CWA's 5th Annual First Chapter Contest Open for Entries

Are you currently writing an original work of fiction? Submit up to 10 pages of the first chapter of your book to CWA's 5th Annual First Chapter Contest.

First prize is a full scholarship to attend either the All-Genre Novel-In-Progress (NIP) Bookcamp & Writing Retreat May 23 to 29, 2021 or the Speculative Fiction NIP Bookcamp August 1 to 7, 2021, at the Cedar Valley Center & Spa, 35 miles northwest of Milwaukee, near West Bend, Wisconsin (value: $1385). Second and third place winners will receive cash awards of $150 and $75, respectively. Each of the top three entries will also be published in CWA's e-zine, The Write City.

For each entry, a non‐refundable fee of Fifteen Dollars ($15) must be made to CWA via PayPal on the same date as the author’s entry is submitted.



Deadline is October 1, 2020. Winners will be announced by December 2020!


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

2. The deadline for entries is October 11, 2020. No entries received after that date will be considered.

2. 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.

3. Judging will be based on merits 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. Did you follow the rules, submit in the correct format, with the 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.

4. There is no restriction on style or theme.

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

6. Page limit: 10. If your first chapter is more than 10 pages, only the first 10 pages will be judged so please do not submit more than 10 pages.

7. Pages must be numbered in consecutive order.

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. Proof your work before submitting. Show us your best!

11. One entry per person.

12. 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:

2019 First Place:

Revenge is Necessary by Bill Mathis

2019 Second Place:

Revisionist History by Caroline Mansour

2019 Third Place

Black Girls Don't Commit Suicide by Brandi McGee