Tuesday 13 October 2015

Australasian Christian Writers Contemporary Christian Romance Contest

By Iola Goulton

Last year, I judged a short story competition for Romance Writers of New Zealand, and I talked about my experience in this post.

This year, I'm one of three judges for a brand new competition, the Australasian Christian Writers Contemporary Christian Romance Contest (ACW CCR Contest for short). This opportunity has advantages and disadvantages.

Advantage: getting to read some cool entries (that's a statement of faith. The competition doesn't close until 31 October, so I won't actually see any entries until after that).

Disadvantage: not being allowed to enter.

The ACW CCR Contest is a first five pages contest, which will make the judging different from the short story contest. For one thing, we've agreed as judges that we will give feedback, but we won't be scoring entries (and I'm hoping that will make things easier!).

But the most obvious difference between a short story contest and our ACW contest is, well, obvious.

An 1800-word short story has to be complete: beginning, middle, end. First Act, Second Act, Third Act. The guy has just 1800 words to get the girl.

A first five pages contest is about the opening hook. There's a lot more going to happen before the guy gets the girl … so the first five pages are all about engaging your reader so they'll want to take that journey.

Here are my tips to make your entry sing:


  • Introduce your viewpoint character by name in the first sentence
  • Answer the essential questions: who, where, and when
  • Ensure you are showing, not telling
  • Avoid backstory

For more advice on the opening, check out Anne Hamilton's series of posts:


Limit the number of viewpoint characters. Five pages is probably your first scene, so there should be only one viewpoint character. For a romance, this should be the heroine or hero. Give us some insight into the characters—hero and heroine. And ensure we meet both characters—or give a good reason why we can't.


  • Ensure dialogue is natural and pertinent to the story (not idle chit-chat).
  • Use dialogue to show us the character of the hero, provide backstory, and move the plot forward.
  • Avoid creative dialogue tags (which are often telling).
  • Pare the dialogue down to the essentials.

For more advice on dialogue, check out my recent posts:

If you're unconvinced about whether you should enter, then I suggest you review these recent posts by Carolyn Miller and Lucy Morgan-Jones, both of whom agree entering writing contests is a great way to get unbiased feedback on your writing.

Entries close on 31 October. 

Will you be entering the ACW CCR Contest? Why? Or why not?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction, and you can find out more about my services at my website, or follow me on FacebookTwitterPinterest  or Tsu.

I love reading, and read and review around 150 Christian books each year on my blog. I'm a Top 25 Reviewer at Christian Book, in the Top 1% of reviewers at Goodreads, and have an Amazon Reviewer Rank that floats around 2500.


  1. Great timely post,Iola. For entrants and I'm soon to judge entries in a first-five page competition so I appreciate your summary. I believe this particular competition scores each entry as well.

    And good on you for providing links to other relevant posts from ACW members. A lovely touch.

    I hope you unearth some great new talent in the inaugural ACWCCR.

    1. Sounds interesting, Ian.

      It's a pity you can't enter our contest ... speculative can have a romance element, can't it?

  2. Fabulous practical post, Iola. Looking forward to judging with you :)

    1. Thanks, Andrea. Yes, I'm looking forward to it as well!

  3. Well I'm a bit tempted to enter! Haven't dusted off my competition skills in a while...

    1. Give it a go! All entries are anonymous - we judges won't know who has submitted each entry.

  4. Iola, thanks for sharing your helpful contest tips :) I'm looking forward to judging the contest, and I hope to read some fabulous story openings.

    1. I'm looking forward to it as well, Narelle. Thanks for the great idea.

  5. Hi!!! Would someone be able to point me to the entry details please?

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  7. Kathy you need to join the ACW facebook group and the entry from is there.
    the link is

    1. Thanks so much Jenny. I'm already there so will look harder. Thank you

    2. Thanks so much Jenny. I'm already there so will look harder. Thank you

    3. Thanks so much Jenny. I'm already there so will look harder. Thank you

  8. Hi Iola, I'd love to enter your contest. Does the manuscript need to qualify as 'inspirational' to enter? Also, does the ms need to be finished or can the first 5 pages come from a WIP?

    1. Hi Kat

      Yes, the first five pages can come from a WIP (although if you're a finalist, you'll need to submit a synopsis).

      Yes, it does have to be an inspirational in that it needs to meet the general standards of CBA fiction. However, if you read CBA romance, you'll know that means it's written from a Christian world view, but not necessarily preachy.

      The rules and entry form are here:

  9. Thanks Iola. I've just sent the FB group a join request :-)


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