I have a feeling it will be more difficult to get so far with an historical novel, but it will be interesting to find out. There are several stages to the competition, or should I say hurdles. From a possible 10,000 entries that start out as runners in the two categories (General Fiction and Young Adult Fiction) only two will cross the finish line - one in each category - while bodies pile up at the fences behind them. The first fence is The Pitch - a maximum of 300 words to interest the judges enough to put you through to the next round. There is much massacre here; a maximum of 1,000 entrants in each category will be allowed to progress to the Second Round, so most poor souls won't be given the opportunity to have one word of their manuscript read before they are unceremoniously culled. It's a hard world.
I've copied my pitch below for anyone interested. There are a few days of edit time before the deadline (6 Feb) so if anyone has some valuable advice to give me about the pitch, please do not hesitate. It might save me falling flat on my face.
Mr Stephenson's Regret - The Pitch
This incident-packed novel brings to dramatic life the pioneers of the railway age. Central to the narrative is the complex, often tense, relationship between George and Robert Stephenson. Father and son have ambitions and desires that provide the engine for their achievements but create a crisis that threatens to derail their journey at a crucial stage. Theirs is a generational conflict, universal and as valid today as it was two hundred years ago.
In following the challenges the Stephensons face, personally and as a partnership, much is revealed about nineteenth century mores – about class division, self-interest and greed, indulgence and sexuality, repression and guilt – that may taint even the sweet taste of success. Through their association with some major figures of the day – the Duke of Wellington, Sir Robert Peel, Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria – we discover how they are viewed by the establishment.
Then there are the women in their lives. George marries three times: Fanny, Robert’s mother who died when he was small, remains a haunting presence; Betty, George’s first love, whose father rejected the impoverished suitor, waits years for his return; and Ellen, his young housekeeper whom he weds just six months before his own death, shocking his son. Robert’s marriage to Frances has a slow-burning complication. Each of these inter-relationships provides a depth of human and romantic interest, and crucially influences the character and development of both principals.
This is at once human story and big canvas drama. Nothing was more important in the development of Victorian Britain, and consequently the world, than the coming of the railway age. Literature, reflecting the interest of its readers, has had a long love affair with trains. Mr Stephenson’s Regret shows the kindling of the affair from a place within the hearts of the key participants.