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Novel-In-Development Award closes

As we have hinted at before, we are delighted to announce a new type of novel award for 2021 – the WriteMentor Novel-in-Development Award!

The purpose is this award is to give writers who are still working on a novel, the opportunity to get some valuable feedback on their opening words and synopsis AND potentially to win some mentoring to help them through the rest of the novel, to polish it and get it ready for submission to agents.

And while we encourage those still working on novels to apply, we also encourage those who have completed novels to also enter, as the feedback will still be useful and the prize is transferrable to a full manuscript developmental report, if you’re almost ready to submit to agents anyway.

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.

Meet our judge:

Novels (Chapter Book, Middle Grade and Young Adult)

Judge: Christabel McKinley
Entry: £10 (+£5 for feedback)
Prize: 1 year of Spark Mentoring (at Level 3, 5000 words a month)

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

Find out more about Christabel and who she represents over at the David Higham website.

Read a full interview with Christabel here.

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Any unagented or unpublished writer of CB/MG/YA fiction of any genre.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 £5 for feedback – from 2 adults and 2 kid readers).

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).

What are the important dates?

Entry window: February 1st 2021 to May 16th 2021.

Longlist announced: End of May 2021.

Shortlist announced: Mid- June 2021

Winner announced: July 2021


  • Entries do not need to be complete but you should have minimum 3000 words and a synopsis to enter.
  • You can enter, even if your novel is finished.
  • 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 synopsis (single-spaced) and the 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.
  • 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 4 readers as last time are very slim.

Can I enter more than 1 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 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.

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!


The link to the form will appear here on the 1st February, 2021.