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The Writing Show Contest

2008 First Chapter Contest. Bigger prizes this year, and more of them!

First Prize

  • $1000
  • An interview on The Writing Show
  • Chapter posted on The Writing Show Web site
  • And the eternal glory of victory!

Second Prize

  • $400
  • Chapter posted on The Writing Show Web site.

Third Prize

  • $300
  • Chapter posted on The Writing Show Web site.

Fourth Prize

  • $200
  • Chapter posted on The Writing Show Web site.

Fifth Prize

  • $100
  • Chapter posted on The Writing Show Web site.

Plus, for 10 lucky winners, chosen at random

  • 750 words of feedback



Early deadline: May 20, 2008
Late deadline: June 20, 2008

First- through fifth-prize winners will be announced on October 1, 2008.

Ten critique winners will be announced on June 23, 2008. Critiques will be awarded by September 1, 2008.

Entry fee

$25 if received online (or postmarked, if by snail mail) by our early deadline of May 20, 2008
$32 if received online (or postmarked, if by snail mail) between May 21 and June 20, 2008


What We're Looking For

We want to find the world's best first chapter of an unpublished novel. Above all, you must tell a compelling story. That means that you have to grab us so quickly, so completely, that we can't stop reading, even if the house is burning down.

Your writing will be judged on the following five criteria:

  1. Story. Is it a compelling read with a great hook? Are we engaged?
  2. Style. Is the writing smooth and tight, without awkward constructions, extraneous verbiage, and redundancies?
  3. Dialog. Is the dialog natural and does it move the story along?
  4. Character. Are the characters interesting? Do we care about them?
  5. Mechanics. Are grammar, spelling, and punctuation correct?

We're not necessarily looking for great literature or fancy writing. We just want an absorbing story. The point is to write tightly and economically. Make every word count. And please, watch those extra commas, capricious capitalization, overuse of individual words, and 'it's' where you mean its and their where you mean there! You will be penalized for poor grammar and punctuation!


Rules. Please read carefully!

  • All works must be unpublished and without a contract to be published at the time of entry. Don't worry: posting your work on your Web site or in a writing community does not equate to its being published. 'Published' in our context means that the work is for sale.


  • No more than 4000 words. Chapters that exceed the limit will be disqualified, so please count carefully. (And yes, the 4000 words includes the title, prologue, and quotes, if present.) Entry fees for such chapters will not be refunded, so please check and double-check your word count. Shorter is better anyway.


  • All chapters must be in English, although if you precede your chapter with a quote, that may be in another language.


  • No changes to your entry will be accepted after receipt! Please check your work before you submit because we can't keep track of various versions of your work. (Have mercy on me. I'm still producing shows while I'm administering the contest.)


  • The chapters themselves must not contain any information that can identify you. All your identifying information should be on your email only! The judges will work blind, rating submissions on their quality and merits alone. For the last two years I've had to strip names out of a few chapters. Please be nice to me and don't make me do that again!


  • You may submit a prologue along with your first chapter, but if you do, you must stay within the 4000-word limit for the two sections combined.


  • You do not have to have finished the entire novel. However, in past contests, some judges have asked to read the entire manuscript if they've liked it and feel they can help get the book published, so it's to your advantage to have something for them to look at.


  • Any genre is acceptable as long as it is in the novel form. No screenplays, short stories, poems, or plays, please.


  • You may submit explicit material, but please consider story above all else.


  • You must submit a logline (teaser) of one or two sentences with your chapter. For tips on writing excellent loglines, see


  • You may submit as many entries as you like, but each one must be accompanied by an entry fee.


  • You may submit entries written by more than one author. Only one fee per chapter is necessary, regardless of the number of authors.


  • You must not have infringed anyone's copyright. Be sure you have permission to use song lyrics and other copyrighted material that appears within your chapter.


  • All chapters must be received electronically. Please do not snail mail your text.


  • Any entries that arrive after June 20th, 2008 will not be considered. Entry fees for such submissions will not be refunded, so please plan ahead! We are in California in the U.S. Pacific time zone, which means that you guys in Asia have almost an extra day's advantage.


  • Payments postmarked up to and including May 20, 2008 qualify for the early deadline rate of $25.


  • You can pay early and submit your chapter later. If you pay by May 20th, you qualify for the $25 rate, even if you submit your chapter after that.


  • If your payment bounces, you will be disqualifed. Duh.


  • Each entry must be accompanied by an email that includes your name, snail mail address, phone number, and email. We will not spam you, but we must have a way of contacting you if we have questions or if you win. You may write under a pseudonym, but we need your real name on your email.


  • Winners of other Writing Show contests are eligible to enter as long as they submit new material.


  • The judges' decisions are final.


How to Enter:

  1. Send us your information and chapter electronically
  2. Make your payment online or via snail mail

Please send your chapter as an email attachment to along with the following information and text:

  • Name
  • Email address
  • Snail mail address
  • Phone number
  • Title of your novel
  • Word count for your entry
  • Logline (teaser)
  • Text: I am the author of this work and hold all rights to it. (If multiple authors, 'We are the authors of this work and hold all rights to it') I agree to abide by all rules and guidelines of The Writing Show First-chapter-of-a-novel contest. If I win, I grant The Writing Show permission to display the work on its Web site or sites.

Chapters must be in .DOC, .RTF, or .PDF formats and submitted as email attachments.

Send payment via Paypal, credit card via Paypal, check, or money order. If you are outside the U.S. and Canada, please do not send a check. Payment must be postmarked June 20, 2008 or earlier to qualify.

Click on the button to pay with Paypal or credit card via Paypal:



Or, make your check or money order payable to Paula Hollywood, Inc. and send it to:

Paula Berinstein
Paula Hollywood, Inc.
P.O. Box 2970
Agoura Hills, CA 91376-2970

Please, please, please do not make checks out to The Writing Show! Our corporation is called Paula Hollywood, Inc.

The Writing Show will acknowledge receipt of all entries and payments by email. If you don't hear from us, please inquire.

If you change your email address after submitting your entry, please let us know.


Privacy Policy

We ask for your snail mail address and phone number as backup to your email address in case of questions and/or to notify you if you win. We will not use your information for any other purpose, and of course, we never give out your personal information to anyone without your consent.



Our judges are drawn from a talented pool of authors, editors, publishers, critics, and other individuals with real-world publishing experience. You can read about them here.


About the Contest

The Writing Show is here to help you succeed and to recognize excellence. Our contests give you great practice in preparing your work for submission to agents and publishers.

-Paula B.