Novel-in-Development Award 2021

This award is closed for 2021 – below are the results posts:

WriteMentor Novel-in-Development Award 2021: THE LONGLIST

We were so excited to launch this new award for children’s novel writers, where they could dip their toe in the water with manuscripts that were still in progress, either unfinished, or perhaps in first or early draft stage. And YOU have not disappointed with the standard of the stories sent to us – so…

WriteMentor Novel-in-Development Award 2021: THE SHORTLIST

Well, this has been tough! We initially had to narrow down 85 entries (who got 2 YES votes in round 1) to 26 entries for our longlist. We’ve spent the last week or so going through the longlist and trying to narrow that down, too. However it’s not been easy. Many a heated comment was…

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…

If you’re working on a manuscript, WriteMentor Novel-in-Development Award will give you valuable feedback on your opening pages and synopsis, with the potential to win a year’s worth of one-to-one mentoring from a leading author.

You will receive feedback from 1 adult reader and 1 kid reader. This will cover 5 key areas:

  • opening lines
  • the set up (incl. the promise of the premise/hook)
  • narrative voice
  • character
  • synopsis

Supporting writers to complete a children’s novel

With this feedback and mentoring, work through the rest of your novel, refine your work, and get it ready for submission to agents. 

While this award is primarily designed to support writers working on an unfinished manuscript, we also encourage those who have completed novels to enter, as the feedback is still useful and the prize transferrable to a full manuscript developmental report.

Gain feedback from our adult and kid readers

From now on, we will no longer be offering feedback on our other novel award, so this will be the place to come for feedback, as well as a chance of winning the main prize and impressing a literary agent with your work.

*Please note, if you read this post before the 27th January, we made a couple of necessary, but hopefully for the better, changes to the award.

Novels (Chapter Book, Middle Grade and Young Adult)

Judge: Christabel McKinley, literary agent
Entry: £10 (+£10 for feedback)
Prize: 1 year of Spark Mentoring (at Level 3, 5000 words a month)

Meet our judge

WriteMentor Novel in Development Award judge and literary agent Christabel McKinley

Christabel joined David Higham Associates in July 2018. Previously, she worked in Rights at Macmillan Children’s Books and at a scouting agency. She graduated with a degree in Russian and English Literature from Trinity College Dublin, after which she spent a year teaching English in South Korea.

Christabel assists Caroline Walsh and is also open to children’s submissions across all age groups, from picture book authors and illustrators to Young Adult fiction and non-fiction. She is currently closed to Adult SFF submissions.

Twitter: @ichristmasbell

Read a full interview with Christabel here.

The prize

WriteMentor Spark is a monthly, online one-to-one mentoring service. Working with a children’s author, receive ongoing developmental editing, writing advice, publishing insights, and direct feedback on your manuscript to help you elevate your writing craft to the next level. With a choice of over 20 mentors from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences, get the tailored support you need to finish and polish your manuscript. 

Find out more about WriteMentor Spark.

Don’t forget – even if you don’t win the award, you can still opt in for comprehensive feedback on your submission, which is incredibly valuable for a novel in development (read below for more information on our feedback structure).

Who can enter?

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

How much does it cost?

Entry fee is £10 for the novel-in-development award. (Plus £10 for feedback – from 1 adult and 1 kid reader).

What does the feedback include?

You will receive feedback from 1 adult reader and 1 kid reader. This will cover 5 key areas:

  • opening lines
  • the set up (incl. the promise of the premise/hook)
  • narrative voice
  • character
  • synopsis

We hope this will provide the greatest insight from your opening to help develop it, and subsequently the rest of your story.

What do I need to submit to enter?

We are looking for the first 1,500 words of your novel and a 1-page synopsis (at the start of the document).

What are the important dates?

Entry window: February 1st 2021 to May 16th 2021. We close at 11.59pm BST.

Longlist announced: End of May 2021. (TBC! May be into June before we finish reading – we will update you here and via Twitter/Newsletter)

Shortlist announced: Mid- June 2021

Winner announced: July 2021


  • Entries do not need to be complete but you should have minimum 1500 words and a synopsis to enter.
  • Open worldwide but entries must be in English.
  • You can also enter, even if your novel is complete.
  • We are accepting only 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 1-page synopsis (single-spaced) and then first 1,500 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 1500 rather than mid-sentence. A great 1000 word entry, that finishing on a great cliffhanger is probably more effective than a 1497 word entry that stops in the middle of a scene.
  • 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.
  • 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 as you wish, but will need to enter and pay for them separately.
  • 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 in the novel award year – can I enter this one?


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 readers as last time are very slim.

Can I enter more than one novel?

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 lots of people judging, 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 £10?

You will get short feedback from 1 different readers, 1 adult and 1 kid. 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 1500 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 1,500. Can I just enter them…pleeeeeeeease?

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 1000 word extract that is great is just as likely to get listed as a 1499 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.

What 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.

And as this is a development award, we anticipate that not everyone who enters will be close to submitting to agents for a while, so this is not a measurable outcome or priority for us – we simply want to give a valuable boost or feedback that will help you continue with the novel.

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!

Enter the award

Before entering, please read the rules and FAQs above.

Before completing the form, please pay using the options below – you will need the emailed confirmation number from your payment to insert into the entry form below.

Scroll to Top
%d bloggers like this: