This past December, I came across a writing contest run by a local independent publishing company. The contest was open to all fiction. Contestants were to send in their first 15 pages, no query or logline required. The pages were to be anonymous, but the email cover letter needed to have contact information.
The judges would pick their favorites from the initial round, contact the contestants to send in full manuscripts, and they’d announce the top 3 winners in March.
The prizes? Free publishing contracts with the company, worth $1500.00 plus benefits.
I sent in Ms. Bossy. The book that won’t let me move on.
As it’s finished and just hovering in my workspace, I figured why not? I sent the first 15 pages through cyberspace. I waited. And hoped. I spent the entire month of January thinking about what I’d do if I won. I visualized myself getting the big call letting me know they picked my book.
Weeks passed without a word from the press. By mid-February, I felt deflated. I figured the contestants had been contacted by that point, and I had to face the fact the judges didn’t like my first 15 pages. I think, more than anything, that bothered me the most. Winning the contest itself would have been wonderful – but to know that not even the opening chapters elicited interest was demoralizing.
On March 1, I received an email announcing the 3 winners of the contest. I don’t know any of the writers; I’m sure they all deserve the honor and I’m happy for them. Maybe they’re writers who can’t get past those slush piles in New York. These writers may have been struggling as much as I have, and finally, they’ve been recognized for their efforts.
For days, I moped. I still couldn’t get past the fact my first 15 pages didn’t entice the judges. That meant my opening chapters didn’t hit the mark. It meant my book wasn’t ready. The thought of putting that book away forever sat in the pit of my stomach.
The other day, I received an email from the host of the contest:
Thank you for entering our novel writing contest! At this time, we’d like you to send us the whole manuscript, as a Word document. We will be announcing the winners on March 1st, so stay tuned!
I had to re-read the email several times. It was way past March 1, and they’d already announced the winners. What was this about?
I emailed right back, asking for clarification.
Here is the host’s response:
Wow, Kate, I don’t even know how that could happen. That email was sent the first week of January. Seriously. I can’t even pretend to tell you how that works, and I’m very sorry you didn’t have a chance to have your full novel in the running. We had over 100 submissions, and asked to see the full manuscript for half of them. We did not track down those who didn’t respond, because we had so much reading to do.
Again, my apologies, but at this point there is nothing we can do about the contest, the winners have indeed been named. Please let me know if I can be of any help.
Reality hit me, and I stopped breathing. I missed my chance on the contest. Because of some stupid cyberspace glitch, the coveted email that requested my FULL manuscript never reached me in time.
Have you ever seen a grown woman throw a tantrum? I was quite the show, I’m sure.
I was upset all day long. Depressed might be a better word. Then, I realized: They had wanted to read the book. My first 15 pages had enticed them.
Then, I realized something else. I can be angry all I want about this so-called missed chance. But, for every day I spend not doing something about this book, or my quest for publication, or writing in general, is a day where I’m missing a chance.
I stopped querying Ms. Bossy last summer. I told myself I wasn’t giving up. I wanted to write another book, a middle-grade novel. I wrote it with my kids in mind, and I thought it would be fun for them to read it while they were at a middle-grade reading level. That was justification enough to switch projects.
But, to be grueling-honest, the querying was wearing me down. Either I was getting rejected or not hearing anything, and for someone as vulnerable as I, that can wreak havoc on a creative spirit.
However, how do I know the next agent I queried wouldn’t have asked for the full? By stepping away from Ms. Bossy, I also stopped giving it a chance. And, let’s face it. If I’d been getting bites on those queries, I wouldn’t have stepped away at all. I’d have figured out how to keep querying alongside writing the middle-grade novel.
I have a lot to consider now. Things I tried to put off are in my face again.
Told you it’s a bossy novel.