First Page Challenge 2020: The results are in!


It was an honour to read so many awesome submissions. Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter. We had a whopping 174 entries—up by 88 from last year! Here's how that looks for the prize pool:

1st place – $835
2nd place – $100
3rd place – $50

And now for Michelle's big announcement!


It is always both a pleasure and a privilege to judge a Darling Axe writing contest. This year I had my work cut out for me with so many talented finalists to choose from, so many great first pages that would have made me turn to page two. 

The top three entries were quite different in style, but all three featured excellent writing.

1. The Silver Trail by Adam McCulloch

There is an authenticity to this writing that I loved: the landscape of a family of six, jammed into a car, with the youngest being forced to face backwards, captures so much that is true of a large family. The teasing and dialogue are spot-on, but what clinched it for me was the "rear-view mystery" that only the narrator is privy to: the truth behind what the other family members see on the road.

Click here to read The Silver Trail

2. Good Gravity by Brian Lott

This entry won me over with the narrator's strong voice. I also love the premise: a ten-year-old boy so desperate to make his escape from an abusive family that he is trying to hotwire a car. Great sensory detail and strong dialogue make this a story I would love to read more of.

Click here to read Good Gravity

3. Time. And Time Again by John A Hobson

I admit, I'm a sucker for strong dialogue, and this is a dialogue-centered entry. But there is more to it than that. There is sharp observation—no Vivaldi when the narrator is put on hold. And there is concept: the narrator calls 999 to report a murder—his own.

Click here to read Time. And Time Again

Kudos to everyone who submitted their work. It was a pleasure to read so many great submissions.

—Michelle Barker

About the Darling Axe

We are professional editors as well as award-winning writers. We understand the intense effort and emotional investment you have poured into your work. It's our job to help you take your manuscript to the next level.

Work with a professional fiction editor from the Darling Axe: manuscript development and book editing services

Darling Axe Academy – Query Quest: a self-paced querying course

Darling Axe Academy – Best-laid plans: a self-paced outlining course

Book a sample edit with a professional fiction editor from the Darling Axe: manuscript development and book editing services

Related Posts

Book Broker – an interview with Stefanie Molina
Book Broker – an interview with Stefanie Molina
The two things that get me once I start reading a sample are a strong personality and a hook that comes in quickly.
Read More
Optional Contest Feedback
Optional Contest Feedback
Would you like to know how your contest entry lands with our screeners?
Read More
Our novel outlining course is 50% off
Our novel outlining course is 50% off
For the rest of October, Best-Laid Plans is 50% off with coupon code NANO.
Read More