Five Months, Twenty Thousand Words

The Burt Award for Caribbean literature is an annual prize given by CODE, a Canadian NGO committed to developing literacy world-wide.  The Caribbean version of the competition is open to Caribbean nationals and submissions should be at least 20,000 words and suitable for readers aged 12-18. This year’s deadline is October 31, 2018.

Previous winners have been clustered around particular islands, with winners from smaller territories, like Antiguan Joanne C  Hillhouse’s Musical Youth, being the exception. I don’t believe that this is a reflection of lack of talent in some islands rather than in others. I do believe the results reflect perhaps, a lack of access to the resources that may be key to producing a polished manuscript that has a shot at winning. With this in mind, we have conceived the special offer presented below.

While it is true that the award accepts manuscripts (work that has not yet been accepted by a publisher) these manuscripts are expected to be at the same level of structural soundness, grammatical and logical accuracy, and thematic relevance as any published manuscripts that may be submitted. So it is important for would-be submitters to ensure their work is in the best possible condition.

If you are planning to submit a novel, there are a few things you should do. If you haven’t already done so, read some of the work of previous winners and of highly acclaimed young adult novels that are similar in theme to yours. This is not so you can copy their plot or style but so that you can get a feel for the type of writing that appeals to young people (and to the judges). If you don’t enjoy reading these books, the young adult genre may not be right for you.

Secondly, if you haven’t started writing it may be too late for this year, but get started anyway, especially if you have a fully formed idea in mind for your novel. You should complete your novel with enough time to let it sit for a while, to have others read it, and ideally to have it edited by someone familiar with the editing process. It is possible to submit a competitive novel right after you’ve typed the last period, but this usually only works for very experienced writers and even those writers understand the value of having a professional editor review their work. If you aren’t finished within a month of the deadline, don’t despair, keep at it. You’ll have a much more polished submission in the following year.

Note also, if you submitted a novel to the Burt Award in the past, you can resubmit IF you have made significant, documentable improvements.

CaribbeanReads is offering a few specially priced editorial service packages to writers considering entering the Burt Award. If you are interested in having editorial comments and perhaps a full edit of your Caribbean young adult novel, email us with your novel’s title, its length, a one page synopsis, along with details about your Caribbean nationality and your writing history if any. We will consider your novel for the offer and send you information about our discounted services.

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