So you want to be a mystery writer? 2010 CWA Debut Dagger competition now open!

Monday 2 November 2009, 7:28PM
By Craig Sisterson

THE CRIME Writers Association (CWA), based in the United Kingdom, has now opened the entry period for the 2010 CWA Debut Dagger, a prestigious writing competition for unpublished authors from throughout the world. Entries for the 2010 Debut Dagger will be accepted online or by post by the CWA between 31 October 2009 and 6 February 2010, meaning budding writers who haven't yet published a full-length novel have just over three months to enter.

It can be incredibly tough for new writers to break through into book publishing. Competitions such as the CWA Debut Dagger provide a vehicle for new voices to get noticed, and perhaps leap over many years potentially spent in the 'slush piles' of too-busy literary agents and publishing houses. The CWA Debut Dagger is one of several coveted and well-publicised awards the organisation presents each year, to celebrate the very best in crime and thriller writing.

The CWA Debut Dagger Award was established in 1998 and is open to all writers who have not had a novel published commercially. Entrants submit the opening chapter(s) of their novel (up to 3,000wds) as well as a synopsis of the full novel.

Since its inception, 18 winners and short-listed authors have obtained publishing contracts on the strength of their entries. Several have gone on to major success. Inaugural winner Joolz Denby (1998) was later short-listed in 2005 for the Orange Prize for Fiction, 2001 winner Ed Wright was awarded the 2005 Shamus award for best P.I. novel by the Private Eye Writers of America, and Allan Guthrie won the 2007 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year for TWO WAY SPLIT, developed from his entry shortlisted in 2001.

Barbara Cleverly, shortlisted in 1999, won the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger award in 2004. Canadian Louise Penny, highly commended by the judges of the 2004 Debut Dagger, was awarded the 2006 CWA New Blood Dagger, and has also won prestigious Anthony and Agatha Awards in North America. 2007 winner Alan Bradley has just seen Orion publish THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE, the first in a three-book deal.

In 2009, first prize was £500 plus two free tickets to the prestigious CWA Dagger Awards and night’s stay for two in a top London hotel. All shortlisted entrants receive a generous selection of crime novels and professional assessments of their entries, and will also be invited to the Dagger Awards.

The 2009 winner was Canadian Catherine O'Keefe, for the start and synopsis of her unpublished novel THE PATHOLOGIST. The judges described it as "an uncomfortable, sophisticated, read that also manages to be suspenseful."

Comparing entry into the CWA Debut Dagger competition vs taking your chances in the slush piles of literary agents and publishers, 2007 short-listee and now published author Dorothy McIntosh recounts the story of fellow entrant and now Anthony and Agatha Award-winning published author Lousie Penny. "Louise’s first manuscript endured many rejections before she entered the Debut Dagger competition. Her entry achieved the ‘highly commended’ category and, as a direct result, she found an agent. Today, Louise is a much loved and widely read author who has won many awards for her work. Her latest novel A BRUTAL TELLING just debuted on the New York Times best seller list."

Readers wanting further information about the 2010 CWA Debut Dagger, including rules, FAQs, and advice on submissions, can visit: