Myriad First Drafts 2014 competition

Author Lisa Cutts

Author Lisa Cutts - Credit: Archant

In collaboration with Sussex Life, Brighton-based publishers Myriad are looking for the next publishing phenomenon. If you are a secret scribe, their writing competition could be your big chance

Have you been beavering away on a novel in secret? Is your bottom drawer bursting with unread manuscripts? If so, Brighton-based publishers Myriad are keen to see your work. Their literary prize MYRIAD FIRST DRAFTS 2014 competition is now open to all unpublished writers working on full-length novels or short story collections in any genre, and Myriad Publisher and Managing Director Candida Lacey is clear about her track record for identifying exciting new voices: “Our first winner, Kirsty Logan, wrote a short story that has since expanded into a novel, The Gracekeepers, which has just been bought by Harvill Secker in the UK and Hogarth in the US.”

As part of their mission to provide opportunities for new writers, Myriad first teamed with West Dean College in West Sussex in 2010 with the unique idea of creating a literary prize for a work-in-progress rather than the finished product. Now in its seventh year, the recently re-titled prize MYRIAD FIRST DRAFTS continues to prove itself to have a canny eye for identifying home-grown talent at an early stage.

The winner receives a week’s writing retreat, with full board, in the luxurious surroundings of West Dean College, which is situated in an area of outstanding natural beauty north of Chichester, as well as feedback from industry experts from the judging panel. The judges are Candida Lacey, Vicky Blunden, Fiction Editor, author Lizzie Enfield (whose novel Living With It was recently published my Myriad) and Greg Mosse, a teacher at Chichester Festival Theatre and the Southbank Centre Creative Writing School. Submissions will also be read by both a literary and film agent.

Logan is not the only hit that Myriad can be proud of. In 2012, serving police officer Lisa Cutts entered the competition with five thousand words of the opening to her crime novel, Never Forget. She won, Myriad went on to publish the novel in 2013, and in August 2014 it was optioned by a major TV company. The second novel in her Detective Nina Foster series, Remember, Remember, was also published in 2014.

As a Sussex and Kent-based detective constable working in the Major Crimes Unit, “usually murder and rape cases”, Lisa draws on her profession to provide inspiration for her novels and as such her portrayals of police practices and procedures unsurprisingly have a strong sense of authenticity about them. However, even with this impressive career behind her it still took Lisa a while to build up confidence in her writing: “It was the first thing I had ever written and people like me didn’t win writing competitions, I didn’t stand a chance. My best hope was that someone at Myriad would read it and offer me some advice on how to improve it. That was it.”

Winning the Myriad competition provided Lisa with the space from her demanding job she needed to write. “The week spent at West Dean allowed me to write for hours every day. I have such happy memories of my week there and still maintain I had the best room in the place. I was in the Old Vicarage, ground floor and my room had double doors opening out onto the beautiful garden. It gave me a glimpse of writing full-time, although I don’t think West Dean would actually allow me to live in the Old Vicarage.”

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Myriad has also gone on to publish several previously shortlisted entrants including Hannah Vincent from Brighton whose debut novel Alarm Girl came out this year. Hannah was shortlisted for the Myriad competition a couple of years in a row until eventually her persistence paid off and she was invited to Myriad’s offices in Lansdowne Place, Brighton for a chat. When she was told that Myriad would like to publish her book she, “nearly fell off her chair” and is now working on a second novel.

Myriad may be small but it has an impressive and thoughtful list of authors and a covetable list of prizes. Publishing six or seven novels a year, and three graphic novels, Myriad provides tailored, hands-on and approachable services to their authors which are rare to find in the commercial world today. Hannah Vincent says: “I think we are very, very fortunate in having a local publisher like Myriad who are intent on launching new writers and who promote a very supportive and nurturing environment. They have authors defecting from big London and New York-based publishers because of their reputation - everyone agrees they are the nicest publisher anyone has ever encountered. Not only are they incredibly warm and familial, they are a class act, too. While my editor, Holly Ainley, was attentive to making my book the strongest book it could be, there were no discussions about where to ‘place’ it in the ‘market’, there was no pressure to structure it or punctuate it more conventionally or make it longer or shorter or fatter or thinner. I found their attitude incredibly refreshing.”

Smaller publishers like Myriad are frequently able to take a chance on writers whose work might not hit one of the specific market trends that so occupy the concerns of the bigger publishers. Examples of this are Eimear McBride’s success with her debut novel, A Girl is a Half-formed Thing, published by Galley Beggar press of Norwich and Booker prize-shortlisted Deborah Levy’s novel Swimming Home, published by the tiny Hampshire-based press And Other Stories which has a strong international list including Worthing-based writer Niyati Keni, whose novel Esperanza Street is due out in early 2015. It really does seem that despite a difficult commercial climate there is an appetite for unearthing that undiscovered novel lurking under the bed. Myriad publishers enjoy promoting and helping new literary voices to break through into print and welcome submissions for the competition. The closing date is 31 January 2015 and the winner will be announced at an event in May.

For full guidelines and conditions on how to enter go to

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