On January 14, I’m entering the Amazon/CreateSpace novel-writing contest. This past Wednesday I posted the salient points about it on my other blog. Most—if not all of you—follow that blog. If you don’t or if you haven’t had time to read that posting, you might want to click here so as to appreciate the contest requirements.
I’m entering with a manuscript entitled The Reluctant Spy. Regular followers of this blog have already read several postings about the nineteen drafts of that manuscript I completed as I worked on it the past thirteen years.
Since Wednesday, I’ve been editing, cutting, and polishing the nineteenth draft. In my Wednesday posting I mistakenly said it was 127,000 words in length. When I actually started working on it, I used “word count” and discovered it was 130,979. Publishers today, or so I’ve read, like a debut novel to be around 120,000 words, so The Reluctant Spy is a little long.
Given this, I was surprised to learn, when reading the contest rules, that Amazon/CreateSpace will accept manuscripts up to 150,000 words. Nevertheless, I’d like to get the text down to about 122,000 words so that if the judges eliminate it in any of the five rounds of judging, I’ll have a better manuscript to pitch to agents in the coming months.
During the past few days, I’ve been able to delete around 5,000 words; the manuscript is now down to 125,962. I have another week to work on deleting—if possible—about 4,000 more words and on composing the “Pitch,” which is an essential part of the entry. For myself, I think that writing the 300-word pitch will require more skill than writing a 122,000-word manuscript.
Because crafting an intriguing pitch that will entice the contest judges into reading the 3,000 to 5,000-word manuscript excerpt requires an ability to get to the novel’s essence. That’s not a skill I’ve honed. Poets do this all the time; I circle around the periphery of a topic, getting closer and closer to essence, but taking a multitude of words to hit the bull’s-eye. As a storyteller, I’m more of a gestalt writer.
If you’d like to read some sample 300-word pitches from past winners of the contest, please click here. Then you’ll understand why I’m a little stressed about pulling this off.
Today and for the next week, I’m asking for your visualizations, thoughts, prayers as I work on this pitch. I plan to write a first draft tomorrow—Monday—and fine-tune, fine-tune, fine-tune for an hour or so each morning until the contest entry date of the 14th. The rest of each of those days, I’ll work on getting the manuscript ready.
During the month of February, the contest judges will read the submitted 10,000 pitches and winnow them down to 2,000. That’s the first cut, which will be announced at the end of the month.
Winnowing rice in India.
During March, they read the 2,000 excerpts to arrive at 500 promising ones. During April, they read the 500 completed manuscripts and narrow them down to 25. During May the count goes from 25 semi-finalists to 5 finalists. And finally, with the help of Amazon readers like yourself, to 1 grand-prize winner in late June.
I’d be pleased—truly—if I made even the first cut. The pitch can make that happen. So I have my work cut out for me. I’m going to print the words Essence, Summary, and Intrigue on a post-it note and stick it to the top of my computer as a reminder of what I’m trying to do!
The two photographs are from Wikipedia.