Fire & Ice Contest – Frequently Asked Questions

Does my entry have to be a romance?


What qualifies as a romance?

The manuscript must be a romance as defined by the following:

  • A Central Love Story: The main plot centers around individuals falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work. A writer can include as many subplots as they want as long as the love story is the main focus of the novel.
  • An Emotionally Satisfying and Optimistic Ending: In a romance, the lovers who risk and struggle for each other and their relationship are rewarded with emotional justice and unconditional love.

How do I know what the heat level of my love scene is?
Use the following descriptions to identify the heat level of your scene:

Sweet: This heat level includes hand-holding and kissing. Sex scenes may be implied but they happen off-page, otherwise known as “closed door” sex scenes. Roughly PG rated.

Sizzling: Sex scenes are depicted on-page and include description of touching between the characters, although the language used is not overly explicit. Roughly PG-13.

Steamy: The sex scenes are depicted on-page and the language used to describe it as well as the language used between the characters is explicit. Definitely R rated.

Scorching: These scenes are not only explicit but may include BDSM or other forms of kink. Typically erotica or erotic romance, and rated NC-17.

For a more detailed look at the different heat levels in romance, consider perusing this article on All The Kissing website.

What if I don’t choose the correct heat level for my romance?

Don’t stress too much about heat level! Heat level is mainly being used as a way to distribute entries to judges and let them know what to expect. If it turns out that the identified heat level is inaccurate and the judge does not feel comfortable with it, the entry will be reassigned to a different judge, with no penalty to the author.  We will ask the judge to comment on the accuracy of the heat level on the score sheet, though, as feedback for you to consider. Maybe you think your scenes are one heat level when they are really another— we want you to know that before you start marketing your book to agents and/or editors! This is not a scored question, though, just information for you to have.

Do you have any tips on writing a sex scene?

The lovely ladies at All the Kissing have a wonderful article full of all kinds of things to consider when crafting a sex/love scene. Have a look!

How will you judge without categories?

Our score sheet is designed to evaluate the tenets of quality writing and storytelling universal to all sub-genres of romance. Please review our score sheet to see what our judges are evaluating.

Is my YA novel eligible?

Yes, so long as it qualifies as a romance.

Why does the entry form ask me to specify subgenre(s) along with the category I’m entering?

Although the judges will not evaluate your entry specific to a subgenre, this information will be used to inform the judges (both preliminary and final) of the type of entry they are about to read.

Why is the contest limited to 100 entries?

A primary objective of the Chicago-North chapter is provide high quality, useful feedback to the authors who enter our contest. Additionally, only Chicago-North members judge this contest. We believe limiting the number of entries gives you a better contest experience. We encourage early submission of manuscripts to ensure your entry is included in this year’s contest.

Ending at 3,000 words puts me in the middle of a sentence or a scene. Can I add a few extra words?

No. Your entry will be evaluated for word count before being sent out for judging. Entries longer than 3,005 words (or 3,155 words with a clearly labeled SET-UP section) will be disqualified.  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 the maximum words, that will not hurt you. However, 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.

When will I learn my results?

Finalists will be announced on or around March 25, 2020. Preliminary results will be returned at that time. Winners will be announced on May 1, 2020 at Chicago-North’s Spring Fling Conference.