Institute for Writers presents



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Are you ready to take us for a ride?

Thrillers are the books that grab us from the first page, take us through breathless twists and turns, and end in a way we never saw coming. They keep us on the edge of our seats with feelings of suspense, surprise, anticipation, and anxiety. These are the books that are almost impossible to put down.

This writing contest is your chance to captivate us with your first pages and have us biting our nails to see what happens next. Are you up for the challenge?

Entries for this contest will include a one to two sentence book summary followed by no more than 1,000 words from the beginning of your book. (Book summary sentence not included in first pages word count. The full manuscript does not need to be finished in order to enter.) Your first page should be previously unpublished.

Deadline: December 15, 2022

What's a Thriller?

Thriller is a subgenre of mystery. Plot drives the story. The action never stops, the pace is breathless. The fate of the world, the galaxy—the life, family, perhaps the sanity of your main character hangs in the balance.

A cozy mystery is a cup of hot tea—a thriller is a can of Red Bull.

Thrillers are best defined by the authors who write them: James Patterson, Kathy Reichs, Lee Child, Dean Koontz, David Baldacci, Gillian Flynn, Dan Brown, Harlan Coben.

Subgenres include: legal, crime, psychological, political, supernatural, romantic, science fiction, horror, spy, high tech, conspiracy, disaster, military, medical or forensic.

Take a deep breath, hit your keyboard and pull us to the edge of our seats with a can’t-look-away thriller.

Why Enter an IFW Writing Contest?

 $1,300 Cash Prizes 

  • 1st prize = $650
  • 2nd prize = $350 
  • 3rd prize = $100
  • 4th prize = $100
  • 5th prize = $100

Online Workshop 

All entrants are invited to a FREE instructional online workshop with our esteemed judge who will share insights into successfully writing in this genre.

Enter Today!

Free Critique

Winning entries will be workshopped in our live webinar by our judge to help writers understand what worked and what could be improved to make it submission-ready.

What's our judge looking for?

Book Summary:

Please include a one to two-sentence book summary such as you’d find on the copyright page of a traditionally published novel. These summaries will often—but not always—contain the name of the character, the setting in which the story takes place, and an idea of the central conflict. Read examples from your favorite books to study how editors can distill a book down to its essence.

First Page:

Our judge will expect to see:

·         An opening paragraph that grabs readers by the throat

·         A compelling main character—think Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne

·         An equally compelling villain—think Goldfinger or Blofeld

·         Action, action, and more action

·         Sharp, crisp dialogue that drives the plot

·         Breakneck pacing

·         A clear identification of what is at stake


James Patterson wrote in his 2016 book, Thriller: Stories to Keep You Up All Night:


“But what gives the variety of thrillers a common ground is the intensity of emotions they create, particularly those of apprehension and exhilaration, of excitement and breathlessness, all designed to generate that all-important thrill. By definition, if a thriller doesn’t thrill, it’s not doing its job.”

Here's what else you need to know...

  • Your entry can be no longer than 1,000 words.
  • Your entry must include a one to two-sentence book summary. (Not included in total word count.)
  • Entries must be previously unpublished and not currently under contract with a publisher.
  • Target readers are adults.
  • Entries must follow manuscript submission guidelines as stated on our Contest Rules page HERE.
  • No sexually explicit, pornographic, or gratuitously violent entries will be accepted.
  • Entries must be submitted via our online form by midnight Pacific Time on December 15, 2022.
  • There is a $19 reading fee per manuscript to enter the contest.
  • You will receive a link to the submission form via email after your purchase is completed.
  • You may enter more than one manuscript but each entry requires a $19 reading fee.
  • Every writer who enters will be invited to the online workshop (it's free!) where the winning entries are critiqued. (Non-entrants pay $7.)

Submissions will be judged on clarity, potential in the market, and your ability to match standard manuscript format (double spacing, one-inch margins, no creative use of fonts).

The winning entries in this Thriller First Pages writing contest will be announced at a live online workshop within 90 days after the contest closes. All contest entrants will be invited free of charge. (Non-entrants may attend for a nominal fee of $7.)

This is a great opportunity to build your writing and submitting skills!

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