Five Things: New Writers Awards Myths

New Writers Awardees 2014 photo by Rob McDougall
Category: Writing

Each year, the New Writers Awards recognise the talent and dedication of 10 emerging writers in Scotland. We receive hundreds of applications, so what is the secret to bagging an award? We obviously can’t tell you that, but we can dispel five common myths surrounding the New Writers Awards.

1.    You need to have contacts in the industry or at Scottish Book Trust 

Your writing sample is the first thing the panel will evaluate, so make it the best it possibly can be.

You don’t need to have industry or insider contacts to get a New Writers Award. We ask applicants to include a sample of their writing which is made anonymous before being read by our judging panel. Therefore, your writing sample is the first thing the panel will evaluate, so make it the best it possibly can be. Having contacts within the industry will undoubtedly help your own career, but name-dropping won’t make your application suddenly leap to the top of the pile. If you're looking to widen your contacts within the literary scene, literary salons are a great way to meet like-minded and connected people. 

2.    You have to be young to apply

You do have to be at least 18 to apply for a New Writers Award, but there is no upper age limit. 'New' doesn’t mean young, it simply refers to emerging writers who are looking to take that next step in their career. Previous awardees have spanned a wide range of ages and geographical locations. Writers under the age of 18 can apply for the What's Your Story? programme. 

3.    You need to have a track record

There is no definitive path which will guarantee success and there will always be exceptions to the rule.

A track record is helpful in order to demonstrate a high level of commitment to your writing. After all, we’re not looking for people who’ve rushed into the decision to be a writer. Previous awardees and most applicants will have some experience such as publication in journals or magazines and readings at spoken word events. However, there is no definitive path which will guarantee success and there will always be exceptions to the rule.

4.    If I don’t get a New Writers Award, my writing must be terrible 

An unsuccessful application doesn't mean that your writing hasn't shown potential. Ultimately, we can only award 10 places on the programme each year from hundreds of applications, which makes it a very difficult decision for our panel! It's also worth remembering that our judging panels change every year, so if you do reapply, your work will be seen by a different panel of experts.

If you are unsuccessful, use the time before the next year to develop your work and you’ll be sure to boost your application. Many of our awardees had to apply several times before succeeding, including Lynsey May, who applied four times before receiving an award in 2012.

Scottish Book Trust also have a wide variety of opportunities available throughout the year which may be more suitable for you. These opportunities include Industry Seminars and Performance and Presentation training. 

5.    We’re only interested in literary fiction

The New Writers Awards are divided into three categories: Fiction and Narrative Non-Fiction, Poetry and Children’s and Young Adult. We encourage writers of all genres to apply for an award, not just writers of literary fiction.

When we assemble a panel, we bring together professionals with a wealth of expertise, so they will be keen to read a variety of applications. Just remember that we cannot tell you which category you should apply for, you will have to decide where your writing sits best. 

We hope that you'll enjoy putting together your New Writers Awards application. We cannot guarantee success, but putting your work out there is an important step not to be underestimated. 

Find out more about the New Writers Awards. If you need more encouragement, take a look at our advice for your application