The Crime Readers' Association

The Debut Dagger Dream – SJI Holliday

14th May 2015

You know what it’s like… you spend years working on bits of novels, maybe some short stories, maybe you even finish a novel but it’s so bad you let it disappear into a file on your computer that you know you’ll never be able to find again. Then you get The BIG Idea – the one that you know will get you that three-book deal and a slot on Richard and Judy. So you send your synopsis and your opening chapters to the Debut Dagger competition.

But you don’t win. Damn – you’re not even on the long-list! What went wrong?

Nothing.  It just wasn’t your time.

Then you get another idea, and you write the whole thing – and you’ve got a good feeling about this one – so you get your friends to read it, and they LOVE it. So you send a sample to a few agents, with a killer covering letter… and you wait, and you wait… and then one gets back to you – they want to see the whole thing! So you send it… and you wait… and you wait again, anxiously refreshing your mailbox… until:

Dear Mr Bloggs, Thank you for sending us your manuscript. We read it with interest, but unfortunately we don’t feel that it is one for us at this time. We wish you luck in placing it elsewhere, Yours, Anne Agent.

By placing it elsewhere, they mean the bin, don’t they? You’re rubbish, aren’t you? You’ve no idea how to write. What were you even THINKING!

But then it’s October again, and the Debut Dagger is open for entries… and you’ve got another idea that you’ve been toying with. So you write it and you edit it and you tweak it. You send it in… but there’s months to wait for the results.

Aargh! What now?

Here’s a thought… you keep on writing. By the time the results come out, you’ve all but forgotten you even entered. You get an email saying ‘Congratulations – you’ve been shortlisted for the Debut Dagger…’ and you whoop and you do the happy dance and you do the happy dance some more. Then you get another email…

Dear Joe, I’ve read your Debut Dagger entry with interest, and I would love to meet you to discuss representation. Please call me on my mobile, Yours hopefully, Anne Agent.

What? Anne Agent wants to meet you? THE Anne Agent? She wants to represent YOU? Can this really be happening?!

Well, yes – it can. But only if you enter the Debut Dagger… you might not have made it this time, but if you spend time on your entry, or even start working on a new one between now and when it opens for entries again in October – then maybe The Debut Dagger Dream might just come true…

SJI Holliday grew up in East Lothian. A life-long fan of crime and horror, her short stories have been published in various places, and she was shortlisted for the inaugural CWA Margery Allingham competition. She is married and lives in London. Read more

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