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Announcing the winners of our 2021 Novel Excerpt Contest!

In February, over 600 of you shared pieces of your NaNoWriMo novels with us as part of the "Now What?" Novel Excerpt Contest. We read about corrupt governments, secret powers, and hidden worlds. We read dialogue that made us laugh, and plot twists that made us gasp. You all are so very talented and we had a blast basking in your genius. 


Now, the winning excerpts! Look for them next week in Breaking News and the NaNoWriMo blog.

Grand Prize (14-18 Division)

"Ashes to Ashes" by Sophie C.

Guest author judge Christina Li said this about "Ashes to Ashes": "I absolutely loved how it had an excellent sense of pacing and suspense! I was intrigued from the first line and it ended at just the perfect moment -- I wanted to know more!"

Grand Prize (13 and Under Division)

"A Well-Worn Window Seat" by Julia B.

Guest author judge Christina Li said this about "A Well-Worn Window Seat": "It had an incredible first line and set up the story really well! Definitely one of the most memorable story beginnings I’ve read."


Our guest judge selected these excerpts from the group of Official Finalists. Their authors crafted unique characters and rich worlds, and found the way to move us, even in such a short space. Congratulations!

Official Finalists

These stories stood out from all the others, and we sent them on to our guest author judge to choose from:

  • "Constellations" by Sofia D.; "Death on the Tracks" by Helena;  "DESAPARECIDOS: Martial Law’s Unsung Heroes" by Victor A.; "Ethereal" by Hajer; "Falling for an UnSeelie" by S; "King" by Ella L.; "Land of the Trees" by Ryan; "Magical Lands" by Hadley; "Six Colonies" by Eliza; "Spirit Gems" by Gabriel B.; "Station 38" by Josie; "The Curse of Auria Caro" by Natalie; "The Six Flowers of the Spirits" by Eliza; "The Nightingales" by Annika; "The Tombstone Tradesman" by Asenath; "Those of Us Left" by Abigail; "War Games" by Michael; "Wardens of the Storm" by Coulson; "What's Wrong with Monday?" by Jill 

Honorable Mentions

There were just so many wonderful excerpts to read! Here are a few more we loved and kept thinking about:

  • "Aanya Shah Saves The World" by Rishika; "Cathy" by Jenna; "Confessions" by Tash; "Devil Eyes" by Cadence; "Eclipse Rising" by Natalia; "Elements" by Wavey; "Heading Up: Running~Reaching~Beating" by Summer; "Long Live the King" by Claire; "Moonblood" by Talulah; "Never to Be Hidden" by Evan; "Night Rising" by Ava; "Red Berries and Silver Stars" by Tera; "Sand Runner" by Riya; "She Ruled the World" by Hannah; "Superman: Becoming a Hero" by Atticus; "The Academy for Obsidian Spies" by Rachel; "The Golden Dragon" by Lila G. D.; "The Heavens Are Waiting" by Audrey; "The Little Maid Girl and Her Secret" Milinu; "The One that Time Forgot" by Nazeefah; "The Other Dimension" by Anhad K.; "Tide" by Megan; "Unexpected Snowstorm" by Vivie; "War of Flame and Fury" by Jennifer; "Warbringer" by Charissa; "Winter Flowers" by Anna

Finally, we've said this before, but it bears repeating because it's so very true: if your excerpt didn't get picked, it DOES NOT mean your writing is bad, or we didn't like it. Submitting stories to a contest is kind of like entering a lottery. At a certain point, it really comes down to luck. All writers—even professional ones, even famous ones—get rejected tens or hundreds of times before they get accepted. Among writers, a rejection is a badge of honor because it means you took a brave step: you sent your work into the world. 

We encourage you to post your story and read others in this dedicated forum thread, and most importantly, to keep writing and revising your work! Being a writer takes guts, and you've got them.

Christina Li

Special Guest Author Judge

Christina Li is a student studying Economics at Stanford University. When she is not puzzling over her stats problem set, she is daydreaming about characters and drinking too much jasmine green tea. She grew up in the Midwest but now calls California home. Clues to the Universe is her debut novel.

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