Friday, June 13, 2014

Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, Round 4

Well, my black-eyed pea luck finally ran out. My ABNA entry, Recalculating Route, was a casualty in the final 95% cut. It’s been a great run and I did get a nice Publisher's Weekly review out of it, so overall I’m pleased with my first writing contest.

Of course, I wish I could see the scores, to know just how close I was to the final five in my category. Did the finalists get all fives? Did it come down to tie-breakers? Is there a particular weakness I should work on? Maybe it’s better for all the quarter-finalists that we don’t know. We can tell ourselves that we might have just missed the cutoff, that if we work hard we can make it next year.

That’s the danger and the thrill. I’m hooked now. It’s like winning at bingo or slots on my first try. I can’t wait to try again. Fortunately, luck only plays a part in this gamble, so talent, hard work, and hours of writing and rewriting won’t be wasted.  Even if I get knocked out in the pitch round next year, the extra motivation should result in a better book.

I also met some great writers on the forum, and I’ll continue to interact and keep in touch. They're not only talented, they’re special people and I’m honored to have spent time with them. Some of them may well be famous someday. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing.     

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Forest Fire Meadow

I just returned from a short trip to Bryce Canyon National Park. The scenery there is incredible, the erosion through layers of multicolored rock creating fairy-tale castles against the canyon walls and multi-hued vistas that seem to stretch on forever . Surrounding the canyons in this highland, dense ponderosa pine forests cover the hills. 

One image that stuck with me was of wildflowers growing under the skeletons of charred trees. The tall pines were gorgeous, but as long as they shaded the forest floor, the wildflowers couldn’t grow. After the burn, the flowers took advantage of the sunlight to create a beautiful display of their own. 

Sometimes when I’m writing a story, I build whole forests of description or conversations that I love. It seems as though the words just flow so easily in those moments, and I can see or hear the passage clearly in my mind. However, once I’m editing, I occasionally find that those passages don’t really add much to the story or further the plot. I have to burn them away, so the wildflowers can get the sunshine they need to move the story forward. It’s not easy to burn away the trees, but sometimes it’s necessary in order to make the story flow.