Announcing the brand new November 2012 Fiction Contest: “Best First Chapter”

After weeks of planning, it’s time to announce SoWrite’s November Fiction Contest:

“Best First Chapter”
$50 Cash Prize (minimum) for November Fiction 2012

“Best First Chapter” will pay a minimum $50 first prize

Are you ready to play?

There might be $50 in it for you.

Think about that for a minute… What would you do if you won this contest, and had (at least!) fifty dollars in prize money to spend? Would you —

  • Buy a new house?
  • Or maybe a new car?
  • Pay off all of your debts?
  • Go on a WILD shopping spree for Christmas?
  • Form an incredible charitable foundation?

Well, wait. This isn’t a Lottery. It’s a nice, simple Writing Contest. And there aren’t enough zeroes in that prize amount for any of those life-changing spending sprees.

It will cost you the price of a Scratch-Off ticket to play, though.

Is it worth the price of admission?

That depends.

We chose “Best First Chapter” for SoWrite’s first writing contest because we know many of you are working your butts off at the keyboard, trying to turn out 50,000 words by Nov 30 for National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

We thought you might like at least the chance of a spendable reward for your efforts, without having to do anything extra — like write a special themed entry for our first competition. (Of course, you don’t have to use your NaNoWriMo chapter if you don’t want to!)

“So how does this work?” you ask.

First, you have to ask yourself, “Do I have a chapter that’s good enough to win a writing contest?”

Of course you do! You’re a talented writer, aren’t you? (Would you be reading this if you weren’t??)

So, you pick a chapter, maybe even an actual “first chapter” from that monstrous tome you’re blasting out for NaNoWriMo. For your entry, we’ll accept up to 1000 words from your chapter.

Then you plunk down your $5 entry fee (or less, if you prefer*), and we’ll give you the password to the contest entry page. Yup, it’s right here on the site, waiting for you to join in.

Entry fee is discounted to $3 if you are a Subscriber to

You can even read the General Contest Rules before you decide to enlist.

What are the odds that you will win this contest?

If you’re good, they’re very good. If you’re bad, they’re very bad. We don’t know yet how many writers will enter the contest, so we can’t give you one of those “1 out of so many” odds of winning. And remember, this isn’t a lottery.

What happens after you enter?

You’ll be able to read all of the other contest entries. You could even leave a comment on one or more entries, if you promise to behave. None of the authors’ names will be revealed until the contest is over, so we really want to work hard to maintain anonymity if at all possible. (Yes, that’s the tricky part.)

Meanwhile, we have recruited two wonderful judges for this first go ’round — Tammy and Amanda. Both are excellent writers and superb editors.

The judges will read and consider every entry. Each will keep careful notes and assign a point rating for 3 different quality measures: basic writing skill, grammar and structure, and (most important) the much harder to define “Wow!” factor. None of these scores will be publicly displayed.

However, once the judging phase begins, our judges will post brief feedback for each entry. Not feedback like “good heavens, your entry sucks,” but good basic general observations (just a few words).

Does that sound fair?

Of course, we will only have one winner. That’s how most contests work. If we had big corporate sponsors (maybe next time?), we could have a field of winners. On the other hand, we aren’t expecting a slew of super-successful published authors to enter this first contest.

So, if you believe in your own talent and you have a high-quality chapter ready to go, your odds of winning are pretty good.

This is not a random drawing. Nor is this a popularity contest, to be won by whomever has the most Friends on TweetBook. It’s a talent contest with two human judges who will be as objective as possible.

The $50 First Prize is guaranteed to be awarded

If we get more than ten confirmed entries, the prize will grow larger. 50% of every entry fee from entry #11 forward will go into the jackpot.

The contest is open right now. Judging will begin on Thursday, November 22. New entries will be accepted until Tuesday, November 27. We’ll announce First Place by the first of December. Our winner will have his or her prize money in hand three weeks before Christmas.

Are you ready to play?

If you are not a SoWrite site subscriber, please click the button below to enter:

$5 ENTRY FEE via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

If you are a SoWrite subscriber, use the discounted $3 entry fee button instead. (You can sign up right now using the blue box, below, if you want to.)

$3 ENTRY FEE via PayPal:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!


When you click the Pay Now button, you will be directed to PayPal’s secure payments processing page for  Please read the Thank You page carefully for your Entry Password and contest page link. Payments made in error will be cheerfully refunded upon request.

questionQuestions? Ask away, right here on this page in the Comments section. Jim, Tammy, or Mandy will be sure to answer your inquiries promptly.


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  1. pretty cool contest Jim. Makes me wish I had known about the Fiction writing thing earlier. I have been focusing on non fiction but I still plan on getting into soon. I have lots of book ideas in my notepad beckoning to be explored.

    You contest was almost just the push I needed! The idea of finally being able to go on that lavish shopping spree I have wanted. =-) I guess I will have to wait until next november. Good luck to all the other participants.

    • Thank you, Coach!

      I know you’ve been busy in your chosen field. As we move forward I’m sure there will be one or more non-fiction competitions. Wouldn’t want you to have to wait a whole year to join in.

  2. Our first entry has been posted and approved. More on the way, from what I’m hearing.

    I’d love to see this prize grow beyond the initial $50. The more, the merrier!

  3. Jim, if I read it correctly, you only want the first 1000 words of the first chapter as the entry?

    • Yes, that’s right, Glory.

      Just find a good place to cut things short if your chapter is substantially longer than 1000 words. We’re not looking for a resolved plot, just some great writing. That, I know you can do! How goes your vacation?

  4. Such a funny post! I like it!

    “If you’re good, they’re very good. If you’re bad, they’re very bad.” Quote of the day. So profound.

    In seriousness, good luck with the contest!

  5. Hi friends,

    This is Day 3 of the contest, and we now have 4 official entries, with more on the way.

    So far, everything has been running smoothly, with just one little glitch (now fixed). Let me say “thank you” right now to our early contestants for braving the unknown and doing it perfectly.

    As always, if anyone has questions or concerns please post them right here or contact me directly — whichever seems more appropriate to you. Thanks!

  6. Great job, Jim! Good luck with the contest!

    • Thank you, Bobbi,

      Your feedback on the other forum thread means a lot to me. I also appreciate your great question about the 1000-word limit. You forced me to stop and think about it, to clarify my thoughts about judging such a short entry. I wish I had included those thoughts in this original announcement.

      What it comes down to is this: For authors, those first 1000 words can make or break the novel. Potential readers/buyers make their decisions very quickly when they’re browsing the shelves, real or online. If you haven’t hooked your reader by word #1000, you’ve probably lost the sale.

  7. Jim:

    Congratulations! This looks great. If I thought I could fiction write my way out of a wet paper bag, I know I’d be all over this. It really looks fun, and I’ll bet you and all the entrants will not only learn tons – but meet a lot of new, interesting people.

    Good for you!

    • Thank you, Gary.

      I had a feeling you weren’t the Fiction type. What you do write, you write very well indeed — even from your smart phone at 30,000 feet in the air.

      I know a few other writers who, like you, write fantastic advice columns. Sounds like a great theme for a future contest, don’t you think? Of course, if we were to allow Amit to participate, the word-count limit would be mandatory! 🙂

  8. Great idea! I hope you earn $50,000 on this. I like that it is first chapter since like you said too many people are focused on the finish line (and NaNoWriMo). It’s the journey – take the first step…write the first chapter. Good luck on this.

  9. I wish I were a fiction writer. Still, I am glad to see that this is going well. I just finished my very small book about the search for my husband’s family and am waiting for the proof copy. Looking forward to the next contest and good luck to all the entries!

    • Thanks so much for dropping in, Ann.

      That’s great news about your book, which sounds really interesting! Let me know what you’d like to see for a future contest’s theme? I’m open to ideas and requests, especially from old friends like you.

  10. Jim, I think the November “Fiction: Best first chapter” contest response was excellent -and did attract some attention. Well-deserved traction too,– this is a great site! I see our Ann Hinds has just finished a book- Congratulations, Ann!……..It is no less than amazing how the individuals from our ‘ex-challenge’ group is progressing–and the ‘challenge group’ concept helped spur the interest–as SoWrite is doing now. My second novel “The Fires of Waterland” will soon be published too.
    Again Jim, Kudos, great site!

    • Thanks very much, Raymond.

      Actually had an inquiry today — “Is it too late to enter?” Which was nice to see, actually. Things take time to gather momentum.

      I love your newest book title. Tell us more about this novel?


  1. […] As promised, I’m pleased to announce the three fiction finalists for SoWrite’s first writing contest. […]

  2. […] his winning entry, Raymond receives the $50 First Place prize and our sincere […]

  3. […] have two judges for the December competition: Tammy, from our November contest; and Raymond, our November winner. (As your host, I’m just the moderator and have no say in […]

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