The ACFW Genesis Contest is for unpublished Christian fiction writers. With ten categories to enter, Genesis provides the opportunity for unbiased feedback on writers’ work by published authors and experienced judges, and the chance for finalists to have their work read by Christian publishing house editors and literary agents. ACFW is pleased to see many previous category winners and finalists move further in their writing careers and become published authors.
Please read all of the guidelines below before entering. Contest opens January 2, 2021 at 8:00am central, and closes on March 15, 2021 at 4:00pm central. All entries must be in by that time.
2021 ACFW GENESIS CONTEST GUIDELINES:
1. Any author whose work has not been previously published in novella or book-length fiction (in ANY print or online form) is eligible to enter Genesis. Authors self-published before January 1, 2016 are eligible to enter the Genesis Contest. Authors who self-published after January 1, 2016 are not eligible to enter.
2. Authors who are published in non-fiction, picture books, and short story are eligible to enter an unpublished fiction manuscript.
3. There is no limit to the number of entries AN AUTHOR may submit, however, a single manuscript may not be entered into multiple categories.
4. Contest is open to both ACFW members and non-members.
5. Any author contracted for publication before March 15, 2021 is not eligible to enter Genesis. If an entrant receives a contract on a manuscript entered in the contest after March 15, 2021, that manuscript may remain in the contest.
Any author who has entered Genesis may not independently publish any work until after the Genesis finalists are announced. An author who is a finalist in the contest may not independently publish any work until after the winners have been announced during ACFW’s conference gala.
6. Co-authored entries are allowed to enter. If one of the authors is a current ACFW member, then the entry can be submitted for the member entry fee. Both authors must be unpublished in fiction.
7. In any category, if fewer than seven (7) entries are received, the category shall be dissolved and the entrant’s alternate choice category on their submission will be used. The author is responsible for choosing the appropriate category for their entry.
8. Previous winning entries of the Genesis are not eligible to be entered in this year’s contest. Previous finalist (not winning) entries may be entered again. First Impressions entries are eligible as long as they meet all other eligibility requirements as stated.
9. The manuscript should not contain profanity, graphic sex, gratuitous violence or other objectionable material, and must otherwise conform to traditionally accepted understanding of Scripture and Christian world view.
10. Manuscripts must be complete in order to enter Genesis.
$35 per entry for current ACFW members, $95 per entry for non-members. You may choose to join ACFW at the time of entrance in order to receive the member entry fee rate.
• Multiple entries require multiple entry fees.
• If an entrant must withdraw from the contest for any reason, they must forfeit their entry fee.
1. Each entrant must upload their entry as a Microsoft Word document.
2. Include a one-page single-spaced synopsis in the same file with your manuscript. Do NOT send a separate file for your synopsis. The one-page synopsis should have the same format as the manuscript EXCEPT that it should be single-spaced instead of double-spaced, and it should start at the top of the page one double-space below the header. The synopsis may use indented paragraphs or block paragraphs with a single space between paragraphs. PLEASE insert the synopsis first in the document, then the manuscript pages. (16 pages total)
3. Do NOT place your name or pseudonym anywhere on the synopsis or manuscript.
4. Please do not post the title or other identifiers of your Genesis-entered manuscript(s) to any of your online profiles (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, etc.) since entries are to be anonymous for judging.
5. Fill out the entry form, upload the entry file, and pay the contest fee at member.acfw.com/genesis. The entry form is in the right hand sidebar.
6. All entrants are required to check the “accept” box on the entry form indicating acceptance of terms.
Please use the Manuscript Formatting Example found here to see how your entry should look. Entries with borders or frames on the manuscript pages will not be allowed. For all entries, the following guidelines must be used:
1. Use 12-point font, double-spaced, with one-inch margins. The contest requires the use of Times New Roman, Courier New, Garamond, Cambria, or Book Antiqua.
2. The one-page synopsis should have the same format as the manuscript EXCEPT that it should be single-spaced instead of double-spaced, and it should start at the top of the page one double-space below the header. Start the first page of your manuscript, whether prologue or chapter, 4 double spaces (8 single spaces) below the header. Each subsequent chapter must begin 4 double-spaces (8 single spaces) below the header.
3. Include a header on each manuscript with the title, category/genre, estimated manuscript word count, and page numbers. The header must be in a same font as the rest of the blurb and manuscript. NO entrant’s name or pseudonym should be in the header. See manuscript formatting example here.
4. Your entry will contain, in this order, a one page, single-spaced synopsis, followed by the first 15 pages of your manuscript. Prologues are acceptable and should be included in the 15-page count. The entry will be 16 pages total, including synopsis. You may send less than 16 pages. DO NOT SEND MORE THAN 16 PAGES.
5. To indicate a scene break, insert a single hashtag (#) or three hashtags (###) or three asterisks (***) one double-space down from the last line of the previous scene. Begin the new scene one double-space down from the hashtag(s) or asterisks.
Entries not fulfilling the above specifications will be disqualified. Entry fees will not be refunded.
For more information and an entry checklist, see FAQ pages on the ACFW website.
If you have any questions, please e-mail the contest coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When e-mailing coordinators, please put “Genesis” in the subject line.
FIRST ROUND: During the first round, three judges (published authors or experienced writers trained in judging the Genesis) will score each entry, up to a maximum of 100 points per entry. All three scores will be averaged. Discrepancy judges will NOT be used due to the logistics of the contest.
SEMI-FINAL ROUND: The top 7 entries from each category will then move on to the semi-final round. The semi-final judges will be published authors who will use the same scoresheet as the first round. All three judges’ scores are averaged to determine the entry’s standing.
See a sample scoresheet here.
FINAL ROUND: The top three semi-final round entries in each category–category finalists–will continue to the final round. In the event of a tie, the previous round scores of the tied entries will be used to break the tie. Finalists will be allowed 48 HOURS ONLY to review the judges’ scores from the previous rounds and polish and resubmit their entries before the entries are sent to the final round judges. If you are unable to polish and resubmit, then your original entry will be sent to the final round judges.
During the final round, three final round judges will score each entry, and the three scores will be averaged. Discrepancy judges will NOT be used unless a judge deems a manuscript unqualified. Then the title will be evaluated by a single, overseeing judge. In each category, the entry receiving the top final round score becomes the category winner. The final round scores alone determine the category winners. If any category winner is disqualified or withdraws for any reason, the next highest-scoring finalist will be moved up to become category winner.
For the final round, the final round judges (editors and agents) will not utilize the scoresheet used in the first and second rounds of judging. Instead, final round judges will simply give a numerical score of up to 100 points for each final round entry. Final round judges have the option of giving comments on the final round entries, but are not required to do so. All three scores will be averaged. Previous round scores will be used to break a tie.
If any finalist is disqualified or withdraws for any reason after March 15, 2021, the next highest scoring, non-finaling entry will NOT be moved up to fill the vacant spot as a finalist.
For non-finaling entrants, scoresheets and manuscripts will be e-mailed back to each entrant between May 15, 2021 and June 30, 2021. Entrants are asked to please be patient as coordinators return entries, due to the sheer volume of entries and emails. Questions may be emailed to email@example.com.
All judging is blind. Entrants’ names are only known by the coordinator.
Final Round Judges are editors and agents.
2021 Final Round judges TBA
For all the stories, one or more characters’ Christian beliefs are blended with and form a part of the story. However, the presence of a Christian character or the use of Christian phrases and scripture are not the indicators of the spiritual content in the stories. For Speculative Fiction, the traditional Christian terms are often replaced by other words more suited to the fictional setting.
Contemporary: Novels or sagas set in any location, in contemporary setting. This category includes literary fiction, women’s fiction, and mainstream fiction. The stories in this category can be dramatic or comedic.
Historical (through Vietnam era): Novels or sagas set in any location, in which the time frame of the majority of the story is a historical context rather than a contemporary one. The time period can be up to and including the Vietnam era.
Historical Romance (through Vietnam era): Novels or sagas set in any location, but in which the time frame of the majority of the story is a historical context rather than a contemporary one. The time period can be up to and including the Vietnam era. The love story is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the story is emotionally satisfying. The stories in this category can be dramatic or comedic.
Mystery/Suspense/Thriller: Novels set in any location in which the suspense or mystery is the primary plot. In suspense, “often the reader learns very early in the story who did what, and how, and even why, so that the tension results from the manner in which an expected conclusion is achieved” (Jessica Mann). In thrillers, “tough, resourceful . . . heroes are pitted against villains determined to destroy them, their country, or the stability of the free world” (Steve Bennett). “The detective novel, or mystery, is generally driven by a single protagonist and follows the process of detection, functioning like a puzzle” (Ginny Wiehardt).
Novella: Contemporary or historical stories in any of the genre categories in this contest. Word count is 15K – 45K.
Romance: The love story is set in any location in a contemporary setting, and is the main focus of the novel. The end of the book is emotionally satisfying. The stories in this category can be dramatic or comedic.
Romantic Suspense: A suspense plot is blended with a love story, which is the main focus of the novel, and the end of the book is emotionally satisfying. The story can be in any location, but the time frame should be a contemporary setting. Historical romantic suspense stories should be entered in the Historical Romance category.
Short Novel: Contemporary or historical shorter novels 45K-70K in length.
Speculative: Novels in which the science fiction, the future, other planets, a fantasy world, or paranormal happenings are a major element of the plot or setting. This category includes speculative, visionary, science fiction, paranormal, futuristic, allegory, and alternate history fiction. Stories targeted primarily at young adult readers should be entered in the Young Adult category.
Young Adult: Novels targeted toward young adult readers ages 12 through 18. The stories in this category can be dramatic, comedic, romantic, or non-romantic. Science Fiction/Fantasy/Allegory stories targeted primarily at young adult readers can be entered in this category. Stories targeted to Middle Readers are included in this category.
Each category will have one first place winner. The first place entry in each category will receive a winner’s award and a gold Genesis lapel pin. The winners will be announced at the ACFW Annual Conference in September. The finalists in each category will receive a certificate and silver Genesis pin.
Contest opens: January 2, 2021 at 8:00 AM central time.
Contest closes: March 15, 2021 at 4:00 PM central time. All contest entries and contest fees must be received by that time.
All entries will receive a confirmation e-mail indicating receipt of the entry. If an entrant does not receive a confirmation e-mail by midnight central time March 16, 2021, the entrant should e-mail the contest coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please double-check your spam or junk mail folders first, if you haven’t received your confirmation.
The top 7 semi-finalists in each category will be announced by May 5, 2021.
The three finalists in each category will be announced by June 15, 2021.
Winners will be announced during the Awards Gala at ACFW’s national conference in New Orleans.