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Contest Brings Out Writer's Non-Competitive Side

SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK

 

            I’ve never been a competitive person. You’ve heard of the Class A personality? I’m more like a Class C.

            In fact, I almost didn’t enter a contest that was in theory right up my alley, just because I found the name particularly intimidating: So You Think You Can Write.

            I felt like Harlequin’s novel writing contest was sneering at me: “So … you think you can write, eh? I’ll chew you up like paper and spit you out like ink!”

            Worse, it required me to do more of that thing I’ve never much liked to do: Sell myself. In the first phase of the SYTYCW contest (hey, I didn’t name it), authors submit the first chapter and a 100 word synopsis of their novel, and readers vote on which of the chapter ones they like the best.

            Self-promotion time again, only “Look at me, look at me”, becomes “Vote for me!” But, hey – competing and promoting are part of the writer’s job, these days. That being the case, here’s the internet link to my particular entry, which will be open for voting from October 2nd until October 11th:

            http://www.soyouthinkyoucanwrite.com/manuscripts/coming-attractions/

            (You can, and most certainly should, look at a bunch of entries and pick the best one. But I’m okay with you only looking at mine.)

            That’s a lot to type, but do it for me. Or for community pride. Or for a jug of whiskey like in the old time elections – whatever works. It’s also a chance to take a look at the first chapter of my unpublished novel, Coming Attractions, which like my published stories takes place in northeast Indiana.

            Just for fun here’s the synopsis I wrote. You want to talk challenges? Try reducing a 60,000 word manuscript to a hundred words:

 

            Maddie McKinley’s mission to a small Indiana drive-in theater is derailed when she climbs into the wrong van at the dark theater, only to be tackled by the father of two young children inside. Although embarrassed about roughing her up, Logan Chandler is also intrigued by the beautiful young Bostonian, who arrived alone at the movies wearing an expensive dress.

            Maddie falls for the Chandler family and their little town, but her job is on the line: Logan’s leading a battle to save the business from developers – and she’s the attorney sent to shut it down.      

 

            It’s a romantic comedy. No, it’s funny, really.

            After all these years I’m fairly confident in my writing ability, but I don’t have much confidence in my ability to win contests. I was that person in gym class who hid under the bleachers, so I wouldn’t have to lose gracefully. In high school I finally got up the courage to run for student council, only to come in ninth … out of eight candidates.

            On our volunteer fire department I ran for captain, but only got four votes for corporal. And we don’t have corporals. Apparently I was given a bit of corporal punishment.

            Finally I did win two elections for the Albion Town Council, but only because I promised the voters to put a weatherproof plastic dome over the town. It turns out I was being just a bit optimistic on both cost and feasibility matters. Still, I only lost the next election by six votes after promising never to send troops into Churubusco. (Little historical inside joke, there. Vote for me and I’ll explain it to you.)

            It’s a spotty record at best, but this time I have to dig in and actually try to win, which is something I probably should have thought to try before. It would have made dodgeball way less painful. You see, it’s almost impossible to get your book published if you don’t send it out into the cold, cruel world of publishing.

So, for the week of October 2nd through October 11th, everyone can go to the contest’s website and vote for their choice – not just once, but once every day. (Okay, it’s actually ten days, not a week – I write because I hate math.)

            If I get into the top 25, my manuscript will be one of, I’m guessing, 25 or so that will be judged by the Harlequin editors. (I say “or so”, because they’ll choose three wild card submissions.) If I make it to the top three … well, I don’t see the point of looking that far into the future, considering I once ran a marathon and posted a worse time than a guy who had a heart attack halfway through.

            I should have stopped to help, but didn’t want to come in last. How was I to know I would anyway, when he hobbled to his feet and ran past me to the ambulance? Maybe I should rethink that Good Samaritan thing … I’ll bet a good round of CPR would have bought his vote.