Tent image courtesy of juliaf.
Tent image courtesy of juliaf.
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!
On 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.
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?
It 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?
Since 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.
I’m a writer and filmmaker exploring the magic of stories. I’ve always loved to read and watch television and movies, and now I'm creating my own stories via YA novels, short stories, screenplays, and even short films. I’m also an animal lover with a menagerie of pets; and, yes, I’m one of those people who puts party hats on their dogs and makes them “cakes” for their birthdays.
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If a cat predicted your death, how would it change your life?
A greedy party girl is so determined to get what she wants that she employs the dangerous magic of a Gullah root doctor.