A year or two ago, I took a hiatus from submitting my first novel (Bulletproof Werewolf; the prologue and chapters 1 and 2 are available for reading on this blog, just check the page at the top of the blog–hint, hint) to enter a few writing contests advertised in Writer’s Digest. They offered, as an incentive for entering, critiques of your work, in addition to the grand prizes of having your work seen by a real living agent. (As opposed to a nonliving, undead agent, which would just get messy. Bits of rotting flesh landing on your manuscript, not to mention the problem in avoiding something that wants to nosh on your brains when all you want is a book deal.)
I first entered the Writers’ League of Texas’s 2009 Manuscript Contest and sent the first 3 chapters of my book off to Austin. I did it for the critique, but was pleasantly surprised when I received a letter notifying me that I was a finalist, one of five in the Thriller Action-Adventure category. That meant that not only did I receive a critique (which was very positive and a bit insightful), but I was also in the running for a chance to meet with an agent. JD and I went to Austin in the Mustang, I got a migraine, and after the conference, after not winning a shot with an agent, we toured 6th Street. I want to go back. I love Austin. I’ve been to big cities before–Houston, Chicago, Indianapolis–but Austin doesn’t seem like a big city to me. It just has this big town-small city vibe.
The one crap moment, besides the migraine and not winning the contest, was when the old guy I was sitting next to in the lobby of the Sheraton asked me how long I’d been writing.
“Since . . . about sixteen years,” I said, figuring that I’d seriously been writing short stories and comic book stories since my senior year of high school in 1993-94, when I took a creative writing class and had the most amazing English Honors teacher, Ms. Watson.
The old goat snorted. “Talk to me when you’ve been writing fifty-two years,” he said, and then turned his bony ass slightly away from me.
Well, f*** you, buddy, who got called to stand up in front of all those people when her book’s title was mentioned? Your butt, I noticed, stayed planted in that chair during the entire session. Didn’t win in any category, didja?
Sorry, I’m listening to Sugar Red Drive’s “Red Machine” and I feel a bit aggressive.
Emboldened by my half-victory, I then entered Writer’s Digest’s 78th Annual Writing Competition. It had nothing to do with agents or novels; I was just on a creative high. I submitted a short story featuring my werewolf main character titled “Twelve Shots”. Four months after entering, I received a big white envelope in the post (I’m not British, I’ve just read a few blogs from merry olde England, and I think they’ve rubbed off on me). My story received Honorable Mention and a Certificate of Achievement.
Next up, 2010 and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Literary Contest, out of Issaquah, Washington. No chance I’d get to go there if I won, but the contest was open to anyone in the nation, so off my manuscript went. I wasn’t selected as a finalist, so no agent meeting, but I did score two critiques. They were positive and helpful.
Having taken enough of a break, I opened up my novel on the laptop and used the critiques to retool it. I still haven’t heard from Agent X (see Waiting on Agent X), so I might send it off in a few weeks. I will of course follow protocol and include in my query letter that it’s under review from another agent.
Cheers! (Sorry, the British thing again. On a sort-of related note, I have recently discovered Australian rules football, footy. www.afl.com.au/ Awesome!)