Openings matter. They determine whether a potential agent will represent your book or move on. Writer Advice’s Scintillating Starts contest is your chance to show Writer Advice, http://www.writeradvice.com, how effectively you can grab and hold your readers and get feedback on what is and is not working. Fiction, memoir, and creative nonfiction are all eligible. You do not have to have completed the book to enter.
Send us up to 1250 words of your first chapter by 12/02/20. We are known for our feedback and would love to tell you what’s working and what an agent might say. Don’t send chapters from books that are already published, since this is really about advice, although there are prizes.
How This Works:
You can enter up to 1250 words of your opening. Some agents decide whether they can sell your work after the first paragraph. We’re giving you the equivalent of 5 pages with the disclaimer that, like an agent, we can quit earlier if our attention wanders.
You can also submit a query letter that is 300 words or less. Can’t fit it into 300 words? Please edit. Agents don’t want to read more. The query letter is not your cover letter for the contest. It needs to be entered as a separate .docx.
You are guaranteed feedback on whatever you send. I’ll tell you what I like, what stands out, and what trips me up. Then I’ll imagine I’m an agent (I used to teach acting) and tell you whether I’d be interested or not and why.
Fees for responses: $16.00 for manuscript opening $4.00 for query letter
The whole purpose of this Writer Advice opportunity is to get feedback. We are not a literary agency, but I know what agents are looking for and I can make suggestions before you send to agents. We are known for our feedback, as you can see in the tan box at www.writeradvice.com, and would love to tell you what’s working and what an agent might say.
We call this a contest because the top pieces receive cash prizes. A cash award of $300 will be split among those whose work is shared on Writer Advice, http://www.writeradvice.com. This is usually 2 or 3 writers. We may also list the titles and authors of Honorable Mentions.
If your work is shared on Writer Advice, you’ll be able to tell prospective agents, publishers, and book buyers that you were one of the winners of Writer Advice’s Scintillating Starts Contest.
This contest is open to anyone who has not signed a contract for the book submitted. That means your book does not have to be completed for this contest, though it should be before you submit it elsewhere.
Do you want to recommend a publicist who helped you out?
Share your idea in a brief query submitted through the Contact box on http://www.writeradvice.com’s home page. If we like your idea and it hasn’t already been done here, we’ll get back to you shortly. Thanks for helping yourself as well as others.
Here’s a collection of quotes I often use with writers before we listen to each other’s work. What resonates with you?
The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. — Ralph Nichols
Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen. ~Winston Churchill
Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force…When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life…When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other…and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. …Well, it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way. ~~Brenda Ueland
It is the province of knowledge to speak And it is the privilege of wisdom to listen. ~~Oliver Wendell Holmes
The first duty of love is to listen. ~~Oliver Wendell Holmes
The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer. ~~Henry David Thoreau
An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside of one’s own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker’s world from the inside, step in inside his or her shoes. ~~M. Scott Peck, MD
Writer Advice seeks both Flash Fiction and Flash Memoir for our summer contest. Write about what’s happening in your immediate life, in your community, in your country or in the life of a character as we face Covid-19, racial awareness, and the upcoming elections.
That’s a huge topic so your first step is to narrow it down. NOTE: You can write as yourself or as a character. These suggestions may trigger even better ones from you. You are not limited to them.
Write about something you saw, heard, or felt and how it affected your sense of normalcy.
Write about a frontline fighter against Covid-19 or a speaker at a Black Lives Matter march.
Write about a medical professional or a contact tracer or any of our thousands of unsung heroes. Notes in a diary and lists are both acceptable forms as long as we see a beginning, middle, end, and some character growth.
Write about being unfairly arrested or hassled or misunderstood or underappreciated. Or write about handling a person who fits that description.
Write what happens when someone in your family has Covid or you lose friends or foes to disease or violence. Yes, you may write this as a characters.
Write about a particular news story that depresses or energizes you.
Write if you love or hate masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, social distancing or if you think the virus is fake news. Either your story or a character’s story can work here too.
Write about the police in your community or tell about a stop or arrest if you are a part of the police.
Write about being laid off or working from home or being a business owner this year.
Write about being Black, Asian, Caucasian, Hispanic, Indian, something else, or mixed race this year. This is a place where you can try on another ethnicity if you want. Please be authentic and sensitive if you do.
Write a letter to your grandkids (born or not), to your future students, or to someone you lost about what happened after they were gone.
Of course you are not limited by these ideas. Write your story about what you see happening and where it may lead us. Write it as yourself or as a character.
My suggestion is that you keep in mind that we’re looking for complete stories in 750 words or less so pick your subjects and your words carefully. You could write a book or two about 2020, but that would not be right for this contest. Flash Prose focuses on an incident and how it enlightened, educated, entertained, surprised, or distressed the narrator.
Of course we accept simultaneous submissions. Please notify us immediately if the piece is accepted elsewhere.
We want strong, polished work, and we guarantee a response from an award-winning author, whether you are a finalist or not. Please submit through Submittable only.
The last day we’ll accept submissions is Wednesday, September 2. Early submissions are encouraged. A $14 fee helps us pay expenses. That said, we want to read your work and hope you will submit to Writer Advice’s Flash Prose Contest.
Finalists receive responses from all judges. Everyone receives a detailed response from award-winning author B. Lynn Goodwin.
DEADLINE: Submit to the WriterAdvice Flash Fiction Contest by September 2, 2020. Early submissions strongly encouraged.
JUDGES: will be selected from previous prizewinners. Their names will be announced soon and you can read their pieces by clicking on Archives.
PRIZES: First Place earns $150; Second Place earns $75; Third Place earns $40; Honorable Mentions will also be listed.
FOR BEST RESULTS:
Include your name, contact information, and title in the cover letter, but include only your title in the submission so it remains anonymous.
Since we judge these anonymously, you don’t need a cover letter that includes more than your contact information including your e-mail address. If you are a finalist, we’ll ask for a bio.
Please double-space your submission. We recommend that you use a 14-point font that is easy to read. Cambria, Ariel, and Verdana are all good. If you forget, we can fix it for you.
You own the copyright. If we publish your work, the rights still belong to you.
Simultaneous submissions accepted. You may submit up to 3 pieces to us, but each one must be submitted separately.
We prefer unpublished work, though we do accept stand-alone excerpts from fiction seeking a publisher or agent. If it doesn’t work as a stand-alone, it’s best to submit it elsewhere.
If you have questions, please click on the contact button and ask.
COMMENTS FROM PREVIOUS CONTESTANTS:
“WriterAdvice.com is one of my all-time most reliable and accessible sites for writers. I use it—and recommend it to my clients.” ~Carolyn Howard-Johnson, multi award-winning author of the HowToDoItFrugally Series of books for writers (http://howtodoitfrugally.com), poetry and fiction
“I can’t tell you how many people I’ve told about the great feedback you give to folks no matter how many entries you get.” –Bill Buschel
“Just a quick note to say THANK YOU for this feedback. It’s such a refreshing experience to have some exchange — as most submissions disappear into the either like rogue satellites.” –Charles Watts
“Thank you so much for your detailed feedback!! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to read and analyze my work . . . It’s not every day a contest gives you comprehensive feedback instead of a simple yes/no!” –Lena Crown
“Your insights are excellent” –Dan Dubelman
“You are the first professional to offer feedback and your encouraging words have given me additional motivation! It is reassuring to know that I was on the right track; you have a remarkable ability to give constructive feedback in a positive way (and you are absolutely correct). I look forward to submitting more stories and continuing to improve.” –Jamie Fouty
“I learned about this contest from the Submittable page. I then checked out your website and felt comfortable submitting my story as you seem like someone who genuinely wants to help and advise others.” –Roger Yetzer
“Thank you so much for your feedback! I really appreciate you taking the time to give me your thoughts. I’m always striving to improve my writing, and feedback from editors like you make it much easier to do so.” –Margarite R. Stever
“Many thanks for your response, from it, I can tell you’re very good at what you do.” –Kisa, Visually Versed
“Thank you so much for your feedback, it always makes me feel inspired and motivated.” –Elizabeth Cockle
“Thanks for the wonderful feedback, never, never, got that before in thirty years.” –Jenny Hickinbotham
All entries should be submitted through Submittable,
Winners will be announced on WriterAdvice, www.writeradvice.com at the beginning of October or—worst case — because no one knows what may happen as the year progresses — later.
You have ten minutes, so you open Twitter. No notifications. Your inbox has an auto-message from an author you don’t know, thanking you for following (delete!). You scroll for a few minutes, note the level of political outrage, like a few tweets advertising books (that you’ll never buy but you want to be supportive), retweet a couple of “safe” posts (author quotes, an agent’s advice) and a “writer lift”, and exit, mildly disappointed.
How come nobody talks to me on Twitter? I have #writingcommunity in my bio, I like all my friends’ tweets…maybe I’ll just never be cool enough to get attention on social media.
First, let’s get one thing straight: You do not have to be popular on Twitter to write or sell your book. Twitter is most helpful (but isn’t mandatory!) for how-to/self-help/narrative nonfiction. For memoirists, Twitter can help reach readers, but email newsletters, public speaking, published…
It’s hard to argue that the whole “you only get one chance to make a first impression” logic doesn’t also apply to writing. The first line of a narrative is the first foray into the voice of the author, the creativeness, the style, the everything. If that isn’t on par with what you, the reader, are looking for, then what’s leading you to believe that the rest of the narrative will change? For that matter, why should you give it the chance to change when there are so many other options out there to consume?
So what makes an interesting first line? Let’s take a look.
Take, for instance, the first line of The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls.
“I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster.”
Forgot to take a picture of us at the boutique, so here’s one of my book covers
I rented a booth at a holiday boutique to sell my books. Knowing that I can promote other people’s products much better than I can my own, I invited two friends who write in basically the same genre to share my table. To my great delight, the scheme worked. We all sold books, and we all had a great time. To me, the moving target that is self-promotion is easier to vector in on with friends. It seemed that even the shoppers who didn’t buy our books spent more time listening to our pitch when there were three of us at the table. You might think bringing in competition would hurt my chances of making a sale, but it didn’t work out that way. Next time you’re planning a book event, consider helping another author and see how it helps you.
Luck and wisdom!
PS – Shameless self-promotion alert, you can buy The Chenille Ultimatumhere.
“You’re just like your father,” spoken in a sing-song disdain is a refrain from my childhood. Auntie Deloris and Uncle Art confirmed it. And once when I was in my late teens, Art added, “It’s nothing to be proud of.” I couldn’t see how we looked alike, but I couldn’t see myself in the mirror either. I only saw a reflection.