Author Guest Post

What it’s like to enter a writing competition—and get published!

Guest Blogger  //  Oct 2, 2019

What it’s like to enter a writing competition—and get published!

Guest blog post by Frostfire author Jamie Smith

Jamie Smith is the debut author of Frostfire, which is out October 1 and was picked up via the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition. Chicken House and The Times newspaper in the UK have been running The Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition for undiscovered talent, open to unpublished and unagented writersacross the globe with an original and exciting story for 7-to-18-year-olds. Created in 2008, the competition has since grown into a well-established annual event, recognized for having produced a clutch of successful new authors. The main prize is a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a £10,000 advance (subject to contract). 

Here Jamie Smith outlines his journey to publication and explains why aspiring authors should enter writing competitions:

Frostfire is filled with magic—though I would say that, wouldn’t I, seeing as I put it there!

It’s a tale of fighting against the elements and the worst of human nature. Of determination and courage in the face of seemingly terrible odds. It’s about overcoming hate and knowing when and when not to fight. It’s also about a snarky magic icicle that must come to terms with the human girl it’s bonded to!

All this and more wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the Times/Chicken House competition and the spark of a good idea. I’d been thinking about a survival story involving a living ice creature for a while when the yearly competition was recommended to me, and it seemed like the perfect chance to put the concept to the page. I built the world up from that foundation, hanging a culture, characters, and conflict from that little ice creature’s tiny claws. What could cause that kind of thing to exist? Who would need to interact with it? What dangers would they have to face? A few months of scribbling later and there Frostfire (then Frostsliver) was in all its unedited glory.

I didn’t win that competition, but I might as well have—it was enough to be offered a publishing contract too. For anyone out there who is on the fence, I can only say good things about entering yourself. Make the attempt—you never know what might happen, and even incomplete successes can still push you forward. I should know—I’d come close once before in a different competition, and that only spurred me on to try again.

Of course, that’s only the start of the process! There were words to be savagely chopped out, unnecessary characters to cut, and even spelling mistakes to correct (you wouldn’t believe how many typos get missed even with five sets of eyes to spot them). We moved chapters around, cut down the word count, and tried out all sorts of little additions and deletions to make sure the world of Frostfire felt full and believable.

A long, long time later and with a final book much improved with the fine work of the Chicken House crew, we were ready to bring Frostfire and its beautiful covers to the world. We’ve got nasty villains and courageous heroes. Wonder and magic in a snowy setting. Hopefully there are a few surprises tucked away in between the pages too!

Fortunately, enough people liked it that the book won’t remain confined only to the UK, and I get to watch Frostfire spread icy wings and fly to other territories.

On October 1, it’s the US’s turn to experience Sabira’s adventures, but she’d best watch out—because as the opening line says, the mountain has murder