Does my entry have to be a romance?
Yes, your entry must be a romance. See the Romance Writers of America’s definition of a romance.
What is a Wildcard category?
The Wildcard category is meant to be a home for all those manuscripts that don’t quite fit into one of our named categories. Write erotica? You can submit it here. How about paranormal or romantic suspense? Yep, Wildcard is for you! It’s also meant for those entries that cross subgenres, making it difficult to choose one category to enter.
However, any entry may enter the Wildcard category, even if there is a named category where it also may fit. The determination of whether or not to enter the Wildcard category is entirely up to the author and the Fire & Ice committee will not reclassify entries.
What if I write in a subgenre that is not represented by a category?
That’s what the Wildcard category is for! If you have a manuscript that doesn’t fit into any of our main named categories, consider entering it in the Wildcard.
If my entry spans different subgenres, one of which is a named category, do I have to enter the Wildcard category?
No, you do not. If one of the subgenres of your manuscript is a named category, you may enter it there. In considering this option, think about whether a reader would recognize your work in that category. Also, look at the final judges and see which one typically represents the kind of mixture you have written.
However, if you feel that choosing a named category is like shoving your round manuscript into a square hole, feel free to enter in the Wildcard category.
Please note, once you have entered a category that is where your entry will be judged. The Fire & Ice Committee will not reclassify entries or make any determination as to suitability of category.
My named category is closed! Can I submit my entry into the Wildcard category?
Yes, you can. The Wildcard category is open to all entries. However, your entry will now be judged against other Wildcard entries and not against the named category entries.
The Wildcard category is closed! Can I submit my entry into a named category?
If it is reasonable to consider your entry as belonging to the particular subgenre of that named category, yes, you can. Particularly for entries that span subgenres, this is a judgment call. However, if you know your entry really does not belong in a given subgenre, we ask that you do not take a spot in that category by entering it incorrectly.
My contemporary romance novel is not finished yet–how do I know what the final length will be?
When determining whether to enter the Contemporary Long or Contemporary Short categories, think about what kind of story you are telling.
Does your contemporary romance contain a number of subplots and secondary characters? Even though it contains a central romance, does it also touch upon other themes? Then chances are it is going to be a longer book and more likely to fall into the single-title romance category when it is finished. If this describes your book, you should consider the Contemporary Long category.
On the flip side, is your novel tightly focused on the central romance without involving other subplots or secondary characters? The finished length of these types of books are often shorter and more likely to fall under the category romance umbrella. In this case, you should consider submitting it to the Contemporary Short category.
What if my Young Adult entry also qualifies for a named category?
Although YA describes an intended audience rather than a romance subgenre, it often makes sense to judge these books categorically. However, you are free to make the final determination on which category to enter. If you feel your Historical YA is better suited to the Historical category, you may enter it there. Additionally, if you’d rather enter your Paranormal YA in the Wildcard category, by all means, do so.
See the above questions related to the Wildcard category and entries spanning more than one subgenre for more info.
Why does the entry form ask me to specify subgenre(s) along with the category I’m entering?
Particularly for the Wildcard category, this information will be used to inform the judges (both preliminary and final) of the type of entry she is about to read.
Additionally, it’s useful for YA entries, since subgenre is not explicitly stated in this category, along with entries that span subgenres.
Why are the categories limited to 25 entries each?
A primary objective of the Chicago-North chapter is provide high quality, useful feedback to the authors who enter our contest. In order to do that, we need to ensure that our categories are reasonably evenly distributed in terms of entries. We also want to ensure that within each category an entrant who submits a high-quality manuscript has a reasonable chance of moving on to the final round.
We encourage early submission of manuscripts to ensure space in the category of your choice.
Ending at exactly 3,000 words puts me in the middle of a sentence or a scene. Can I add a few extra words?
No. Our judges will stop at 3,000 words, based on the computer word count. Try to stop at a scene ending, a point of tension, a place with a natural lure, so the judge is left wanting MORE. If that means you give the contest less than 3,000 words, that will not hurt you. But ending in the middle of a sentence might.
What font do I use?
Nothing fancy, just make sure it is easily readable without causing eye strain; 12 point Courier or Times works fine. Double-space your entry, please. The number of pages makes no difference. The words on the page are what matters.
What should I include in my query?
Send us the Hook, the Book, and the Cook, but please leave out any specific information that can identify you, and keep it short and sweet. If you’ve never written a query letter before, or even if you just want to polish up the one you are currently working on, here are some great resources:
Why do I have to designate a heat level?
All romance has varying levels of heat, no matter the category. In order to match you up with a judge who will expect the level you write to, let us know as accurately as possible the heat index of these first 3,000 words.
What if my novel is scalding hot, but the first 3,000 words are mild or even cool?
Give the heat level of the ENTRY, so the judges know in advance what they will experience.
When will I learn my results?
Preliminary results will be returned and finalists announced on or around April 17, 2017. Winners will be announced on our website on or around May 22, 2017.