Hook, Line, and Sinker Challenge Rules #HLS2017

Welcome to the Hook, Line and Sinker Challenge: #HLS2017!



The Hook, Line, and Sinker (HLS) Challenge is open to all (ages 18+). Eligible submissions must come from your children’s or teen FICTION work (board books and early readers excluded) and should not already be published or under contract. Got it? NEW WORKS ONLY. YOUR WORK CAN BE UNDER CONSIDERATION BY AN EDITOR OR AGENT BUT YOU MUST ALREADY HAVE PLANS FOR A REVISION. In other words, if you do not plan to revise your work, DO NOT ENTER #HLS2017. Please let people who really want to improve their manuscripts get a shot at winning!


Be the first to catch the big one in your fishing category.

The categories

  • Picture Book (PB)
  • Chapter Book / Middle Grade Novel (CB/MG)
  • Young Adult (YA)


  • Anonymous free feedback during the challenge if your work is chosen by our slimy judges to discuss. This last year, our team has grown and joining us will be our our skippers (a glamorous bunch of WFCAT.com interns), our deckhands – the pooches – Kissy (who we already know from our last big #RLGL) and his pooch pal Shaun, with Captain Cynthea Liu at the helm. But just remember: it’s the fish you need to win over–Hook, Line, and Sinker!
  • Again all feedback will be anonymous, meaning your work will not be identified as yours. We will use entry numbers instead like past RLGL challenges.We will do our best to ensure that every angler receives feedback on Twitter – but we cannot guarantee you will receive feedback on every entry you submit. The pups need breathers and they’ve been running back and forth making sure the judges stay hydrated and get plenty of rest between decisions. If you do not receive feedback on a booted entry via twitter.com/cynthealiu, it may just not be right for our fish. It does not necessarily mean the entry wasn’t worthy. The bettas in the next bowl over might love it. Publishing is a very subjective field so try not to take bubbles from three goldfish too seriously, especially if they’ve only seen one sentence.
  • If you catch the big one, you get the GLORY of winning, which is pretty much priceless (we all know that) AND your winning work will receive a free 30-minute phone consult from the Captain herself.
  • Let’s also not forget that agent referrals are always a possibility as well. Impress the fish and you might just hook yourself an agent!


To catch the big one, you must cast your line and weather whatever challenge is thrown at you. 

  • Your “first submission” (or cast, as we call it) will be the first line of your manuscript (This is your hook!) before a round deadline. (You can find round deadlines posted on wfcat.com. Hint: refresh the homepage so you can see the latest posts). Once you submit, wait patiently for an entry number that identifies this work as yours.
  • Next is your line. If you pass the round (look for your entry # when official round results are posted to see if you passed), your second submission for the work should be your first 125 words before the next round deadline (including your first line).
  • Official round results will be posted after the closing of each round here on wfcat.com, generally within 24 to 48 hours of a round closing.
  • If you pass the round, give us more line! Your third submission for the work should be your first 250 words (including your first line and first 125 words). Just more line to catch that fish! 
  • If you pass the round, your fourth submissions for the work should be your last line ONLY. This is the sinker! Yes just the last line of your entire manuscript. It better be good!
  • Make it through 4 rounds of submission with a single work and you’ve caught the big one unless there are other anglers who are right there with you distracting your big fish. In the event of a tie, fishing continues through a series of challenges set up by our esteemed judges.
  • If your entry doesn’t pass a round, cast again by starting over with a different work. 


  • If you miss a round because you were too busy polishing up your boat or had to run back to the dock to refuel, do not worry, you can still keep your line out and send in your submission during any round deadline you can make. You may fall behind but anything can happen with other anglers: lines snap, stormy weather, giant sea monsters take down ships. Do not let missing a round deter you from keeping your line out.
  • If your work does not pass a round, you simply start over and cast a new line with a new work in the next round you can make or if you want to revise that work and try again, you can do a Bait Swap. (See below for how Bait Swaps work.)

NOTE: Only one submission per round at a time, unless you have done something special to earn BONUS CASTS per round (see below under BONUS CAST RULES for more info about that).

Ready to submit? Here’s how:

1) Please make sure you label your emails correctly in the SUBJECT LINE of your emails, not the body of the email. DO NOT attach work or put any part of your work in the Subject line of the email. DO paste your work into the BODY of the message. Do not attempt to format your work in the email. The crew is great at reading emails in hieroglyphics, even underwater. 

2) Email your first line to Hooklinesinker2017 AT gmail DOT com. This email address is the official email address for all submissions for the challenge. IN THE SUBJECT LINE of your email, state the following “First Line, book type (i.e., PB, ER, CB, MG, YA), and manuscript title to help our skippers and deckhands keep track, like so (First Line, PB, If You Give a Goldfish a Cracker).  In the body of your email, paste your first line. Your first line is the first sentence in your manuscript.  Find the first terminating punctuation mark in your manuscript (like a period, question mark or exclamation mark), and that’s your first sentence. ART NOTES may be included with your text, however, art notes do not count as part of your word count. Please place the art notes in brackets so we know they are art notes. 

3) After the deadline for each round has passed, wait patiently as our fishy judges review your entry and give you an entry number for the work. Your entry number is unique for your work and will be used to conceal your identity when results are revealed or commentary is provided. We do not know when the judges will deliver results for each round, but it will probably occur within the first 24-48 hours after a round deadline.

4)  Feel free to follow Cynthea’s Twitter for all the action, conversation, feedback, and commentary that happens during the challenge and subscribe to the WFCAT youtube channel if the Captain and her crew have sage words for you by video. Doing either will earn you a bonus cast too (see below for more info on that). The hashtag for this challenge is #HLS2017 if that helps you. You will not receive email notifications about the rounds because we don’t want to flood people’s inboxes for those who are not playing. Keep in mind, all official round results will appear on WFCAT.com home page.  Again, Do NOT inquire about your entry until official round results have been posted for your round on WFCAT.com.

Refresh the page and look for your round and your X by your entry #.  Check to see which column of the official results chart it is in, and go back to start to cast a new line as instructed OR advance to the next round.

  • If your FIRST LINE entry was sent back to dock, you start over with a NEW work if you so wish or you do a Bait Swap (see below for rules on that.)  If you are sending in a NEW work, you will put in the SUBJECT LINE of your email: First line, Format, Manuscript title as you did before. DO NOT include your old entry #. Those are unique to the manuscript itself. You will get a new # for new manuscripts. 
  • If you passed the FIRST LINE, you will include your next submission with the entry number you received for that work. Your new subject line will read like this. : FIRST 125, Entry Number, Format, Manuscript Title, like so …(FIRST 125, #75, PB, If You Give a Goldfish a Cracker).
  • If you make it past the first 125, then you title the next email subject like so  (FIRST 250, #75, PB, If You Give a Goldfish a Cracker.)
  • If you make it to the last line, (LAST LINE, #75, PB, If You Give a Goldfish a Cracker), you will send in your first 250 words + your last line. 
  • After that, we will help you with email subjects in the event of a tie to keep things organized.

5) After a round closes, our crew will open a new round with a new round deadline.

6) Play continues until an angler has caught the big one for their category for the prize AND the final round for the entire challenge has been announced and completed. If you enter after an angler has already won in your category, you may still enter out of curiosity to see how far you can get and also for feedback on that entry.

7) You should plan to send something off prior to each deadline so you can keep up with your competition. However, you may not send extra stuff in advance of round deadlines, meaning don’t send in 250 words when you haven’t even passed the first 125 words yet. If you fall behind in a round though; don’t worry, anglers will get sent back to dock at any point during the challenge.


Is the fishing just not exciting enough for you with just one fishing line in the water at a time? You can earn a bonus cast! That’s right, a bonus cast allows you to have two entries (two different works) in a round, instead of one. There is no limit to the number of bonus casts you can earn throughout the challenge, however, you may only have a maximum of two entries in play during any given round.  Bonus activities listed below must be done during the challenge so if you’ve already done any of the following, that won’t count. But there’s plenty of options to choose from so there’s something for everyone. One activity = one bonus cast.

When you are ready to redeem your bonus cast, wait until a round is open where you need that bonus cast, by emailing us the FIRST LINE of your Bonus Cast submission. 

  • In the subject line you will put BONUS this time and the rest is the same as a regular cast. For example: BONUS, FIRST LINE, PB, If You Give A Goldfish a Cracker
  • You must let us know in the body of your email what you did to earn that bonus cast in a way that we can verify – for example, my username is X and I just subscribed to the WFCAT youtube channel or I followed Y’s twitter account. or I just retweeted today’s Twitter post with @cynthealiu in the reply, and my twitter username is X. 
  • Then wait for your entry #. This number will weirdly begin with the letter B, which you may then use for subsequent rounds if the entry makes it through rounds!
  • If your bonus cast submission flops like a fish out of water, no worries, do something else on the list in the next round whenever you want a bonus cast. There is no limit to the # of bonus casts you earn.

Please do not redeem bonus casts in advance. Use them when you need them. (i.e. don’t try to redeem a bonus cast when you already have two entries in play for the round that is currently open). If you do that, the fish may cry “fowl!” and all of your casts in that round may be eaten by birds instead. Remember, there is a maximum of two entries per angler during any given round, and we will not make the pooches try to keep track of your bonus casts that you’ve banked, ahead of when you need them. They’ve only got eight paws between them and they are terrible at math, so please redeem your bonus casts as needed, not ahead of time.


We here at WFCAT believe in the power of revision BEFORE you submit to agents and editors or fish, for that matter. If your entry got the boot in any give round, we will give you a chance to revise your work and re-enter the work that was booted. The catch is, you won’t be able to win a challenge prize since the entry had been booted , but your revised entry will get results like everyone else.

To earn a bait swap:

First, you may not have more than two entries in play in any given round at any time (regular cast, bonus cast, or bait swap cast).

Second, to swap your bait, you must via Twitter, send the judges a giphy of bait they might like better to @cynthealiu on Twitter. The judges love giphys as you may have noticed on Twitter already. Your giphy could be anything–a shiny coin? A tasty bug? Something that symbolizes your work? Whatever it is, make it good, and if you can make the fish bubble with gurgly laughter in their bowl, even better. To find a giphy, go to giphy.com. If you don’t know how to tweet a giphy to @cynthealiu, seek out help from your friends or relatives, not our team. Unfortunately we are all so busy that lessons on giphy sharing and Twitter is not in our list of duties.

Third, email the challenge email address, and title your email using this formula: BAIT SWAP, Entry Number, Format, Manuscript Title (e.g. BAIT SWAP, #99, MG, IF YOU GIVE A GOLDFISH A SECOND CHANCE). In the body of your email, tell us what you did and give the pooches enough info that verifies you did the Bait Swap. E.g. My twitter username is X and I tweeted the fish a giphy of Y. Then paste in your revised version of the submission that was booted. (For  example, if your entry was booted on a first line, then re-do your first line. If you were booted on the first 125 words, then give us a revised 125 for that work, and so on and so forth.

When our pooches process your BAIT SWAP submission, they will let you know your entry # and it will begin with an S for SWAP. Play proceeds as normal for your Bait Swap Entry.

One last thing!

All anglers, by submitting their work, must agree to The Solemn Critiquee Oath.

The Solemn Critiquee Oath

  • I shall not shed a single tear upon receiving any feedback from the judges
  • I shall remember I am receiving opinions from three slimy coated, but gorgeous fish, and that is all.
  • I shall not take any comments personally as the marine world can be quite flaky.
  • I shall allow the fish the opportunity to nibble my ms endlessly if they so wish.

Now are you ready?


Terrific. Look for any open round announcement on WFCAT.com (look for a round date that has not expired) and cast your line before the deadline. If you just missed a deadline and the challenge is still going on, another round will pop up soon.

There is one exception though: if you are a new angler to the challenge and you have no entries in play at all), you can submit at any time. Your submission will automatically get rolled into the next open round.

Remember: Check the latest #HLS2017 postings on Twitter and the WFCAT.com (refresh the website) for round openings, closings, results and updates.  Follow the submission rules, make any round deadline, and you’re in. 

IF YOU DO NOT SEE ANY #HLS2017 posts on wfcat.com at all, first refresh the homepage. If that doesn’t work, chances are the Challenge has not begun yet. Subscribe to the WFCAT.com free-tique list to receive the Official Announcement that the #HLS2017 challenge has begun. That email will be the first notice anyone will get that the challenge is officially open. BE SURE YOU CONFIRM YOUR SUBSCRIPTION in your inbox, and do not worry, your email subscription will not result in tons of email. The Captain mainly uses the wfcat.com email list for free-tique announcements and major things related to WFCAT.com. The most emails you might receive is 3 or 4, a YEAR.

Happy trolling! *but please, no actual trolls allowed.*

30 thoughts on “Hook, Line, and Sinker Challenge Rules #HLS2017

    1. The challenge will open when you see a new post announcing it is open. 🙂 If you aren’t sure, jump on the free-tique email list and we will be sure to send you an email announcing it is open so you don’t have to stalk the website. Won’t be long now but we want to make sure we field any questions and give people time to know what is about to take place before it does, so everyone is ready!

    1. The challenge will open when you see a new post announcing it is open. 🙂 If you aren’t sure, jump on the free-tique email list and we will be sure to send you an email announcing it is open so you don’t have to stalk the website. Won’t be long now but we want to make sure we field any questions and give people time to know what is about to take place before it does, so everyone is ready!

      1. Hmm – this is the message I get when I follow your free-tique link:


        It looks like nothing was found at this location. Maybe try one of the links below or a search?

      1. The challenge will open when you see a new post announcing it is open. 🙂 If you aren’t sure, jump on the free-tique email list and we will be sure to send you an email announcing it is open so you don’t have to stalk the website. Won’t be long now but we want to make sure we field any questions and give people time to know what is about to take place before it does, so everyone is ready!

        If you submitted something prematurely, it doesn’t count. You will ned to re-send in your submission when the round opens. Our skippers use time-stamps to determine when entries were received so they know which round goes to what and to keep things fair.

    1. Yes, illustrator notes necessary to comprehend the story are welcome. They do NOT count as part of your word count, just like in real life. So please be sure to put your illustrator notes in brackets like so
      [Boy’s gift is a dinosaur!]

  1. This sounds like so much fun! Two questions, though:

    1) Does “first line” mean only the first sentence? I use seven words in what I consider the first line of my story, but it’s two sentences. (Imagine: “I’m tired,” Fishy said. “No swimming for me.”)
    2) Are illustration notes for PBs included in the word count?

    Thanks for the challenge!

    1. Your first line is your first sentence. Even if it’s a fragment. Find the first terminating punctuation mark (such as a period, question mark, or exclamation point) and that’s your first line.

      I think you, like others, will notice that perhaps your first line isn’t holding its weight on its own. Time for revision! 🙂 Good luck!

      See a previous answer to the art note question! We just answered it for another angler!

  2. Suppose we make it to the 125 or the 250. Do we send exactly 125 words whether the word count stops in the middle of a sentence?

    1. Exactly 125 and 250 and no more even if the sentence is incomplete. Do not include your title, byline, or art notes in the word count. You don’t want the fish to leave you with a boot on your hook if you mess this up! Happy fishing!

      1. So we should include the title and our name in the body of the email with our first sentence? I thought that information was only supposed to be included in the subject line. (I’ve already submitted an entry that way. Is there something I should do now?)

        1. Your name should be in the body of the email and your title in the subject line. We have your entry, and if you haven’t received a number yet you will soon. Happy fishing!

  3. I think I may have called my entry a chapter book when it’s possibly a middle grade. The level has been debated in writing groups for several years. Not sure what I should do at this point.

    1. For the challenge it can only hurt the entry if at some point it becomes obvious to the fishes that the CB label is too far off. For example, it’s clear that a book is actually meant for teens or on the flip side, 3-year-olds. No need to do anything further, but great question.

      Happy fishing!

  4. This is such a cool idea! Very generous of all of you to do this 🙂 I was wondering-do you email us our entry # or is it posted somewhere?


        1. Make sure you are emailing to the correct email (hooklinesinker2017 @ gmail . com). It seems like we are up to date on submissions, so if you still have not received an entry number please contact us and we will try and get everything sorted out.

          Happy fishing!

  5. Weird question here: My first 125 words ends on three ellipsis (intended as a mid-sentence pause in dialogue). My program is counting each dot as a word. Should I stick with that, or add on the next three actual words? Hope this question makes sense. Thanks!

  6. If a person makes it past the first 125 words and then there is a Sudden Catch round. Should they submit the entire manuscript or should they submit their first 250 words?

    1. The challenge ends in Round 4 for a) anyone who did not make it to the last line in Round 4 or b) if they submitted got to the last line in Round 4, but do not see instructions for their entry in Round 4 Results, that entry did not make it to Sudden Catch either. Only those entries listed in the Sudden Catch Round made it to Sudden Catch.

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