WriteMentor Novel-in-Development Award 2021: THE WINNER
Here we are, in the midst of summer heatwave, finally announcing out inaugural winner of the 2021 Novel-in-Development Award. We had an amazing response to this with about 400 entries, of incredible standard. Selecting the longlist, then the shortlist and finally the winner, was incredibly tough. And we hope that everyone who entered and opted for feedback, found that useful in advancing and developing your novel. It's also worth saying, and this is oversaid but …
Interview with WriteMentor Novel Award winner Sean Dooley
WriteMentor Novel Award winner Sean Dooley shares writing journey, award experience and advice.

The Write Mentor Children’s Novel Award is the friendliest, best supported writing competition out there and Stuart and his team will look after you every step of the way. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Sue Cunningham, 2020 Winner

I wish all writing competitions were run as WMCNA has been. All along, I’ve felt that no matter the outcome, you’ll receive something valuable from it with the readers’ feedback. On top of that, the excitement with the (sometimes early!) announcements, build-up, Star Wars gifs etc has been electrifying. Since winning I’ve received over a hundred messages of congratulations from other entrants. I love the writing community and WriteMentor is a gem within a gem.

Alexandra Page, 2019 Winner

We are delighted to announce our judges for the WriteMentor Children’s Novel Award for 2021.

Picture Books

Judge(s)Justine Smith and Paul Moreton
Entry: £5 (+£5 for feedback)
Prize: £250 plus a text review and 1-2-1 call with Justine and Paul.

Justine joins Bell Lomax Moreton from Pan Macmillan, where she has been commissioning and acquiring picture books. She is an experienced and versatile author and editor who has worked at Penguin, Dorling Kindersley, Templar and Big Picture Press in senior publishing roles. She has also worked as a script editor in children’s animation and over her 30 year career has developed, written, edited and published bestselling and award-winning baby and preschool books, picture books, non-fiction, 5 – 8 and middle-grade fiction.

Justine has always loved that special blend of words and pictures, unique to storytelling for children. She holds a Postgraduate Diploma in illustration and continues to work as a children’s author and freelance editorial consultant.

At Bell Lomax Moreton Justine works with authors and illustrators to shape their work for submission to publishers.

Paul is the Managing Director of Bell Lomax Moreton. He joined the agency in 2000 from Penguin Books, where he was Head of Children’s Book Sales. He’s interested in children’s books across all age ranges and narrative non-fiction, biography, sport, music and autobiography. He’s also interested in crime fiction and anything a bit weird and wonderful.

Novels (Early Reader, Chapter Book, Middle Grade and Young Adult)

JudgeLauren Gardner
Entry: £10 (+£5 for feedback)
Prize: £500, plus trophy.

Lauren joined Bell Lomax Moreton in April 2014 as literary assistant and has been agenting full time since October 2015. She graduated in 2009 with a degree in English Literature and Drama from the University of Manchester, and has a background in lifestyle and entertainment PR.

In adult non-fiction, Lauren has a keen eye for spotting new trends and big ideas. She has a specialism for working with digital first talent and working with authors to develop book ideas that originate from new media, including podcasts, Instagram and YouTube.

She is currently is looking for narrative and illustrated adult and children’s non-fiction projects, ranging from people undertaking extraordinary challenges and having amazing adventures, to young activists, podcast creators, diverse voices, and experts in STEM, History, Pop Culture, Fashion and Mental Health fields.

She has a passion for children’s literature and is also looking for young fiction and middle-grade debuts with heart, humour and maybe a supernatural or high concept twist (or two). For teens and YA, a good swoony romance will always be top of her TBR pile, and she would love to find the next Louise Rennison (think diaries of a young Fleabag). Lauren is actively looking for children’s fiction and non-fiction submissions from diverse and marginalised authors across all age ranges and genres.

Lauren does not represent Adult Fiction, SFF or Picture Books.

Find out more about our judges and who they represent over at the Bell Moreton Lomax website.

Who can enter?

Any unagented or unpublished writer of PB/CB/MG/YA fiction of any genre.

How much does it cost?

Entry fee is £10 for the novel award and £5 for the Picture Book award. (Plus £5 for feedback – from 2 adults and 2 kid readers).

If you are low-income and unable to pay this, you can enter for free. However, this is limited to 30 spots and 1 free entry per writer. (So enter early if you want a free spot). However, this does not include feedback.

Our aim is to give an opportunity to everyone in our society, particularly those who are less privileged. If using a free entry, type CONCESSION into the payment reference box. If you don’t do this, we will not be able to count your entry.

Why charge a fee at all?

We have expenses to cover and we want to award a cash prize to help the winner develop their writing in some capacity.
We also pay our readers and ensure our child readers get a £10 book voucher.

What do I need to submit to enter?

We are looking for the first 3,000 words of your novel and a 1-page synopsis (at the start of your single document).

For PB, we will want the whole manuscript.

What are the important dates?

Entry window: December 1st 2020 to January 31st 2021.

Longlist announced: End of February 2021.

Shortlist announced End of March 2021.

Winner announced: April/May 2021.


  • All entries should be for completed manuscripts (or complete and polished by January 31st 2021).
  • We are accepting only PB/CB/MG/YA entries of any genre.
  • You cannot be agented or traditionally published.
  • To clarify, self-published novels are eligible.
  • Independently published writers, who have not received an advance may enter, but not with the published novel.
  • Submit a synopsis (single-spaced) and then first 3,000 words (1.5 or double-spaced) in the same word document.
  • The word limit is not negotiable and if you exceed this, your entry will not be read. We suggest finishing at a suitable point before 3000 rather than mid-sentence. A great 2000 word entry, that finishing on a great cliffhanger is probably more effective than a 2997 word entry that stops in the middle of a scene.
  • For PB writers, send us the whole manuscript, with a short synopsis at the start (a pitch would suffice).
  • No artwork or illustrations please. Text only.
  • Use 12″ and a plain font like TNR. Put page numbers in the footer.
  • Please DO NOT have your name in the name of the document you upload. We are reading and judging anonymously. The ONLY place your name should be is in the name field on the form.
  • Name your document in the format of ‘TITLE.docx’ – i.e. ‘THEHOBBIT.docx’.
  • The manuscript titles will be able to be matched with names based on your entry form alone. We want all entries to be read blind.
  • Use the link at the top of the entry form page to pay your entry fee.
  • If you are unable to pay this, simply type CONCESSION in the box on the entry form. You do not need to provide any evidence or explanation for this.
  • However we are limiting the FREE entries this year to 30 and one FREE entry per person.
  • If you are long listed for the novel award, we will contact you after the announcement to ask for your full manuscript. Please send this within 7 days.
  • If you are shortlisted, we will forward your full manuscript onto our judges.
  • All announcements will happen via the site, so do sign up to receive alerts of new blog posts and to our mailing list, as well as Twitter account.
  • Those under the age of 18 are ineligible due to safeguarding reasons. If you are younger than 18 and wish to enter, please ask an adult to do this on your behalf.
  • You may enter as many novels/texts as you wish, but they must be complete and unpublished.
  • We reserve the right to not send an entry to a kid that we deem inappropriate for a child of that age.
  • All entries will be sent digitally. We are committed to being green and want to keep costs for writers down, so mail entries will not be allowed.


I entered last year – can I enter again?


Will I get the same readers?

It’s unlikely, as our pool of readers does change a little, and the odds of getting the same 4 readers as last time are very slim.

Can I enter more than 1 novel/text?

Yes, enter as many as you like, but each one will need it’s own entry form and fee.

Will I get a confirmation email when I enter?

Yes, it will be emailed to the address that you input on the entry form. Do check junk/spam folders before enquiring.

I don’t have word – how can I submit a .doc or .docx file?

If you do not have word, then you can paste your entry into Google Docs, then download the file as a .doc or .docx

We have nearly 150 people judging in total, many of which will not be able to access files sent in other formats.

What happens if I sign with an agent during the reading/judging period?

Send us an email, or a message via the contact form, and you will need to withdraw from the day of signing your contract.

What feedback will I get if I pay the extra £5?

You will get short feedback from 4 different readers, 2 adults and 2 kids. You will also find out how many YES votes you received from your readers.

Should I include my prologue?

Simple answer. If your prologue is good, I’d include it! 🙂 Seriously, this is your call, but our experience is that when you only have 3000 words to grab our attention, and if your prologue isn’t in the main storyline, it might be worth considering leaving it out.

Do I HAVE to do a synopsis?

YES! We understand the agony, but don’t fret – simply hit us with a blow by blow account of the main things that happen in the story – 1 page, single spaced – and that will work fine. Ultimately you won’t miss out on being listed due a poor synopsis, but you will due to a poor chapter 1, so focus on that.

I’m only a few words over 3000, can I just enter them…plllllllllease?

Sorry, but no. Only way to ensure absolutely fairness is to apply this upper limit rigidly. Most writers will spend hours editing and cutting, or choosing to end earlier to make the limit, so you should, too. Worth noting that a 2000 word extract that is great is just as likely to get listed as a 2999 word extract, and it’s unlikely the latter will finish in a place that is perfect for making your reader want more. That is the priority over a few extra words.

Which age category should I put down?

Hard for us to answer, but the general rule is kids tend to read 2 years up. So if your main character is 12, you’re looking at a 10 year old reader.

Am I guaranteed to sign with an agent if I’m shortlisted?

No. But 75% of our shortlisted authors in 2019 and 2020 are now with agents, and we even have a couple of published authors from that group, too. We offer no guarantees, performing well in a novel award means you have impressed many adult and kid readers and is a good sign that your story has appeal.

I’ve entered. What should I do while I wait?

Take care of yourself. Take a break. Do something else. Write something else. Forget about the competition and set a reminder for the day of the longlist announcement. Casually browse the list when it’s announced, without expectation or hope, and if you’re not there, at least you’ve been working on something new and won’t be too disappointed. If you are on there, then it’s a nice surprise and welcome boost.

But the absolute priority is you, and your mental health and wellbeing, so please enter, then forget about it. Writing a long game and is not about 1 individual competition or moment in time – keep up the good habit of submitting and moving on and it will benefit you in the long run.

Good luck! And May the Force be with you!

Who will read my entry?

We have a great mix of readers again this year, across the age spectrum as well as covering all genres. Many have read previously and we welcome their return, but as always, there are a few new faces from our previous listed and winning entrants.

Alexandra PageEllie LockKathryn ClarkPriscilla Mante
Amy V BorgEmma DykesKathryn FoxfieldSharon Hopwood 
Becky WilsonEmma Finlayson-PalmerLiz KashyapSkylaar Amann
Brianna Bourne Fiona BarkerLouise CookSophia Payne
Carolyn WardHannah KatesMark EcclestonMeredith Vigh
Clare HarlowJodi HerlickMelissa WelliverSue Cunningham
Cynthia MurphyJon CoxPhilip KavvadiasTess James-Mackey 
Dale HannahJulie Marney LeighPiu Das GuptaAlice Hemming
Donna DavidJulie SykesPolly Owen 
Clare Helen Welsh

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