The Crime Writers’ Association

How Did I Get Ready for Entering the Debut Dagger? by Sherryl Clark

Well, first I had to get past my nerves! I’d written mostly children’s books, and to be honest, my first couple of drafts of my novel received the feedback, ‘sounds too much like a young adult novel’. Oops. I knew that really I needed to do a lot more work on my characters, and also make the plot more complex. I had hardly any subplots, and it was all too straightforward.

I think I was too scared to let my main character be who she needed to be – an older woman, a bit of a hermit (for good reasons), fairly grumpy sometimes, and with a strong backstory that fed into all of those things. Mostly she needed her own voice, not mine, and I think that developed from two things, one of which was another six drafts of the novel. Each time I was diving deeper, adding more – in the end, after eight drafts, I had added around 30,000 words.

I also got lots of feedback from my writing group, and a couple of workshops where I put the first chapter up for comments. That helped with my confidence, which then also fed into creating the voice I needed.

It was three years before I entered the Debut Dagger. Each year, I’d look at the entry fee (a bit daunting in Australian dollars!), and think – not ready yet. Then finally I decided to stop making any more excuses and just do it. I hope you keep rewriting and finding new confidence as you go – and then enter!

Sherryl Clark, shortlisted for the Debut Dagger in 2018 with Trust Me, I’m Dead, later published by Verve Books, first in the Judi Westerholme series.

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