Monday, February 21, 2011

The Final Countdown

In just three days time, four if you count today, my life will be forever changed. Okay, fine, it won't be changed in that earth shattering way, but it will be changed. In three days time, four if you count today, I'll find out if I'm moving on to round two of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

As I've told you in prior posts, I've entered this contest every year since its inception. Three of the four years I've managed to get as far as round two. I'm hoping to continue that trend this year. In the last two years, making it to round two has become something more of a challenge than it was in the first two years. This is thanks to the pitch. The pitch is a three hundred word summary of your novel that must not only tell the judges how your book ends but also explain that you understand your target audience. It's a lot of information to cram into three hundred words and make it both eloquent and believable. I managed to do it last year so I'm hoping to pull it off again this year. You see, they won't even pass the book along to readers to judge its actual merit if you can't even write a decent pitch. I have mixed feelings about this. I won't get in to them now as I've addressed this before. Let's just say it's a lot of pressure as is this contest.

The Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards is a long contest with a labyrinth of layers. Round One is the submission phase in which the first five thousand entrants are accepted into two categories- general fiction and young adult fiction. Round two moves the top two thousand entrants in each category and allows a small sample of their story to be read and rated by Amazon's top reviewers. Round three is the quarter finals and entrants move on based on the rankings from the reviews. The semi finals is where things get interesting. The field is narrowed and excerpts of the novels are posted on line for all Amazon customers to review. The finals are next followed by the announcing of two winners, one in each category. There's both a cash prize and the joy of mainstream publication. While the contest begins in January, the winners aren't announced until June. Yes, it takes six months.

Every year I tell myself I am not going to obsess over this contest. I am not going to count the days and constantly remind myself and my poor husband of how many days are left. I'm not even going to think about it. I tell myself these lies every year, and this year is no exception. Not only do I want to win for the publication and cash prize, but I want that validation as a writer. I want to know I have talent. I want all of those agents and publishing houses who rejected me to wish they hadn't passed.

For now, I'd settle for moving to round two. Of course, if I do that will reset the clock. I'll have another month to obsessively wonder if I'm making it to the next round. One can only hope.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Love is in the Air

Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought it was only fitting to talk about love. I don’t mean the romantic kind of love usually reserved for this day. I will say that kind of love is often the source of inspiration for me and other writers. Instead, I want to talk about the love of something I do. You guessed it. I want to talk about my love of writing.

Writing is something of an inherited talent. My childhood is ingrained with images of my mother hunched over the kitchen table, and later her desk, dashing out her latest creation. Whether or not my mother has talent is up for debate as I’ve never read any of her work nor has she shared it with me. It’s only my memories that lead me to believe I’ve inherited any talent from her, but I’m getting off track.

Along with memories of seeing my mother write, my childhood is riddled with memories of me writing. I have this romantic notion that I’ve been doing it since the first time a pencil touched my fingers, but I can’t be certain of that. I still remember beaming with pride when my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Welch, taught me the proper use of quotations ahead of the rest of the class so I could use them in my stories she loved so much. In the sixth grade, my parents echoed that sentiment when I won a district wide writing contest for an essay entitled What Peace Means to Me.  In the seventh grade, I was too vain to be embarrassed when my English teacher wanted to read the class a story I'd written. I suppose I could go on and on banging my own drum. The point is my earliest memories involve writing. 

There is nothing I don't love about writing. From the first spark of an idea to the sound of my fingers flying across the computer keys, I love the process.  I like to create and be creative.  When I start a story, I usually have no idea where it's going to end so I love to see what unfolds. I love the control, and I'm not ashamed to say I sometimes end up falling for my male lead. I'm always a little sad when I finish a story and more sad when I finish a series of stories as I know it's all coming to an end. Then I realize it's time to start anew and my love for the process is reborn.  As I grow so does my love to write.  

So on this Valentine's Day, I hope you remember there are many kinds of love.  And I hope you have or will experience one of them. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Power of Social Networking Strikes Again

In a recent post, I extolled the benefits of social networking.  If you recall, as a result of a Twitter connection, I became acquainted with a web radio host and book reviewer.  That host/reviewer interviewed me and then some time later read my book and gave it a rather glowing review. Not only did she give it a positive review, but she’s been kind enough to post it on web sites such as Amazon and Good Reads. Whether or not this will net me more sales remains to be seen, but it’s always good to get validation of your talent as a writer. It’s also great to see the effort I’ve invested in Twitter is paying off. As you know from previous posts, I started that Twitter account with a great deal of skepticism.

Guess what? The power of social networking, Twitter in particular, has struck again. I’m sure in my last post I mentioned that in the early days of Twitter I followed anyone who followed me. I felt it was only fair to repay the kindness.  Since then, I’ve become much more selective about who I follow. Please believe me when I say this has nothing to do with me being a snob and is more about getting back to my roots. I started my Twitter account with the intention of promoting my work and reaching fans. Following the local historical society doesn’t aid me in that. Instead, it fills my Twitter page with posts that don’t apply to me and slows down my ability to reach those who are interested in my work.

One of those who followed me was Team Duo Lit. The goal of these two wonderful people is to assist all writers, especially those who are self-published, with furthering their careers and getting their work noticed. Given this, I decided to follow them. In one of their posts, they spoke of a web site called Wattpad and gave a link to a contest the site was holding for self-published authors. As it turns out, by the time I got to this site, I’d missed the contest deadline. I did stick around to check out the site and was intrigued by what I saw. Wattpad is a web site in which both aspiring and published writers can share their work and offer one another feedback. It’s an intricate and well organized system that allows writers to upload their written work as well as a cover for their yet to be published books. I joined the Wattpad group and was emailed instructions for logging on and creating my account. Though I created the account, I didn’t begin posting right away. For some reason, I didn’t delete the email reminding me of Wattad’s existence.

Last week, after a grueling week of editing two manuscripts, I needed a break. Although I understand the importance of editing, I’m not afraid to admit it’s one of those things that sucks the joy out of writing for me. Needing a reinfusion of that joy, I decided to give Wattpad a try. I have a story that’s already completed that I’m not sure will ever see the light of day. I’ve tried many times to get an agent for this story and kept getting rejected. I suspect its controversial content scares some people away, which is what I tell myself to keep from thinking the rejections are because I’m a bad writer. With this in mind, I decided to test the Wattpad waters. My agent has strict rules about posting work on the web that she’s trying to push to publishers. Because of that, I decided to try out the story I’ve been convinced will never see the light of day. I uploaded the story and then waited to see what would happen. I checked back regularly, okay obsessively, to see if anyone read my story yet. In looking around the site, I’d noticed others were getting reads and the number was being tracked and posted by the book info for all to see. In addition to these reads, there was the chance for people to vote on whether or not they liked a story. Each vote gives the writer what are known as popularity points. These points move the writer up in the standings and could lead to them being featured on the home page. That would in turn lead to more exposure for the author. Imagine my dismay when no one was reading my story. I couldn’t figure out how everyone else was doing it. Then again, I couldn’t even figure out how to upload my own personalized avatar or update my profile or create a book cover. As you know from prior posts, I’m a bit technologically impaired. I had to enlist the help of my teen daughter to get the book cover created to the right number of pixels and what not. While she worked on this, I plodded through getting my little avatar up there and making my profile shine. Then I started poking around to find out how to get some reads. I didn’t just want reads though. I wanted some comments. I wanted to know what the readers thought of my work. Turns out there are a list of clubs on the site and one of those encourages authors to share their stories with one another. After a few posts there, I was off and running. The reads and comments racked up as did the popularity points.

What I’ve learned so far from this site is that it seems to be geared toward the younger generation. The ages of authors has ranged from twelve to twenty-five, at least those I’ve seen so far. As an aspiring young adult writer, this is great for me. With Wattpad, I’ve been given the ability to tap into the minds of my demographic. They appear to lean toward fantasy novels with an element of romance as well as teen angst novels. They still love werewolves and vampires. They also love what I’ve written so far. That’s what they’re saying anyway, and I tend to believe them given the fact that they have no emotional investment in my writing. When my friends compliment me, I get a little leery because I wonder if they don’t want to hurt my feelings.

With Wattpad, I feel like I’ve been given a new lease on my literary life. The positive comments I’ve received from the snippet of the story I’ve posted have encouraged me not to give up on my dream of being a mainstream published YA author, and I owe this feeling to Twitter and Team Duo Lit.