CWA's 8th Annual First Chapter Contest is Open for Entries

This opportunity is open only to dues-paying members of Chicago Writers Association. You may join CWA here.

Are you writing a novel? Submit the FIRST CHAPTER of your work, up to 10 pages, to CWA's 8th Annual First Chapter Contest.

First prize is a full scholarship to attend either the All-Genre Novel-In-Progress (NIP) Bookcamp & Writing Retreat or the Speculative Fiction NIP Bookcamp & Writing Retreat, both being held June 16-22, 2024, at the Siena Retreat Center in Racine, Wisconsin (value: $1500). Second and third place winners will receive cash awards of $150 and $75, respectively.

The top three entries will also be published in CWA's Write City Magazine.

A non‐refundable fee of Fifteen Dollars ($15) must be made online on the same date as the author’s entry is submitted.

Deadline is October 1, 2023. Winners will be announced by December 2023.

Guidelines (please read and follow before submitting):

  • Entries must be emailed as a Word document or PDF attachment with the subject heading “CWA First Chapter Contest” to:

  • The deadline for entries is October 1, 2023 at midnight. Entries received after that date will be disqualified.

  • In the body of the email, please include your contact information: name and email address. All entries must be the original work of the author from a work-in-progress. No previously published work will be considered.

  • Judging will be based on elements that should be found in a first chapter, including a good opening hook, strong characterizations, compelling voice, conflict, dialogue, and no grammar/mechanical errors. Judges will also be looking at your presentation: if you followed the rules, submitted in the correct format, manuscript at the appropriate length. Generally, we are looking for an entry with a fresh idea, presented with clarity, structure, and elements of exceptional writing.

  • There is no restriction on style or theme.

  • Submissions should be double-spaced, using 12 point Times New Roman font with one-inch margins.

  • Page limit: 10. Please only submit 10 pages even if your first chapter exceeds that page count. Incomplete chapters are acceptible and judging will be based only on those pages. You may make a note at the end of the 10th page that it is not the end of the chapter. It will not count against you.

  • Pages must be numbered in consecutive order.

  • Please submit with a cover page. DO NOT put your name on the cover page or any other page of the manuscript. Your cover page should include only the manuscript title and word count.

  • REMEMBER, the author’s name SHOULD NOT appear anywhere in your entry (contact info goes in the body of your email). PLEASE double check this before submitting. This includes your headers and footers.

  • Proofread your work before submitting. Show us your best!

  • One entry per person.

  • Entrants must be current dues-paying members of the Chicago Writers Association.

Check out last year's winning entries to get an idea of what a successful first chapter looks like:

2022 First Place:

Think Fast by Thom Pharmakis

2022 Second Place:

Eternity by Amy Strong

2022 Third Place

I Swallow the Sun by Lydia Rogers