This past week I got to participate in my first contest, #PitchMadness, behind the scenes. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, as anyone who follows me on twitter can tell. Let’s just say, I’ve been a bit “chatty” in my excitement.
I got the privilege of reading many wonderful entries, of having many hopeful authors hang their dreams on what several readers would pick out of the slush.
To all the entrants: thank you. I know how hard it is to share your babies. I know the excitement and nerves from participating in a contest. I wish you all the best of luck and hope you have at least learned a few things and made a few friends.
The first thing I noticed when going through the submissions, was the ones that jumped out at me were not what I expected. I thought I’d have to work hard to embrace all categories and genres equally. I didn’t. Entries from across the board grabbed my attention. They made me want to read more, regardless of if this was the type of book I would normally pick up. What was true amongst these stellar entries was voice and concept. Both made me sit up in my seat and squeal in delight.
Many entries were good. Some are ready and won’t make it through in the contest. That’s the nature of the beast. We can’t choose all the entries, and ultimately we’re trying to match what the participating agents are looking for. Others need some work and we all hope you’ll get some new readers and try for some of the mentor contests coming up (I’ll be a NA Team Lead mentor in #FicFest this April).
A few things I noticed:
- Lots of diverse entries! This makes me so, so, very happy.
- A lot of dark, demon stories.
- Some pitches didn’t really tell the reader about the plot. Pitches are hard, so very hard, I get it. But they need to sell the novel.
- When the pitch and 250 words had the same voice, the whole entry sang!
- Some entries I had no idea what the name was of the main character.
- Other entries I had no idea how to pronounce the main character’s name.
- Some entries involved a subject I have skill and knowledge on and I couldn’t help but wonder how the author handled the subject area. Make sure you do your homework!
- Some entries I wanted to see a few more pages, because they don’t appear to start in the right place.
- Some entries had an entire section in under 250 words, before getting into the story.
- I found one that I wanted to mentor so, so badly, and I really hope this author goes for one of the mentor contests.
- Check your word count! So many were on the high side, to the point where this will hurt your chances. Trimming will only strengthen your novel.
- Have a question? Best not to have one in your pitches.
Being behind the scenes is a lot of fun, but a lot of work! I spent HOURS reading, taking over three entire days, plus some, pushing off my own edits. I’ll do this again, in a heartbeat. But right now, I think I’ll take a nap.