warning: Creating default object from empty value in /home/savethee/jocelynrish/modules/taxonomy/taxonomy.pages.inc on line 33.

Perfect Pitch

My theme for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge is contronyms. A contronym is a word with two or more opposite meanings, making it its own antonym. Click here to find out more about these quirky words.
 
Freya with the letter PBefore I get on with this year’s P post, I just have to say my P post from last year is one of my favorites. It’s so ridiculous, and I love the picture of my naughty girl with her poop face. And now that I’ve managed to use the word poop again on P day, let’s move on to today’s contronym, which is pitch.
 
Pitch – to erect and fix firmly in place
 
~ or ~
 
Pitch – to throw, to discard by throwing
 
“Son, I need you to pitch that tent.”
 
An hour later, the father walks out back to find a ratty tent set up in the grass with the wind whistling through the numerous holes. “Son, why did you put this piece of garbage up in the yard? You were supposed to throw it away.”
 
“Well, Dad, you said to pitch it.”
 
Tent
 
 “Son, I need you to pitch that tent.”
 
An hour later, the father walks out back to find an empty patch of grass. He goes into the garage and discovers the family tent in the trashcan. “Son, why did you throw away this perfectly good tent? You were supposed to put it up in the backyard.”
 
“Well, Dad, you said to pitch it.”
 
Awkward segue alert!
 
Speaking of pitches, the first round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) is judged on pitches
 
New visitors from the A to Z Challenge: I’ve entered ABNA several times, and if you want more details about my history with the contest, you can read about it here. But the important info for this post is that the first year I made it to the quarterfinals I got a glowing review from Publisher’s Weekly with one minor weakness mentioned. Last year I made the quarterfinals with the EXACT same novel, and the PW review was spirit crushing and made me cry. So this year I rewrote the first third of the novel attempting to fix the weaknesses and entered again.
 
First I made it past the pitch stage, and then I made it past the excerpt stage to the quarterfinals. The semifinal list came out on Tuesday, and sadly my name was not on it. But since the cut went from 100 to 5, I was disappointed, but not surprised. What I really wanted to see was my PW review, and the wait was making me crazy.
 
I know I shouldn’t let the anticipation of one review from one person have so much power over me, but my brain was doing its usual crazy thing. 1. Since I had one good and one bad PW review, I was imbuing this third one with mystical tie-breaking powers – whichever way this one went indicated the way all strangers were going to react to my novel going forward. 2. No one but me had read the significantly rewritten first third of my manuscript, not even my trusted first readers. So this would be my very first reaction to the changes, and if they said my book sucked, then all my changes would have been a colossal waste of time. No pressure.
 
On Sunday, I found out in the ABNA forums that due to a computer glitch (maybe?), some people had started getting their reviews that morning. Of course I wasn’t one of those put out of my misery early despite how many times I hit the refresh button. By the time the semifinal results were announced on Tuesday, I was already a basket case. And still no PW review for me and a block of other writers. And since we’re writers, our imaginations went berserk. Of course we hadn’t gotten ours because they were the worst ones ever. Or maybe the best ones except for the semifinalists? There was even a crazy theory floated that they never got around to reading ours. We all went to bed nervous wrecks. Notice I didn’t say we went to sleep - no chance of that!
 
I was sure when I got up Wednesday my review would be there, but, no, the tortuous waiting was not over yet. Then at about 2:30 in the afternoon, my PW review FINALLY appeared. Fingers trembling so much I could barely open it, heart racing so hard it was basically one long beat, I read my review. And it was good! Really good! And the best part is they positively referenced the thing that was listed as a weakness in the first review, so that means my changes worked! I was so relieved I actually shed a few happy tears as that four day stress build-up finally released.
 
I’m so grateful I received a positive review, but having been on the opposite end last year, my heart goes out to my fellow ABNAers who had a less-than-kind review. Eat some chocolate. Drink some alcohol. Then glean anything you can from the review that could potentially improve things and get right back up on that writing horse!
 
Were you a part of ABNA this year? Are you familiar with contronyms? Can you think of any other ‘P’ contronyms? How Pretty is Freya with her letter P

 

Tent image courtesy of juliaf.

Crossing All My Digits

I tell you, it’s kind of hard to type with all my fingers crossed, but I’ll give it a shot because I need all the luck I can get. My toes, arms, and legs are crossed, too. I’m even thinking about braiding my hair so the strands are crossed. Why do I need all this luck? Because I’ve gone contest crazy!

The big one is that I entered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) again in January. I’ve had a rocky road with this contest, and if you want to know the details you can read this post and this post. But the short version goes like this:
 
1st time – booted in the first round (based on just the pitch).
2nd time – made it to the quarterfinals (based on excerpt) and got a great Publisher’s Weekly review (based on entire novel).
3rd time - booted in the first round (based on just the pitch).
4th time – made it to the quarterfinals (based on excerpt) and got a devastating Publisher’s Weekly review (based on entire novel).
 
ABNAAfter trying so many times with the same novel, I wasn’t going to enter again; but in December, I decided the January deadline was just what I needed as motivation to finish the rewrite. I was finally able to focus and do some major revising that I’m really happy with. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to finish rewriting the entire thing by the deadline, but I did transform the first third, which all my beta readers have agreed was the weak part in the original. 
 
In mid-February, I was excited to find out I’d made it past the pitch stage. Even though I used the exact same pitch that got me through last year, I was nervous because I never seemed to get picked during odd years. I was now one of 2,000 picked from 10,000 pitches anxiously waiting while our excerpts (the first two chapters) were read. I’d made major changes to these two chapters since the previous times I’d make it through, and this was the first time the new version was being read by strangers, so my stomach was in knots. They announced this past Tuesday – 2,000 were whittled down to 500 (100 of those YA ) – and I made it!! I’m a quarterfinalist again, and it seems like the rewrite didn't make the first two chapters worse. Whew!
 
Customer reviews don’t have any bearing on the contest at this point, but if you’re interested in reading the new first two chapters of THE DRAMA QUEEN WHO CRIED WOLF, you can get it here for free from Amazon. You don’t have to have a Kindle, since they offer lots of other ways to read it. And if you do have feedback for me (either positive or negative), you can either leave a review or send me an email. I’m trying to make these opening chapters the absolute best they can be.
 
And now it’s waiting time again as Publisher’s Weekly reads the entire novel. Gulp! Although I’d love to make the semifinals, only FIVE of the 100 quarterfinal YA novels are moving on, and as much as I love my silly little novel, I know it’s not the type of book that wins these awards. So I’m basically just hoping for a PW review that is helpful (and doesn’t reduce me to tears). 
 
writeoncomI’m also playing the waiting game with WriteOnCon’s Pitch Fest. They randomly selected 350 pitches to be assigned to agents for feedback and to be voted on by readers for prizes, and my pitch was lucky enough to be selected. My usual pitch is 300 words, so I had to whittle it down to 200 words for this contest. It’s another contest where reviews don’t help or hurt, but if you want to take a look at mine, you can read my pitch here and let me know if you have any feedback to help me make it stronger. Also, they have smartly set up voting so it’s not a popularity contest, so no one is able to go vote for a particular pitch, but if you’re interested in being one of the official voters, you can sign up here.
 
To keep from worrying myself into an anxious puddle of goo with all this waiting, I’m working on submissions for two more contests. I’m putting together my packet for the SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant, and I’m also turning one of my short stories into a short script for the PAGE International Screenplay Awards. Both deadlines are at the end of March, so they should keep me busy enough not to check online every five seconds for new tidbits about ABNA and Pitch Fest. At least in theory . . . *hurries off to check twitter one more time* 
 
What’s keeping you busy these days? Did you enter ABNA? Do you have a pitch in Pitch Fest? Are you applying for one of the SCBWI grants? Have you ever tried your hand at screenwriting? 
 

Vulnerable, Vexed, and Vitalized

Lily with the letter VOn this Willy-nilly Wednesday for the letter V, I had a completely different post planned for today.  But then yesterday happened – pretty much the worst day so far in my life as a writer. Yesterday was the day Amazon announced the people moving on to the semi-finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA). This is my fourth year with this contest, and if you’re interested, you can read about my previous experiences here and here.  Since this is the exact same version of the novel that got me booted at this point two years ago, I was disappointed, but not at all surprised when my name was not listed among the semi-finalists.  

The real shocker came a few hours later when we got our Publishers Weekly reviews.  Mine was devastating.  Two years ago, I got a glowing PW review.  It was so positive I actually went back and double-checked to make sure my name wasn’t on the semi-final list.  It only had one minor negative thing to say, and I completely agreed with the reviewer that it was a weakness.  This year was the exact opposite.  The reviewer shredded my novel.  There was only one slightly positive thing, “To be fair, some of it is actually funny, though…” followed by more brutalization of my story and main character.  I know this business is extremely subjective, but it’s hard to believe these two people read the exact same manuscript.

My body actually went cold as I read it.  I sat there a few minutes in shock unable to move.  Then I read it again, thinking it was one of those things where my mind interpreted it as much worse than it actually was.  Nope, it was terrible.  I actually held up pretty well for about ten minutes.  Then I decided to email the review to my family members, and as I pressed send, I completely fell apart.

I enter a lot of contests where feedback is part of the package, so it’s not like all I’ve ever heard are reviews from loved ones telling me my writing is so wonderful rainbow-colored butterflies fly out of my butt.  I’ve had critiques that made me nod my head in agreement about my missteps, I’ve had critiques that made me defensive, I’ve had critiques where I thought the reviewer was an idiot, I’ve had critiques that opened my eyes to new ways of looking at my writing.  I’ve never before had a critique that made me cry.  Until now.  And not just teary eyes.  Full on ugly crying. It’s been hours since it happened, but I’m still tearing up as I write this post.

I thought about pasting the review here, but 1. It gives away plot points that are spoilers.  2. I never posted my positive one from two years ago either: since neither one will be based on the final version I submit to agents/editors, I don’t think I want them floating around on the interwebs.  3. It still hurts too much.

But having a supportive family is awesome.  Here’s what my dad sent back to me after he read it: “Well, what F*ck Knuckle wrote that piece of sh*t” except he didn’t use asterisks (although he did use bold plus a giant font for the... uh, important words). My mom wrote back, “What an A-hole.” But she doesn’t curse, so she did use the dash.  My brother and sister were similarly supportive about not letting one person get to me.  And I know they’re right - it’s part of the business, and a thick skin is required.  

ABNA

However, this guy wasn’t constructive in his review, he was just mean.  It was like he fancied himself the Simon Cowell of novels.  But there was just enough in his pithy insults that resonated with the feedback I’ve gotten from some awesome critique partners (who have been honest, yet supportive – you know who you are, and I adore you!) that made it all the more devastating.  If his comments had been off the wall, I could have easily dismissed him, but there were enough nuggets of truth in the review to jab straight at the heart of my writerly ego.  I’ve felt vulnerable and emotional all day, and a big part of me wants to curl into a ball and never write again.  It’s hard and it hurts.  

But then there’s the part of me that’s vexed that I’ve let this one person have this much power over me.  So what if this one guy didn’t get it?  Plenty of other people have and loved it.  And I know there are weaknesses, but I’m planning to fix them. And now, I’m feeling the life come back to me.  I’ve needed to do this rewrite since I got to this point with ABNA two years ago.  I have a few really exciting opportunities I might miss if I don’t get on the ball.  And yet, I’ve still been procrastinating.  But this one negative, hurtful person has lit a fire under me in a way none of the other positive possibilities have done so far.  I won’t let him be right.  I won’t let him win.

I am reVitalized.  

How do you deal with mean-spirited feedback, especially when it has a ring of truth? Any advice as I prepare to get back up on the horse?  How Vivacious is Lily with her letter V?

ABNA Excitement

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardIt seems that ABNA only likes me on even-numbered years, so thank goodness it’s 2012!  If you’re interested, you can read about my roller-caster ride with the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) in this post.  Suffice it to say, I’ve already passed “third time’s a charm” with this contest.  But it’s a great opportunity for feedback, so I entered again.  

I was especially nervous about the pitch round this year, since I’d modified my old query with some “quirky” changes.  Last month when they announced the writers who were advancing to the next round based on the pitches, I was so relieved and excited to find my name on the list.  It gives me a boost of confidence in the new version of my query.  

Since I’ve been testing out a new “chill” attitude this go round (ha – yeah, right!), I tried not to think about the contest until the next round results were announced.  When the email popped into my inbox on Tuesday saying the results were posted, my stomach danced a fancy little jig despite my determination to stay calm.  So with a trembling hand, I clicked on the list and scrolled down... and there was my name!  Hooray, I’m a quarterfinalist again!  The two reviews from the Vine Reviewers (the judges for this excerpt stage) had some really happy-grin-inducing things to say about my first two chapters.  One even compared it to Christopher Pike, which had me doing backflips.    

Now the wait is on while people from Publishers Weekly read and review the entire novel.  SCARY!  This is where I was cut two years ago, and since I haven’t changed the manuscript, I’m not expecting to progress any further.  But you never know, so I will be biting my fingernails to nubs while I pretend I’m totally calm.  

In the meantime, Amazon has made the excerpts of all the quarterfinalists available for reading, rating, and reviewing.  It’s only the first two chapters of my novel, but if you’ve wanted a sneak peek at what I’m working on, it’s there for you to read.  The ratings and reviews don’t affect the judging or impact the contest in any way, but it’s always nice to hear what people think – what works and what doesn’t work.  

So if you’re interested in reading my excerpt for The Drama Queen Who Cried Wolf (previously known as The Hunt), click here.  ABNA had some ugly formatting issues when they first posted everything.  I think they’ve now fixed everyone’s excerpts, but most of the pitches still have problems (missing paragraph breaks, dashes, and apostrophes), so don’t worry about my Product Description/pitch seeming off – I promise I usually punctuate correctly.  To read the excerpt, you can use a Kindle, or if you don't have one then either use one of the Kindle apps for your computer or phone (which are free downloads) or the Kindle Cloud Reader option which works through you browser.  To download it, click the Buy now with 1-Click button (don’t worry, it’s FREE!)  It will ask which reader option you use, so pick the one you want and start reading.  

Like I mentioned, at this point reviews and ratings don’t help or hurt me, so I’m not launching a campaign begging people to read and review.  I just wanted to let anyone who might be interested know it’s available.  And if you do decide to leave a review – I really appreciate your time and effort!  

Do you have any experience with the ABNA competition?  Do you think you might enter in the future?  Is it okay to look like a silly fool while doing my happy dance?

ABNA Loves Me, ABNA Loves Me Not

Amazon Breakthrough Novel AwardSince today is January 23rd, according to my original resolutions I should be done rewriting my WIP in order to submit it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition.  But since I wised up (or depending on how you look at it, sunk to new depths of procrastination) last week, I decided not to rush the rewrite.  However, that doesn’t mean I decided not to enter.  So I gathered together my pitch, excerpt, and manuscript, and I’m now officially submitted to the 2012 ABNA.  

This is the fourth time I’ve entered this novel, and it’s a true testament to my powers of procrastination that the last three times have been with the exact same manuscript.  The first year, I didn’t make it past the pitch round, which was like a punch to the gut of my writerly ego; but I didn’t know much about writing query letters back then, which is what the first round (i.e. the pitch round) is all about.  And it was probably a blessing I didn’t advance any further, since my manuscript was very rough, and I’d have ended up embarrassed that anyone (not related to me) read it.
 
By the time the second year rolled around, I’d rewritten my manuscript and learned more about the fine art of pitching.  I waited on pins and needle until the first round results were released, and I was so excited when I made it past the pitch round – whoo hoo!  So then there was more waiting while the excerpts (first 3000-5000 words of the novel) of the advancing pitches were evaluated.  When the list was released, I whooped and screamed and even cried a little to see that my novel was advancing to the quarterfinals.  That meant it was time for the scary part – someone from Publishers Weekly was going to read and review my entire manuscript.  Gulp!  So I fretted through more agonizing waiting until the day the list of semi-finalists came out.  Sadly, I couldn’t find my name on that list, no matter how many times I looked or used Ctrl+F on various spelling of my name ‘just in case.’  I was bummed, although not really surprised because deep down, I knew it wasn’t truly ready.  
 
As the ‘prize’ for being quarterfinalists, we got our manuscript reviews from Publishers Weekly whether we were moving on or not.  Since I didn’t advance, I was sure my review was scathing, so I didn’t want to read it when it came, but I put on my big girl panties and read it anyway.  Then came more whooping and dancing around the room because it was a great review - one I’d be darn proud to have if it were the real thing.  The only negative thing the reviewer said was that my supporting characters were too stereotypical, which is true, since I wrote them that way on purpose.  And that has been what’s been giving me so much trouble with the rewrite.  The supporting characters are stereotypical because the story is written from the first person POV of a shallow teen who sees people that way.  So my challenge is to give them depth that’s obvious to the reader even if it’s not to the narrator.  I’m still struggling with the best way to do that.
 
Anyway, fast forward a year to my third attempt at ABNA.  I’d been so busy with Saying Goodbye, I hadn’t rewritten anything, but I decided to enter again anyway thinking different judges would mean a different outcome, and boy was I right!  Since my pitch worked so well the previous year, I didn’t change a word; and to my utter shock and dismay, I didn’t make it past the pitch round this time.  I was definitely taken aback by that, but it really does show how subjective this business is.  
 
So that brings me to this year.  While I’m entering the same manuscript as the previous two years, I’m going with a different pitch.  During WriteOnCon this year, I participated in their critique forums, and I got a lot of very helpful feedback on my query.  I’m using the final version of that query as the basis for my pitch.  I really hope to make it past the pitch stage this year to give me confidence in my query, but I’m taking a much more relaxed approach to it this time.  I didn’t get all spun up about formatting or enter the second the clock ticked over to midnight like I have in previous years.  And while I’m hoping for the best, in the meantime, I’ll be working on the rewrite so I can get started querying agents.
 

As for the rest of my #writemotivation goals, I’ve been keeping up with my 15 Minute Tweet Tales and blog posts, so a tiny victory first pump on that front.  And after four different horrible false starts trying to make a story about a squirrel work for my Highlights fiction contest entry, I’ve now moved on to a story about an elephant, so at least there’s forward momentum there.
 
How are you doing with your writing goals?  Have you entered or thought about entering ABNA?