(The WLT Manuscript Contest) provided huge validation that what I was writing was good and had value. It let me take myself much more seriously as a writer and believe that I might actually get my novel published. Also, it's a nice thing to be able to put at the top of a query letter… it helped me get an agent.

— 2014 WLT Manuscript Contest Winner

Have you been working hard on an unpublished manuscript that’s finally ready to see the light of day? Are you looking for some constructive feedback on your work-in-progress? Would you like to chance to sit down with a literary agent in person to discuss your project?

You’re invited to submit a short synopsis and the opening pages of your unpublished work to the Writers’ League of Texas’s 20th annual Manuscript Contest. (And no, you don’t have to live in Texas to enter this contest. It’s open to everyone, everywhere!)

The winner in each category will receive a complimentary registration to the WLT’s 2020 Agents & Editors Conference (yes, you heard us right!) to meet individually with a top literary agent (and the final judge in their category). All entrants who opt for a critique—whether winners or not—will receive feedback on their submission from an experienced editor.

Best of all, you do NOT need to have a complete, finished manuscript to enter this contest. All you need are the first (roughly) ten pages of the manuscript plus a synopsis that describes the rest of the book you have planned.

This contest gives you the chance to…

• Win a free registration to the WLT’s 2020 Agents & Editors Conference (June 26-28, 2020, in Austin, TX)

• Meet one-on-one with a top literary agent in your category or genre (in person at our annual conference or via phone call) if you’re one of our ten winners

• Be recognized during one of the general sessions of the 2020 Agents & Editors Conference and in the printed program (if you’re a winner or a finalist)

• Receive valuable (and specific) written feedback on your work

Rules & Guidelines

What you need to know
  1. Carefully review the complete list of contest rules and formatting instructions.
  2. Fill out out our online entry form and submit your payment online via credit card or PayPal.
  3. The entry form will prompt you to upload your file. Please upload only one file. It should include both your synopsis and the opening of your manuscript. (Acceptable formats: .doc, .docx, and .pdf)
  4. Once you upload your documents and submit your payment, you will receive an automated confirmation email. There is nothing further you need to do at this time.

Online entries must be submitted by midnight CST on March 10.

Fiction Categories
• General Fiction (including Literary Fiction)
• Thriller/Action-Adventure
• Mystery
• Romance
• Science-Fiction/Fantasy
• Historical Fiction

Nonfiction Categories
• General Nonfiction (excluding Memoir)
• Memoir

Children’s Categories
• Middle Grade (chapter books and novels only; no picture books)
• Young Adult

Winners in each category will receive a complimentary registration to our 2020 Agents & Editors Conference and a one-on-one consultation at the event with the literary agent who judged the category (this prize is valued at more than $400). Winners who cannot attend in person can opt for a phone call with the literary agent.

$55 Writers’ League of Texas members / $65 nonmembers (INCLUDES A WRITTEN CRITIQUE)


$25 Writers’ League of Texas members / $35 nonmembers (DOES NOT INCLUDE A WRITTEN CRITIQUE)

Note that your membership must be current in order to receive the member discount. If you’re not sure whether your membership is current, you are welcome to call our office, (512) 499-8914.

Our standard contest entry fee of $55 (for Writers’ League of Texas members) and $65 (for nonmembers) includes a 1-2 page written critique of your submission. Critiques will be written by experienced independent editors.

Of course, we recognize that not everybody is interested in receiving written feedback on their work, which is why there is a second option available. You may elect to pay a lower entry fee ($25 for Writers’ League of Texas members and $35 for nonmembers) for a “straight entry.” Straight entries are judged with all of the other entries and have an equal chance of winning the contest, but they do not receive a written critique.

You may enter this contest in as many categories as you like, with up to four entries per category. Each entry requires separate payment. For each one, please supply a separate entry form and payment. AN EXCEPTION TO THIS: If you are writing nonfiction, you must choose EITHER “General Nonfiction” OR “Memoir.” You cannot submit in both categories. 

We expect to notify winners and finalists and have critiques back to all entrants by mid-May.

Check back here for any updates.

2020 Manuscript Contest Rules

  1. Online entries must be submitted by March 10, 2020 at midnight CST.
  2. The combined word count of your synopsis and manuscript must not exceed 2,750 words.
  3. Manuscripts must be original, unpublished, and not accepted for publication. Novels that are based on previously published short stories are not eligible.
  4. If judges deem that none of the entries in a given category meet contest standards, no entrants will be recognized.
  5. Writers may submit multiple entries in multiple categories; separate entry forms and payment should accompany each submission. AN EXCEPTION TO THIS: If you are writing nonfiction, you must choose EITHER “General Nonfiction” OR “Memoir.” You cannot submit in both categories.

Formatting Instructions for All Entries

  1. Entries must be typed and double-spaced. Use 12 pt. Times New Roman font with a 1-inch margin.
  2. The combined word count of your synopsis and manuscript must not exceed 2,750 words. (Yes, this includes titles, subtitles, and footnotes.)
  3. Please do NOT include a header or footer.
  4. Your synopsis should appear on the first page, before the opening pages of the manuscript. Judges will read the synopsis first. (We recommend allocating approximately 250-300 words to the synopsis, although if you prefer to submit a long synopsis and a shorter entry, that’s fine. As long as the total combined word count of the synopsis and manuscript does not exceed 2,750 words, you’re fine.)
  5. Your synopsis should include the title of your manuscript. Please put the title in all caps (LIKE THIS).
  6. If you would like, you may include an optional note to the editor who will be critiquing your entry (100 words maximum, these 100 words do NOT count towards your 2,750 words for the synopsis and manuscript). You can use this opportunity to provide them with additional information or ask them a specific question. If you choose to include such a note, it should come at the very end of the document, in bold type, with the words “Note to the editor” above it. (The words “Note to the editor” do not count toward the 100 word limit.) These optional notes will NOT be taken into consideration by the contest judges and will not influence your score in any way. They are purely meant as an opportunity for you to ask a burning question to the editor who will critique your entry or give him/ her some (brief) additional information about the piece. If you don’t have any burning questions or pertinent background information to share, there is no need for a note to the editor.
  7. Author’s name must not appear anywhere in the document. The one exception to this is in the Memoir category. If you are submitting a memoir, your entry may contain your first name, but please omit or change your last name to preserve anonymity.
  8. File name should take the following format: CATEGORY_TITLE (Example: Memoir_AngelasAshes.doc). Note: Please do not use spaces or special characters (such as dashes, slashes, colons, apostrophes, or ampersands) in your file name, as in the example: AngelasAshes, not Angela’sAshes.

Failure to abide by the contest rules and formatting guidelines will result in disqualification and forfeiture of entry fee.

If you have questions on anything, please do reach out (sara@writersleague.org) we’re always happy to hear from you and we’d much prefer to answer your questions (or talk through anything) before you submit rather than after.