Aspiring authors can submit entries for the Montegrappa Writing Prize until January 10

Literary critic and competition judge Luigi Bonomi offers his prize-winning words of wisdom.

Literary critic Luigi Bonomi is a competition judge for the Montegrappa Writing Prize. Courtesy Montegrappa
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It’s getting down to the wire for the UAE’s highest-­profile ­amateur literary competition, the Montegrappa Writing Prize. Aspiring authors have until ­January 10 to submit their entries – consisting of the first 2,000 words (or the first chapter) of the manuscript and a 400-word synopsis – for chance to win the prize of individual ­writing sessions with renowned literary critic and competition judge Luigi Bonomi, and a trip to this year’s London Book Fair 2016 in April. If you are about to taking the writing plunge, Bonomi has some advice on how to get your manuscript ready for ­submission.

Get us hooked

“It’s true: a great book announces itself from the very first lines. After years in this industry, I still feel a tingle down my spine when I read something terrific. It’s a combination of tone, voice, fluidity of writing and atmosphere that grips me, makes me want to put everything aside and read that novel there and then, and contact the author without delay. It’s a truly wonderful feeling. As a writer, this is the impact you want to have on the jury.”

Prepare to be challenged

“The competition should intimidate you, just don’t let this scare you into giving up. Remember that what we’re looking for is honesty and originality – a voice apart. It’s not perfection, complicated narratives and time continuums, or multiple points of view, none of that. So, turn the terror into excitement and write your way in.”

Your main character

“On the practical side, make sure that your first 2,000 words introduce your main protagonist with all the character depth you can give him or her, and set the plot into motion. A common mistake with first-time writers is that they spend more effort and words on settings and descriptions, that don’t matter to the story as much.”

Be concise

“As for the synopsis, use the 400 words wisely. What you decide to include is as important as what you decide to leave out. Tell us about the story of the main character, the conflict he or she faces, the reason for this conflict, the point of climax and how the conflict gets resolved. But don’t present the synopsis like a step-by-step account of the plot. That won’t offer any depth, texture or meaning. Make sure you capture the feelings, emotions and transformations. Agents and publishers read a synopsis not because they want to know how the book ends, but because it can reveal problems in your novel, from plot flaws, to lack of structure or underdeveloped characters. Writing the synopsis could help you spot such shortcomings as well, and allow you to fix them.”

•The Montegrappa Writing Prize is open for submission to all UAE residents till January 10. For more information, visit­grappa-writing-prize