As of tomorrow, only 50 young adult manuscripts will continue on in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards (ABNA). Currently, 250 are posted, so that means 80% will be cut. Eeek!
I don't even win raffles or door prizes, so I already know my luck isn't all that great when it comes to contests. I never thought my manuscript would even make it into the running to begin with. At the time I submitted my query and manuscript, my query had been rejected by eight of my top choices for agents with form rejections. One of them said my main character seemed interesting, so maybe she customized hers a little bit, but none of that was promising.
Shortly after my first round of queries, I attended the New Jersey Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Mentoring Day. They should call it "Evisceration Day." I had to leave my cozy home on a Sunday morning to spend a full eight hour day in a critique group, a one-on-one session with an editor, and (the dreaded) First Page Session. After I came home from that, I seriously considered just giving up.
The editor told me she liked my writing style and thought the story had a lot of potential, but teen novels don't take place in college. While that wasn't all bad news, it definitely threw a huge wrench in my story. I needed to complete major revisions to set the story in high school (or at least change the characters to high school students). The First Page session critiquers said the beginning was too slow and sophisticated. My fellow critique partners had feedback that was all over the map.
Somehow, I got up the nerve to jump into a comprehensive revision to follow-up on the editor's suggestions. I even wrote her a thank you letter.
So, I'm shocked that my original manuscript even made it this far. Still, I have a creeping feeling that I somehow don't deserve to even be a quarter finalist because there's so much wrong with my original manuscript. My new one is so much better. (I hope it's better anyway, after all that work.)
Agents, editors and published authors say that the way to get attention is to put out the best work that you can. Well, duh! Does any writer seriously send out manuscripts thinking, "This is the crappiest thing I've ever written, but I'll send it out anyway! Ha ha ha."
Maybe it happens, but that seems unlikely.
The downside of any creative work is that the majority of it needs to be done alone, then you get feedback. Like the creative process, the responses people have to your work are at least as unpredictable. I often feel like a rat in an experiment pushing a lever and hoping the pellet comes out of the chute. Supposedly, the less predictable the reward pattern, the more persistent the behavior. It seems to be true in my case. I'll have to start checking in the mirror for long whiskers.