Make sure to read THE FULL PAGE (or we've broken it out into EACH tab at the top of this page) for complete rules and instructions!

What You Should Know: The first chapter contest is for official registrants of the 2023 Storymakers Conference only.

What You Pay: $25 per entry. Entries may be purchased during or after registration, but must be purchased prior to the contest deadline. Limit 3 total entries per attendee (only 2 entries allowed in the same category). Entry fees are nonrefundable.

What You Get: A critique* from each of your category’s three judges, qualified industry professionals committed to helping writers grow! Plus the chance to win 1st2nd, or 3rd place in your category (or Grand Prize!).

*Critiques will be emailed within one week of the conference ending.

When To Submit Your Entry: By Friday February 3rd, 2023, 10pm MST.

How You Submit: A Google form entry using the form at bottom of this page, with your first chapter file attached. Chapters must be 3,000 words or fewer (cover pages and nonfiction footnotes/endnotes do not count toward word count). Detailed instructions and examples can be found in each of the tabs above. Please make sure to read EACH one!

What You Could Win:

  • Cash prizes for the top entry and top three places in each category.
  • “Get Out of the Slushpile Free” cards from select publishers (varies by category).
  • Partial or Full Manuscript Requests from agents/editors (varies by category).
  • Mystery Prizes donated by generous sponsors (varies by category)


Entrants must be registered attendees, virtual or in-person, of the 2023 Storymakers Conference. Co-authored entries are only permitted if both authors are registered attendees.

All entries must be the original work of the author (quotes are allowable if sources are included, and count towards the overall word-count).

Not Eligible:

  • Published authors. Defined as any author who has signed a publishing contract by the contest deadline (exceptions: short stories, compilations, or magazine articles). This includes ghostwriters. Posting your work online does not classify you as published.
  • Agented authors. Defined as any author who is represented by a literary agent, whether or not they have sold a book.
  • Self-published authors who have reached/exceeded a compensation level of $250 net profit. NOTE: Authors are responsible for checking their own income.

Authors who wish to enter but aren’t sure they qualify due to unusual circumstances can email us with detailed information. The conference committee may vote to grant entry for rare exceptions.


Entry Form

    • Submit a separate form for each entry if submitting multiple entries. Points will be deducted from your overall score if you submit multiple files with one form.
    • Save file with this filename format: category#-Title. Points will be deducted from your overall score if you submit your entry with an incorrect filename.
    • Example of correct filename: 03-WillNerdForLove
    • When uploading your file, you may upload a file from your computer or directly from your Google Drive. This will make a copy of the file in our Google Drive. Please format the file name correctly.

PROPER COVER PAGE FORMAT: You will not lose points for spacing or alignment variations.

To earn full points, your cover page must include:

      • Title
      • Category name
      • Word count (must be below 3000, rounding is acceptable)

PROPER INTERNAL FORMAT: You will be judged based on the basic criteria listed below ONLY.

To earn full points for proper formatting, your entry must have:

        • 12 point, black, Times New Roman font
        • 1-inch margins, double-spaced lines (with no extra space between paragraphs), and indented paragraphs
        • Nothing in header or footer except page # (with an exception for nonfiction footnotes)

Please make sure there are NO tracked changes or comments remaining in your document.


Your entry will lose points (but will not be disqualified) if not submitted correctly.

Prologues: It has been determined that prologues are too varied in composition to be disqualified on a general basis. However, judge feedback may be limited, and scoring may be adversely affected if your “first chapter” is not from the main character’s point of view, is significantly outside the timeline of the main story, and/or is too short to contain the elements that make for an effective first chapter. Further details are available in our FAQ at the top of the page.

CONTENT & PROSE SCORING: The majority of your score comes from your content and prose, rated on a scale of 1-10 in the following categories:

      • Content
        • Hook
        • Pacing
        • Characterization
        • Setting & Mood
      • Prose
        • Diction
        • Flow
        • Voice
        • Style

Judges also give feedback on each area of the content section and the overall prose. As we tell the judges, the scores determine this year’s winners, but the feedback helps to shape next year’s winners!

TIE BREAKERS: In the event of a tie for the grand prize, the tie will be broken by a vote of the conference committee. Prizes may be awarded as a tie within categories, or ties may be broken by judges and/or the conference committee. Awards of special merit, honorable mentions and other awards, as well as the distribution of prizes, are at the discretion of the contest committee based upon judges’ scores and donated prizes. Entries remain anonymous until after all judging is complete.


The following entries will be disqualified:

    1. Chapters from sequels. If your entry is part of a series, please submit the first chapter of the FIRST manuscript only.
    2. Chapters from books that have already placed. If your chapter placed in a previous year, you may not enter a chapter from the same book, even if it is substantially revised or completely new.
    3. Chapters with graphic language, extreme violence, or sex scenes. (Individual judges will have their own definitions of what constitutes “graphic” or “extreme.” If a judge flags an entry, the contest committee will evaluate the chapter and make a ruling.)
    4. Chapters with the author’s name anywhere in the body, header, or footer of the chapter. Please ensure there are no edits or comments left in the chapter. If writing memoir nonfiction, please use a pseudonym.
    5. Chapters that exceed the word count limit of 3,000 words. You may submit an abridged version or cut off at the 3,000-word mark based on your preference.
    6. Entries that are not paid for prior to the contest deadline of Friday, February 3, 2023 at 10pm MSTPlease pay prior to submitting.
    7. Entries that exceed the maximum number of contest entries per author (3), or the maximum number per category per author (2).

Disqualified entries are not eligible to place in the contest or receive prizes. Disqualified entries are nonrefundable. Disqualified entries may or may not still receive some or all of their judges’ feedback. Entrants may not be notified about their entry’s disqualification.


01. ADULT SPECULATIVE: Adult speculative fiction set in any time period.

02. MYSTERY & SUSPENSE: Adult fiction set in the past or present with no speculative elements and without a romance arc as the main plot.

03. ROMANCE: Adult fiction with a predominant romance arc set in the past or present.

04. GENERAL, HISTORICAL: Adult fiction set in the past or present with no speculative elements and without a romance arc as the main plot.

05. YOUNG ADULT GENERAL & HISTORICAL: Teen fiction set in the past or present with no speculative elements.

06. YOUNG ADULT SCIENCE FICTION & DYSTOPIAN: Teen speculative fiction dealing with the impact of actual/imagined science or set in the future.

07. YOUNG ADULT CONTEMPORARY FANTASY: Teen speculative fiction set in the present.

08. YOUNG ADULT HISTORICAL FANTASY & EPIC FANTASY: Teen speculative fiction set in the past.

09. MIDDLE GRADE GENERAL & HISTORICAL: Children's fiction set in any time period with or without speculative elements.

10. MIDDLE GRADE SPECULATIVE: Children’s speculative fiction set in any time period.

11. NONFICTION: Memoir, How-To, Inspirational, etc...

A category with fewer than ten (10) entries may be combined with another category with the same audience. If that is not possible, the category will be discontinued and entry fees will be refunded.


Middle Grade: Characters in elementary (lower MG) and middle school (upper MG). (Main character is generally 8-14 years old.)

Young Adult: Characters who have not yet graduated high school (or the speculative equivalent) and are experiencing internal conflicts centered on identity and purpose. (Main character is generally 15-18 years old.)

Adult: Characters who are usually 18 and above (with notable exceptions) and are struggling with internal conflicts and story themes that reach beyond questions of identity and purpose. (Main character is generally 18 and older.)

Speculative Fiction is an umbrella genre encompassing narrative fiction with supernatural or futuristic elements. This includes, but is not limited to, science fiction, fantasy, superhero fiction, science fantasy, horror, utopian and dystopian fiction, supernatural fiction as well as combinations thereof.

If You Have:

  • Registered for the conference\Paid for your entry/entries
  • Carefully read through all the above
  • Then submit your entry form(s) by:
  • 10 pm MST on Friday, February 3, 2023
  • Late entries will NOT be accepted, and entry fees will not be refunded.

*By submitting your entry, you acknowledge you have read and understood the above rules*

First Chapter FAQ