2024 RISING STAR Award for Unpublished Women’s Fiction


                                                                  Congratulations to the 2024 Rising Star Finalists                                                                              (in alphabetical order)

Denise Brandt: Istanbul Dreaming

Jacqueline Coleman: Playing in the Shadow of the Wind

Anna Krammer: The Swan

 Elizabeth Luciano: The Tribe of Melancholy Women

Stephanie Webb: This One Little Life

General Information
Important Dates
Submission Details
Entry Fee

This award is designed exclusively for the unpublished, unagented writer of women's fiction. It offers the chance for priceless feedback from four industry professionals, plus the opportunity to break out of the slush pile and land on the desk of five final round judges, all acquiring agents of women's fiction.

The RISING STAR Award for unpublished manuscripts has NO categories. It is open to all unagented writers of women's fiction* who have never been published in book-length fiction of 60k words or more.

*Not sure if your manuscript is eligible? See Guidelines below.

The RISING STAR Award is limited to the first 100 entries. Detailed score sheets with comments will be provided to all entrants, and the top five (5) finalists will advance to the final round with an opportunity to update entries based on first round judges’ score sheets. 

Important Dates

Entry opens: May 5th, 2024 at 12:00pm ET for WFWA members. Once 60 members enter, the contest will move to a lottery system to fill the remaining 40 entries. 

After 60 entries have been accepted, the waitlist will remain open to members until May 5th, 2024 at 6:00 pm ET. The remaining entries will be filled via random lottery from that waitlist. Entries selected via lottery will have until May 6th at 6:00 pm ET to pay the registration fee and upload their entry.


Finalists Announced: July 1, 2024

Winners Announced: Friday, October 18, 2024 at the WFWA Retreat in Alexandria

Edited Finalist Entries Due: July 30, 2017 (11:59 p.m. E.T.

Entry Submission Details

On May 5, 2024 at 12:00pm ET, a link to register for the contest will appear on this page. After you have paid your entry fee, you will be provided a link to the contest platform to submit your entry. Payment of the fee will hold your spot while you upload your materials via the contest platform. 

A complete entry includes:

  1. A verification that your entry is Women's Fiction (seen only by entry coordinators, not by the judges)—just a couple of sentences or bullet points
  2. A short pitch/description up to three sentences (examples provided below)*
  3. A single-spaced synopsis of 500 words or less
  4. The first 3,000 words or the last complete sentence prior to reaching 3,000 words of your completed manuscript (60k words or more)

Entry Fee

$45 WFWA Members, $60 non-WFWA Members


Once the first 60 spots are filled, the contest will move to a waitlist. At 6:00pm ET on May 5th, 2024, the waitlist will close, and the remaining 40 entries will be selected via random lottery. If your entry is selected, you will receive a link to register and pay the entry fee. Once your fee is paid, you will receive the link to upload to the contest website. If you do not upload your entry by 6:00pm ET on May 6th, 2024, your spot will be passed on to another entrant.


First Round Judges

Click here for the first round judges

Final Round Judges

Click here for the final round judges


As an organization, WFWA supports diversity and inclusivity and seeks to elevate Women’s Fiction as a genre that reflects professional ethics and creative excellence. All stories are judged on a variety of elements, including a clear and compelling hook, strong voice and setting, established conflict and point of view, an interesting story with an emotional arc, and authentic, multi-dimensional characters.





Frequently Asked Questions


Open to all unagented writers who have never been published book-length fiction (60k words or over). Entrants will submit an excerpt from her or his finished, original, book-length manuscript that has not been contracted for publication prior to the entry deadline. Failure to comply with any of the rules may disqualify the entry, resulting in a forfeit of the entry fee.


I have an excerpt of the manuscript on my website. Does that still count as “unpublished”?
For the purposes of the RISING STAR Award, ‘unpublished’ means that the novel has never been published in any way and that it does not come under contract for publication by the entry deadline. If an excerpt of the novel appears on the author’s website, it may still be considered ‘unpublished’ subject to the conditions that (1) the excerpt is the only text that exists for public viewing, (2) the excerpt is not available for purchase, and (3) the number of words posted does not exceed 15% of the novel’s total word count.

How do I determine if my manuscript conforms to the WFWA women’s fiction definition?

The driving force of women's fiction is the protagonist's journey toward a more fulfilled self, regardless of the protagonist's gender. It may include romance, or it may not. It could be contemporary or historical and have magical, mystery, thriller, or other elements. The driving force of a romance novel is a love story, a mystery's is the exposure of an event, a thriller's is a fear-inducing chase or escape, etc., whereas women's fiction, as defined by WFWA, is driven by the main character’s emotional journey. 

If your manuscript's driving force best fits another genre, such as romance, science fiction, thriller, etc. it is not eligible for the RISING STAR Award.

For purposes of this contest, the protagonist should be aged 18 plus for the majority of the novel.  If you have any questions about whether your manuscript might be considered an exception, please contact the Chair at [email protected].

What do you mean by "verification that your entry is women's fiction?"

This contest is, as stated above, exclusively for women's fiction novels. Just give us a couple of sentences or bullet points telling us how/why your novel qualifies. Example: This is women's fiction because [character name]'s emotional journey takes her from [unfulfilled self] to [more fulfilled self]. My protagonist changes/experiences growth [in this way]. The driving force of this novel is [elements of emotional journey].

This will only be read by our entry coordinators to verify eligibility. Your response will not be seen by the judges. 


An entry is the first 3,000 consecutive words, beginning with page one of your manuscript, plus a 500 word synopsis and a short pitch of up to three sentences. Note that you will also be asked to explain why your entry qualifies as women's fiction in a couple of sentences or bullet points, though your answer will only be seen by the entry coordinators, not by the judges.

The RISING STAR Award accepts electronic entries only. All entries will be submitted on our contest platform. Please be aware that there are some limitations to the formatting capabilities on that platform.

Items of note: You will not have control over some of the formatting. For example, your entry will be automatically fully left justified, and the software does not allow italics. There are some workarounds that you can implement. For example, you could add five spaces at the beginning of a paragraph, or add blank lines between paragraphs (or both). For italics, you can use slashes /like this/ to indicate which text should be italicized.

You will not be judged down for the formatting of your entry. The judges will evaluate content only. 

You do not need to stress about setting up the formatting in advance - when you copy/paste your entry into our contest platform, you will be able to view it and make changes.  

Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve self-published my book. Can I still enter?
Self-published authors are published authors. Consider competing for the STAR Award, and please volunteer as a Rising Star judge!

If I’m published in science fiction, romance, poetry, a magazine, a blog, or another genre, I can enter?
No, if you are a published author of book-length fiction, regardless of genre, you are not eligible for this contest. Please consider volunteering as a judge. 

I've had several short stories published. Can I enter?

Yes, published authors of short stories are still eligible to enter. 

What if I sign with a literary agent for representation after entry but before finalists are announced? 

Congratulations. Please share your good news with [email protected] within seven days. You will still receive score sheets with the judges' feedback. If, however, your manuscript would have entered the final round, it will be disqualified to allow for the next highest-ranking entry (i.e., a manuscript still in need of representation).

What if my manuscript is contracted for publication after entry but before finalists are announced?

Congratulations. Please share your good news with [email protected] within seven days. You will still receive score sheets with the judges' feedback. If, however, your manuscript would have entered the final round, it will be disqualified to allow for the next highest-ranking entry (i.e., a manuscript still in need of a publishing contract.) 

What if I sign with a literary agent or a publisher after I qualify as a Rising Star finalist?


Congratulations. If you are a finalist and you sign with a literary agent or publisher before the final round judging begins, you must contact [email protected] to withdraw your entry so the next highest rated unagented entrant can compete. If you are a finalist and you sign with an agent after Round 2 judging has begun, you are still eligible to compete and win.


May I submit the same manuscript that I submitted last year? 

Manuscript entries that were top five RISING STAR finalists in a previous year may not be submitted again for consideration. Entries that did not final or place are welcome to be resubmitted once in each of two consecutive years. In order to maximize the value of the RISING STAR Award to its entrants, WFWA encourages that repeat entries undergo substantial revision before they are re-submitted. No entry may be submitted more than two times or in two nonconsecutive years. This is to ensure that every entry is assigned to judges who have not heretofore judged the entry. For security reasons, our records are limited to two years of safekeeping.

May I enter more than one manuscript?

No. One entry per year per entrant.

How long should my pitch be? What should it include?

Include the title of your work and up to three sentences describing your story. Please do not include your name. Here are examples from a prior year's press release:

  • [Title] is about a woman who, in lieu of a suicide note, leaves behind a freshly-baked pie and a journal. Police Constable Iris Weild must separate fact from fiction as she reads the story of the woman’s sacrifice for her husband’s eventual happiness, and of her love affair with a man no one in town has ever seen.
  • [Title] is about the not-so-subtle sexist world of Silicon Valley. A venture capitalist faces her husband’s mistress across the negotiating table. She must learn to work with her or jeopardize both their careers.
  • [Title] is about Kat Jamison who escapes to the rugged Blue Ridge Mountains to avoid her daughter, doctors, and difficult decisions regarding the reality of her grim cancer prognosis. When she and two children are trapped in a raging forest fire, instead of accepting her death, Kat must discover a fire inside herself—a burning will to survive.

How much feedback will I get on my entry?

Every entry will receive a detailed score sheet from three qualified judges who are encouraged to make additional comments. WFWA cannot, however, guarantee the judges' compliance with this request.  

How will I be notified if I advance to the finals?

The five finalists will be notified via email. WFWA will post the official finalist list to its website.

If I am a finalist, how long will I have to revise my entry for the final round?

All finalists must submit their updated entries by July 12, 2024.

What is the prize for winning?

All finalists will receive a digital badge and certificate for display within their online presence. The winner will receive an engraved RISING STAR Award trophy.

Additional Questions? Contact the RISING STAR Award co-chairs at [email protected]