In case this is the first writing competition you've entered (or even if you're an old hand at the game), following is some information on how to format and present a submission and how to write a synopsis.
Crime Writers of Canada'sArthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel
This page addresses various issues to do with formatting and presentation.
There are a few official rules to do with presentation. Entries must be typed and double-spaced, and submitted on 8.5 X 11 inch paper or A4 paper. Use either 12-point Times New Roman or 12-point Courier. Ignoring these rules may disqualify the entry.
Beyond these, however, there are all sorts of presentational elements which won't disqualify you if you get them wrong, but will make it much easier for us to read and enjoy if you get them right.
Formatting and Layout
The best way to format text for fiction, used in just about every novel ever published, is as follows:
Start new paragraphs with an indented first line.
Don't use blank lines between consecutive paragraphs.
Do use a blank line or three asterisks to show a break between scenes or a break in the flow of the narrative.
Use a new paragraph each time a different character starts to speak.
Make sure you include the title of the entry and the page number – but NOT your name – on each page of your submission.
Check your spelling meticulously.
Beware malapropisms and homonyms; words can be spelled correctly and still be terribly wrong. Some examples include a particularly 'viscous murder,' a 'burlesque policeman,' and – in a supermarket – an 'isle of chips.' Do not rely solely on your computer's spell-checker.
Punctuation can be a bit of a minefield, and many of the rules are unclear. Three things in particular to beware of are:
Apostrophes: It's a shame that many people can't put an apostrophe in its proper place. 'It's' is a contraction of 'it is'; 'its' shows that something belongs to 'it' (whatever 'it' may be). Apostrophes should never be used for plurals – no 'bag's of orange's.'
Quotation marks: Always use quotation marks around speech. Standard North American usage is to use the “double quote.”
Exclamation marks! Try not to use exclamation marks. If a sentence is witty, funny, or dramatic, the reader will notice anyway. If it's not, you won't make things better by drawing attention to it.
For many entrants, writing the required synopsis may be more daunting and difficult than writing the initial 10,000 words of their novel. You are not alone! Experienced and published writers balk in exactly the same way that you do when faced with writing one.
The synopsis should be of the entire book.
Use the same narrative style that you use in the book; if the book is 'chatty' don't change to formal in the synopsis.
Be clear. Show plot movements in order, introduce new characters as they appear, if they are major characters show us the 'why' of their actions as well as the 'what'.
Never offer meaningless sentences such as: “Something dreadful was about to happen.” or “What happened next would devastate him.”
Show how sub-plots interlink with the main plot and its characters.
Do not include physical descriptions unless it is absolutely essential.
A synopsis is always written in present tense, never past.
These pages incorporate material written by Michael Jecks, Kay Mitchell, and Edwin Thomas, members of the CWA who have coordinated the Debut Dagger Awards.
We thank Margaret Murphy and the Crime Writers Association of Great Britain for their generosity in allowing us to adapt material from their Debut Dagger Award Website in describing the Arthur Ellis Award for Best Unpublished First Crime Novel.
And thank you to Louise Penny and Michael Whiteside for adapting the CWA rules to use for the Unhanged Arthur and to McArthur & Company for their generous support for the Unhanged Arthur.
Unhanged Competition Rules
PDF Version of the Rules and Style Guide
Copyright 2013 Crime Writers of Canada