thoughts on entering yet another writing contest…

I’ve entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. After my experience with the 3-Day, one might question the wisdom.

The 3 Day broke my heart in part because I wrote a novel (or more accurately novella) The Death Trip, specifically for the contest. If I hadn’t had the 3-Day deadline, I don’t know that I ever would have started or finished it. The time limit forced me to tell the story and not get lost in subplots or introspection. If I’m the mother of the work, than 3-Day is the father or at least the sperm donor. I’m proud of that baby, especially the way he grew and developed following his premature birth, so entering was worth it, despite the emotional repercussions of daddy’s abandonment.

I don’t expect to win the ABNA or even come close, and the work I’ve submitted, Loisaida had a long history before I even heard of the award.

The ABNA is sponsored by Create Space – Amazon’s self-publishing arm. The winner gets published by Penguin with a $25,000 advance. The expected 10,000 entries are first judged solely on the pitch. Most people will be eliminated before their manuscripts are seen by anyone. Loisaida is dark and not easy to categorize. My intended audience is not everyone. While I hope the quality of the pitch will carry me, it wouldn’t surprise me if I don’t make it past the first round.

The 3 Day was started by writers and is about the process. The ABNA was started by Create Space and is about publishing. 9,999 people will not win, and if a good percentage of them decide to self-publish through Create Space, than Amazon is the biggest winner. The ABNA has an American Idol-style aspect. The public gets to download excerpts from the top 500, rate and review them. Once the judges pick the top 3, the readers vote for the winner. Penguin gets a book that has already been vetted by industry insiders, gotten publicity and built a fan base.

So knowing that this is all a capitalist plot, why enter? Because:

Everything is a crapshoot and at least this one has no entry fee.

If I make it to the top 500, that means that my pitch was deemed “worthy” by Amazon editors AND my excerpt made the grade with Amazon Vine reviewers. My manuscript will be reviewed and rated by editors from Publisher’s Weekly which is an enormous free service which will provide useful feedback for further revisions.

In the extremely unlikely event that I reach the top 100, (kinahora, pfft, pfft), the manuscript will be under review by Penguin editors and have a shot even if I don’t win. (Meantime, the excerpt will be out there for agents and readers to see.)

So the trick is knowing what I know, not to wind up gliding on my hopes and crashing if/when I don’t make it to the top 2,000 or 500 or 100.

When I was younger, I both wanted to write and wanted to be recognized for having written. The recognition didn’t come and I stopped writing. Now that I have some wisdom and can hear time’s winged chariot hurrying near,, I want and need to write more than ever. If the writing life means taking on just enough paid work to get by, I’ll make the sacrifice. Whether I choose to write is one of the areas of my life where I have the power. What I can’t control is other people – agents and editors who may not like my work or may not think it’s marketable.

By nature, I’m pragmatic and like comfort — a true Taurus, not that I believe in that crap. It would be icing on the cake to have recognition and actually make money doing what I love (not that I don’t love what I do now). So for me, the test of my wisdom is to send out the work and enter the damn contests and learn what I can, and not let my ego crash every time I lose or every time I get a form rejection or a scrawled “not for us” on a returned cover. The test is not wasting time.