Last week I submitted the first chapter of a novel to Pitch Wars which is not really a contest but more of an open submission chance to be mentored by an industry novelist. I always encourage writers to submit stories to contests, but there are other submission options open to writers which are more of a "leg up" than a one-time contest with a cash award.
The "leg up" contests are designed to help the writer grow and build their all-too-important platform.
Pitch Wars is probably the most well known of these kinds of submission programs. The deadline is usually in August and requires that the author pick up to four "mentors" who are listed on their site. I picked four young adult authors who write and are interested in science fiction, but there are several categories and genres represented. Once you've researched and chosen the writer mentors, you should then submit the first chapter of your novel, a query letter and a synopsis of the plot of your novel. Of course, competition is fierce since it is open submission, but the reward is not a cash prize. Instead, one of the mentors you chose (or another author who is interested) will mentor you to get your novel up to snuff for submission to an agent.
For novelists and non-fiction writers, there are a few other options in the "leg up" competition category:
- Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize - The deadline for this entry is January 2020 as they only offer it once every two years. You have time to write that non-fiction book in the mean-time. If you are selected, you will be granted a $12,000 advance and a publishing contract.
- Drue Heintz Literature Prize - This deadline is for literary fiction and is due in 2020 as well. It offers a $15,000 advance and publication through the University of Pittsburgh press. You have to have published a novel traditionally as well as short stories in order to qualify, but don't let that stop you. Good writing is good writing.
- Young Lions Fiction Award - This is open to any unpublished novel (professional or amateur) whose author is under the age of 35. The guidelines are not too steep. This one awards the winner with $10,000.
- Madeline P. Plonsker Emerging Writer's Residency Prize - The deadline will be March 1st 2019 and submissions will open on January 1st 2019, but that gives you time to get a novel done and polished up. Only 200 submissions will be judged, but if you are selected you will gain $10,000 and get room and board at Lake Forest College where you will be a resident for three weeks.
- Minotaur / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Competition - If you are a mystery writer and have never published traditionally this novel contest is for you. If you are selected for this prize, you will be given $10,000 in advance and a publishing contract. The deadline is January 11th, 2019.
- CBS Diversity Institute - If your screenplay is selected (you have to write a one hour or half hour episode of a current show) then you will go through a 19 week program with them and possibly launch a career as a screenwriter.
- Disney/ABC Writing Program - This is not as much a contest as what seems like a job application. From the website: "Submit a writing sample, writing or work history resume, application form, and a notarized standard letter agreement. Application forms are available on the website. Scripts will not be returned." If you are selected it's a one year $50,000 salary and a job. Deadline is every May.
- Fox Writer's Lab - For more seasoned screenwriters there is this annual try-out. They only select eight finalists and they will be part of a program that moves them up the screenwriting ladder.
- Warner Brothers Writer's Workshop - From their website: "Submit a sample script based on a one-hour drama or half-hour comedy that has aired during the previous season." Winners will get to meet all of the other Warner Brothers writers so that they can hire you to become a WB writer.
- Nickelodeon Writing Program - Just like Disney, this program will reward the selected winner with a one year writing contract with Nickelodeon.
If you find any other "leg up" programs then share them in the comments below. Also consider following me on social media or subscribing to the feed!