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CRAFT First Chapters Contest (Deadline: August 4)

CRAFT 2024 First Chapters Contest

$2,800 Awarded

Guest Judge: Kimberly King Parsons

June 1, 2024 – August 4, 2024

Isn’t the start of something new incredibly, deliciously exciting? CRAFT wants to share in that excitement by reading the first chapter(s) of your novel in progress. For the 2024 First Chapters Contest, CRAFT is eager to read your first 5,000 words. Guest Judge Kimberly King Parsons is equally keen:

“I love it when the beginning of a novel (especially the very first line) contains the stylistic signature and the tonal genetics for the whole book. I’m always looking for attention and care at the sentence level, beautiful acoustics, and a voice that begs me to follow it. Not every novel has to do everything at once, but I value humor, the subversive, complicated characters (especially ‘unlikeable’ or ‘unreliable’ narrators), and plots that aren’t afraid to swerve into the very weird or very dark. Most of all, I’m hoping for opening pages that feel as if only you—with your distinct authority, unique perspective, and precise choices—could have written them.”

Submissions are open until August 4, 2024. Guest Judge Kimberly King Parsons will choose three winning excerpts from fifteen anonymized entries.


  • The First Chapters Contest is open to all fiction writers; CRAFT is a market for adult literary fiction.
  • International submissions are welcome. Work must be written primarily in English, but some code-switching/meshing is warmly welcomed.
  • Please send excerpts of book-length fiction only—please submit the first chapter or chapters* of your unpublished novels/novellas. Your novel need not be completely written.
  • Please do not submit short stories or nonfiction essays.
  • Please adhere to the 5,000 word count maximum*.
  • We review adult literary fiction, but are open to a variety of genres and styles, as long as you show excellence in your craft.
  • Submit previously unpublished work only—we do NOT review reprints or partial reprints for contests (including any form of self-publishing such as on blogs, personal websites, social media, et cetera.). Reprints will be automatically disqualified.
  • We allow simultaneous submissions—writers, please notify us and withdraw your excerpt if your work is accepted elsewhere.
  • We allow multiple submissions—please submit each excerpt as a separate submission accompanied by an entry fee.
  • Please note the $20 entry fee per submission.
  • Kindly double-space your submission and use Times New Roman 12. (Feel free to contact us directly if you need to change these formatting requirements for better accessibility.)
  • Please include a brief cover letter with your publication history (if applicable), and a summary of your book-length project. Also include any necessary content warnings, in consideration of our reading team.
  • We do not require anonymous submissions, but the guest judge will read the shortlist anonymized.
  • Writers from historically marginalized groups will be able to submit for FREE until we reach fifty free submissions. This free category will close when we reach capacity. No additional fee waivers will be granted.
  • We do not discriminate on the basis of age, ancestry, disability, family status, gender identity or expression, national origin, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation, or for any other reason.
  • Additionally, we do not tolerate discrimination in the writing we consider for publication: work we find discriminatory on any of the bases stated here will be declined without complete review.
  • Any AI-generated work submitted to this contest will be immediately disqualified.
  • Unless you’ve already secured the necessary permissions, please do not include quoted song lyrics in your submitted work.
  • Any work that does not adhere to these guidelines will be automatically disqualified.
  • Artful Editor is offering every entrant a 10% discount for query services—they will critique and edit your query letter, synopsis, and first fifty pages. Coupon code provided upon contest entry.

*Your entry may include more than your first chapter, up to 5,000 words total, but should contain complete sections—please do not leave us hanging midparagraph just to maximize word count—and must be the first chapter(s) of your book-length project, as if you were querying agents or publishing houses.


  • First place will receive $2,000 and a full manuscript critique of the novel or novella, up to 100K words, by Artful Editor.
  • Second and third place will receive $500 and $300, respectively.
  • First, second, and third place will receive an agent query workshop by Annalise Errico of Ladderbird Literary Agency—Annalise will offer feedback on the first 5,000 words of the project, the summary, and a query letter.
  • The top three excerpts will be published in CRAFT, each with an introduction by Guest Judge Kimberly King Parsons.
  • Each publication will include an author’s note (craft essay) written by each of the three winning writers.


  • Friends, family, and associates of the guest judge are not eligible for consideration for the award.
  • Our collaboration with editorial professionals and agents in the judging and awarding of our contests does not imply an endorsement or recognition from their agencies, houses, presses, universities, et cetera.
  • Check out our 2023 winners for examples of the type of work we seek.
  • As we only consider unpublished writing, and will publish the winning excerpts in December 2024, anything under contract to publish prior to March 2025 should not be entered.


Photo by Evelynne Gomez Greenberg

KIMBERLY KING PARSONS is the author of the novel We Were the Universe and the short story collection Black Light, which was longlisted for the National Book Award and The Story Prize. A recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and Columbia University, Parsons won the 2020 National Magazine Award for “Foxes,” a story published in The Paris Review. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her partner and children. Find her on Instagram @kimberlykingparsons.

Learn more and submit.