story, science, technology and creativity

Lessons I learned from entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

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This is romantic but rubbish. Only YOU can finish your book. So finish. You’ll love yourself for it!!

Woo hoo! I’ve just discovered the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award is on again. ABNA is an awesome opportunity for anyone who has a novel in their bottom drawer:

1) It’s free to enter!

2) It forces you to practice writing a synopsis or pitch for your novel.

3) There are lots of Rounds through which shortlisted entries will move, which means lots of chances for you to know: how am I doing?

  • If you get knocked out in Round 1, you need to work on your pitch.
  • If you make it to Round 2, you get to see what two reviewers think of your excerpt (whee! free feedback!).
  • If you make it to Round 3, otherwise known as the Quarter-Finals, you get a review from Publisher’s Weekly (double whee! free feedback from people who really know the industry!)

Who cares if you make it any further? If you’ve made it this far, you already know: YOU CAN WRITE!

If you were knocked out earlier, who cares? At least you know where to focus: Was it your pitch? Or the excerpt? Polish and rewrite and prepare to give it a whole new shot next year.

My ABNA experience

I first entered ABNA five years ago, with a zombie novel I’d pretty much written overnight. I knew nothing about writing a novel, let alone pitching one. But I gave it a shot. And I got nowhere.

The next year, I entered again, with pretty much the same novel. Only this time, I advanced to Round 2!! Translation? My pitch worked! I’d improved my elevator pitch, my ability to sell my novel, to get perfect strangers to sit up and say ooo, I’d like to read more. I was on the way to learning how to write a synopsis that was pithy and exciting and had voice.

And then I advanced no further. Translation? I needed to work on my writing, to develop a better killer start to my novel. And so I received and devoured my two reviews, reward for reaching Round 2 (these  anonymous people were the only  people ever to have read any part of my novel, except for me), and I used what I read to focus my rewrites. And my rewrites.

That novel is still in my bottom drawer. But the novel after that was TAKESHITA DEMONS. Translation? Practice doesn’t make perfect,  but it does help a whole lot!!

To edit or not to edit…

Remember: ABNA only open till March 2, and entry is on a first-in, first-served basis.

  • Edit too long, and you’ll miss out.
  • Don’t edit enough, and you’ll bomb out.

It’s a tough line to walk, and it’s the tightrope we all need to wobble along when sending manuscripts to publishers and agents. And the best (only?) way to master something is to practice it, so what are you waiting for?

Enter ABNA, give it your best shot, but don’t sit back to wait for the prize-winning call. Get on with your next project. Entering is all just practice. And if you practice enough, one day, that call will come.

Good luck!

Author: cristyburne


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