Saturday, May 17, 2014

What I've learned from Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, so far

As I wait for the next round of ABNA to be announced, I’ve been thinking about the contest and what the experience has taught me. Here are a few lessons I've learned:

1. You can’t win if you don’t enter. It’s scary to put your writing out there, open to criticism and drama, but the whole point of writing is to share the story with an audience. Will the reviewer at Publisher's Weekly love it or hate it? We'll see.

2. A pitch is not a synopsis. A pitch’s job is to sell the book, to give the reader a taste of what the book is about and why they would want to read it. Clarity, brevity, and voice are important.

3. Writers are generous people. Of course, some writers are selfish, mean, and petty too, but through the forums I’ve seen so many that freely give their time and efforts to help other writers with no expectation of payback.

4. All feedback is useful. Sometimes criticism hurts, and sometimes it should be taken with a grain of salt. One person may hate a story because it’s dark and violent, which is why another loves it, but understanding it’s over the line for some readers is useful knowledge for a writer. Getting defensive and trying to argue that criticism is invalid doesn’t teach the writer anything.

5. Waiting is hard. It’s also distracting. My mind keeps drifting from my current work-in-progress to the entry, thinking perhaps I should have done this differently, or taken that out. The rules of the contest have a few apparent discrepancies, so I’m not even sure if the Publisher’s Weekly reviews will show up on May 23rd or June 13th. I know the next round won’t be announced until June 13th, at which point 95% of the current contestants will be telling themselves, “There’s always next year.” In the meantime, we can dream.


  1. Lovely post. I've always found ABNA to be a great motivator for getting things cleaned up and submission ready. Good luck!

  2. Thanks, Jess! Yes, it's always good to have goals and deadlines, or nothing gets done.