Ends on This opportunity will close after 200 submissions have been received.$16.00

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 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 12/02/21.  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.

How This Works:

1.  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.

2.  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.

3.  You are guaranteed feedback on whatever you send. We’ll tell you what we like, what stands out, and what trips us up.

4.  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 Scintillating Starts is to get feedback before you send your work to an agent. We are not a literary agency but know what agents are looking for. I can make suggestions before you send to agents. We are known for our feedback, as you can see below, and would love to tell you what's working and what an agent might say.

A cash award of $300 will be split among those whose work is shared on our website--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, though it should be before you submit it elsewhere.

Tips for Success:

1. Start in a place where high stakes exist. If your first 1250 words are all about the setting, this may not be the right opportunity for you.

2. Let readers care.

3. Write a flawed hero we’ll empathize with.

4. Give us a reason to keep reading.

5. Leave out details that don’t help you tell this story.

6. Know why your story is unique. (If you don’t know, ask your characters.)

7. We only need your contact information instead of your whole query letter, but if you want to send your query, we won’t stop you. It counts in the word total though. NOTE: We had an excellent piece in the last contest that did not win an award because it was too long. The length matters! Following directions matters.

8. We prefer double-spaced manuscripts with standard, one-inch margins.

9. We prefer an easy-to-read font.

10. Please use the Submittable box on the home page. Manuscripts sent in other ways will not be read.

Questions? Please write back using the contact form on Writer Advice.


Award-winning author B. Lynn Goodwin will write a detailed response to every piece, telling what she loves and what trips her up and what an agent might say. The judges who will help her determine the winners are previous winners themselves.


“Your suggestions for improvement rock.”  --Shelley Stutchman

“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

“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 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

“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

We want to share your stories about your publishing journey and your writing life here. Write to entertain, to enlighten, and to advise (but not preach). Write to share your gratitude, amazement, and disbelief.

Share the good, the bad, and the silly, but don’t share them all in one submission. Think of a blog post or a short-short story. No epics.

No fiction here. These are real-life stories ranging from 250 to 750 words. Less is more. Make your point clearly and move on. 

Who knows what your experience might inspire?

New submissions will be added quarterly. Send through Submittable,  <!-- Link to the Writer Advice submission manager. --->

<a target = _blank href="https://writeradvice.submittable.com/submit"><img src="//manager.submittable.com/Public/Images/submittable-submit-button.png" alt="submit" border="0" /></a>

$6 submission fee covers our time, possible editing, and the decision-making process.

You get a credit for your resume plus a brief bio and the satisfaction of sharing your experience Sorry that we do not have the income to pay you at this time.


Writer Advice