Spark Prize 2020 Submission Guidelines | Narrative Non-Fiction Writing Prize | Hardie Grant Books | RMIT

Frequently Asked Questions

21 Aug 2020 | Hardie Grant Books

Q. Can a team of more than one person apply for the prize?

Unfortunately this prize is only for individual writers.

Q. My project isn’t finished – I’m still researching, writing or interviewing. Will I be penalised for submitting something early on in the writing process?

You will not be penalised for submitting a book proposal on a work that is still in progress. This is a developmental prize and the expectation is that you will still be working on the project. We want to support you to do research, work with an editor, and finish the project.  It’s a good idea in the proposal to be up front about how far along you are in your project.

Q. How central is the idea of 'narrative arc' in narrative non-fiction?

This isn’t a prize for wildly experimental works, but just because something is narrative doesn’t mean it has to be linear. You have lots of avenues open when you’re starting to tell your story. You can even look at fiction for techniques for writing narrative non-fiction. It’s all about finding the right shape, form, or voice for the idea you want to get across.

Q. If writing a memoir, how accurate does it need to be? What if memories of details are patchy but the broader impacts of events are what you want to communicate?

There are so many ways to tell one's story and ‘truth’ and ‘memory’ are complicated! If the story is drawn from life, one's experience, and seeks truth, that's the best we can strive for as writers, although it’s always good to think about how others might feel about what you’re sharing. 

Q. What if my proposal covers sensitive material? 

If you're writing about traumatic experiences, it's good practice to mention it at the top of the proposal, so that any potential readers are prepared for the content. If what you’re writing about could have some sensitivities from a legal perspective, please make sure you explain this clearly in your proposal.

Q. Is there space in my application to include external sources, e.g. a bibliography and references?

A long external reference list isn’t needed to enter this prize, even though research is often important for narrative non-fiction. You might consider listing a few important sources where relevant in your project plan.

Q. What is the preferred word count for a narrative non-fiction book?

Remember, your entry for this prize doesn’t need to be finished – you just submit an excerpt. When it comes to final word count, many non-fiction books sit in the ballpark of 70,000 words, but the word count goes up and down depending on the project.

Q. Can you suggest an organisation or social media group that is a good support or source of information for Australian writers?

For writers under 25, Express Media is a fantastic source of information, opportunities and support. Otherwise, try your local state-based Writers Centre (e.g. Writers Victoria); your local library network; join the Australian Society of Authors; or ask about local writing groups in community message boards. RMIT Writing and Publishing is on Facebook and includes current students, staff, friends of the program and alumni.

Q. What is your advice about pitching a non-fiction book to Hardie Grant outside of entering the prize?

Hardie Grant does accept general submissions, and we will be opening up a submissions portal through Submittable (the same platform we’re using for the prize) very soon. Keep your eye out!