April 4, 2012

The Golden Ticket, Part 3... journey to the ABNA finals and beyond

Advancing in the contest is exciting in general, but especially at the quarterfinal round. For one, you’re going to get a PW review of your whole manuscript, and that is a fantastic opportunity. BUT, for some people, even more exciting is the publishing of the excerpts, download- and comment-able by anyone! Including your friends and family, complete strangers, and your fellow competitors. This round gives you something to obsess over on a daily basis. What’s your ranking? Have you gotten any reviews? What do they say?!

Here’s where I address strategy. And I am completely pantsing my way through this blog, much like my writing, so I’ll start by addressing a strategy that maybe would have fit better in the first post. I told you to submit to the contest, even if your manuscript wasn’t entirely where you might have wanted it to be, and I meant it. But if you can, spend a little extra time honing your excerpt. Your first 3-5,000 are what get you through to the quarterfinals and reviewed by the public and your peers. Those first few pages are critical, and not just in the contest. Agents and editors, if you seek them, judge your work on even less. Your first page. If you’re lucky, your first five. Make them count.

So now you’re in the quarterfinals, and your excerpt is all pretty and ready to download… what do you do? Well, if you’re like me, you cry a little, do a happy dance in your bedroom, and go out to dinner with your husband to celebrate. That’s it. Why wasn’t I shouting it to the world?

Because the quarterfinals is not the time for that.

Be excited about your accomplishment, but not too excited. Not yet. There are more rounds to come, and possibly more exciting news. I recommend you wait and see what happens. If the quarterfinals is as far as you go, your network will still be able to download your excerpt and share in what you accomplished. Ditto the semi-finals. The FINALS is when you NEED them to rally. Their excitement—and their votes—could earn you a publishing contract.

Don’t stir up the crowd until it’s time for the show.

But what about reviews? And my lonely excerpt? And getting feedback on my work? I know we all want them, and obsess over them or the lack thereof, but the reviews on your excerpt do not impact your success in the contest. At the time of the finals last year, I think my excerpt had one or two reviews and Rich's had none. All the reviews do is make you feel good (or possibly bad) or, if you’re very lucky, give you some thoughtful criticism. If you rally your friends and family to give you reviews, it may make you feel good, but it’s not going to get you into the semis or beyond, and it may lose you their attention when you really need it.

If you want to get involved in the circle of reviews between contestants, that’s up to you. I didn’t. I have pretty strong feelings on publicly reviewing fellow authors (which boil down to one word: don’t). But if you want to, there’s nothing stopping you. Again though, it doesn’t impact your success in the contest. Only do it if you feel comfortable and really want to.

Now, if you listen to one thing I write in this entire blog, make it this: Please, please, for the love of Oreos, words, and all that is great in the world, PLEASE resist the temptation to comment on your reviews. Ever. No matter how off-base or great they are. Read them, digest them, bask in them, laugh at them, shrug them off... do all of those things, but please don’t comment on them. You don’t need to thank your reviewers and you never, ever need to argue with them.

If you want to have any kind of dialogue with your readers, that’s what your facebook or your blog is for. :)

Up next: Sitting on your hands. Follow this story with the golden ticket tag.
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