days a week with a set schedule and how you write and what kind of environment you need to write well and how working at whatever job you do is interfering with your need to express yourself creatively.
posted by sophist at 3:53 AM on August 22, 2006

I suggest contacting local test-prep offices and asking if they have any teachers who are also qualified to help you evaluate and edit your application. It could be helpful to have an experienced "application counselor" have a look over your work.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 6:52 AM on August 22, 2006

I'd lie about your desire to write Fantasy. If you're writing truly original, literary Fantasy, 2000 words is an extremely tight gap in which to showcase your work whilst ensuring your readers are properly oriented in this brave new world; if, on the other hand, you're writing generic S n' S, the judges 'll probably run a mile on pure reflex.
Lest I be accused of being an SF hater, I'm a Fantasy author myself. Like or not, it prompts knee-jerk reactions in a significant portion of readers, who 'just don't like Fantasy'. I suggest writing a brilliant 2000 word 2-handed exchange in mundane reality as your showcase - when the filthy lucre rolls in, you can cackle as you use it to bankroll a year of writing really cool, unfettered Fantasy.
posted by RokkitNite at 7:10 AM on August 22, 2006

I'd lie about your desire to write Fantasy.

I agree. I think there's often a stigma for genre fiction, and the judges may be reluctant to award you the money if you're not interested in writing "literary" work. Not fair, but IMO, generally true.
posted by theantikitty at 8:08 AM on August 22, 2006

I think the judges would be reluctant to award you the money if you have to lie about what you're working on to win it.

Otherwise I second the advice about submitting the first two pages of the book and of following the instructions for your submission to the T.

By the end of the first page you should have a character, a setting, and a conflict that is engaging enough for the reader (or judge) to want to know more. Look at some books you like for examples.

Check out examples of book propsals, query letters, and the like to get your submission looking as professional as possible. Google should help you there, and checking out the writing section of your local bookstore would also be helpful.

Don't lie. If you believe in your book strongly enough then that will show in your proposal, and if your book is good -- no matter the genre -- that will show in your excerpt. Best way to make sure it's seriously considered is to get your submission materials looking perfect.
posted by box elder at 12:37 PM on August 22, 2006

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