Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award – Carving The Light is a Quarterfinalist!!!

I’m still sort of in shock, and struggling to figure out what I want to say, let alone how to say it, but I promised myself that I would do my best to get some thoughts down tonight, on the eve of this very crazy day.

Carving The Light was announced as one of the 250 General Fiction novels to advance to the Quarterfinal round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.  I can’t believe it!  I checked the list, saw my name, and was in the processing of refreshing the page (I was certain that I was still looking at the 2nd round list instead of the quarterfinalist list) when I got the first congratulatory note on my Facebook profile page.  It was true – it was real.  I’m a quarterfinalist for the first time ever!

Before I talk about my reviews this year, let me first talk about last year.  It was my first time entering the contest, and I met a lot of wonderful people (many of whom I’m still in touch with), and learned SO much about the contest and the process of finding a publisher and/or agent for my work.  I got help from the awesome folks on the Pitch Thread, and they helped me craft a pitch that was good enough to get me through the first round.  After that, it was a matter of waiting for the excerpts to be reviewed by two different Vine reviewers to see who would advance to the Quarterfinals from there.

I was not one of them.  My reviewers both pretty much hated my excerpt.  They didn’t like the characters, they felt the plot was slow to nonexistent…there wasn’t much good to say about it at all.  And I was heartbroken.  More than that, I’d already lost all faith in myself, before I even wrote the book.  But this was somehow more personal.  I’d had faith in the characters – in the story – and now it seemed I’d been mistaken in that, too.

So I pouted a good long while, and then wrote the first draft of a whole different story to enter this year.  A couple of months before ABNA submissions began, however, I slowly began to realize that Carving The Light and I weren’t done with one another yet.  There were still revisions to be made, and it still needed to make another run at this whole contest-entering process.

I started trying to come up with ways to change the manuscript and make it stronger.  I went through all of the criticisms that had been brought up in conversation over the years, and the two reviews I received  in the second round last year.  I even tried to come up with ways to make it flow a little more logically for my own mind.

I focused on the beginning; on making the excerpt strong.  I wanted to make it move faster, and have the tension build for the reader as much as it was building for the Collins girls as the weekend grew closer.  I made the time between the death of their parents and the present events, so everyone is younger.  This benefits Trick the dog especially well.  I was also told to focus on the present more in the beginning, so i moved some flashbacks either further back in the story, or took them out all together.  I tried to lose most of the adverbs in the excerpt (though I suspect they are still plentiful in the rest of the manuscript).  I tried to make Sarah stronger and less willing to just accept all of Sam’s crap all the time.  I think there were other things, but I am too distracted to remember now.  Suffice it to say, I tried to create a stronger beginning, and am now wishing I’d spent more time on the rest of the manuscript, since now it’s all going to be read from start to finish, and by Publisher’s Weekly, of all things!  Egad.

Additionally, there were some small but wonderful changes in the ABNA process this year.  One is that the Vine reviewers were also given a copy of the pitch to read with the excerpt, which would give them a chance to see where the story was going once the beginning pages had been read.  Another was that the reviewers were able to list their preferred genres to read, which means there was at least a minor chance that our manuscripts would end up in the hands of readers who wouldn’t hate them from the opening lines.

Based on my experience from last year, all of this made me hopeful that my reviews would be a little better this time around.  I used the same pitch to get through the first round again, and then basically just prayed quietly that my literary baby wouldn’t be quite as chewed up this year.

NONE of that made me think I’d make it through this round to the quarterfinals, though!  I mean, I didn’t even talk about it!  I didn’t tell anyone how nervous i suddenly was this morning, waiting for the lists to go up.  I couldn’t mention how many times I checked the boards to commisserate with my fellow 2nd round authors as we all waited together.  And even when I actually saw my name on the list, it wasn’t until after I’d received my first congratulations (Fielder, that was all you, so you know) that I verbalized the impossible.  Somehow, Carving The Light had made it through, and had become an ABNA Quarterfinalist at last!

I hadn’t even bothered to look ahead to what this round would entail.  I had to go back and read the rules to find out what’s supposed to happen now.  And, admittedly, part of me want to check AGAIN to be sure that I made it through before I even post this.  However, I have received my two Vine reviews, and I will post both of them below.  Also, once everything has been set up, you’ll be able to read everyone’s excerpts and reviews and leave comments of your own here.

I’ve read the reviews through a couple of times, and I am still having trouble sorting out my thoughts.  I am grateful, I am relieved, I am eager to make even more changes (though I will wait for Publisher’s Weekly to give their two cents first), and I am suddenly a bit panicked at the idea that I may have to revise and re-issue Carving The Light in softcover and e-book versions a third time to keep everything consistent.  Sigh.

But that is for another time.  For now, please feel free to read and comment on the reviews I received below, and once the Amazon links are up, I highly encourage everyone to go through and read some of the other excerpts that made it through this year.  You can even read mine, since I don’t think I let anyone read what I actually submitted to ABNA, now that I think about it!  😉

There are a lot of wonderful indie authors out there, and not all of them made it through to this round.  I am honoured to be among them all, however, because just entering takes an enormous amount of courage and determination, and as peers and friends, I don’t think I could ask for any better.  I am a very lucky Sue, indeed.

ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

The story line, the writing, the characters, the situations each girl finds herself in, all are strong and firm aspects of this excerpt. The book seems to be headed in a good and definite direction. The plot is interesting and held my attention. The characters are people a reader would care about and want to travel on their journey with them.

What aspect needs the most work?

Honestly, no weak points were evident to this reader.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

This reader would love to read this book. This excerpt had my rapt attention and I was sorry when it ended. I wanted more — !!!

This would be a great book club read. This is definitely a book for women. Each character has a story to share that most women can relate to.

There is a strong sense of family and love, which just adds sweetness to the pot. However, this book has depth and isn’t some sunshine and lollipop read.


ABNA Expert Reviewer

What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?

Three sisters, each harboring secrets from the others, are preparing to meet for Thanksgiving. Good start on a story with infinite possibilities. Thanksgiving is always a hotbed of family intrigue, and this one promises to have more than most.

What aspect needs the most work?

It’s a quirk of mine, but I like knowing where events are taking place. Reference is made to plane travel, to weather issues, but I’d like a little more specificity with regard to locations.

What is your overall opinion of this excerpt?

Three sisters who have had to be unusually close due to the sudden death of their parents 15 years earlier, plan their Thanksgiving reunion. Each is harboring secrets of their own, worrying about whether truths will be revealed. Each is so self absorbed that she doesn’t realize the other two are holding their own earth shaking revelations. The reader is teased about what the final outcome will be, and since the younger two have secrets of exceeding relevance, it pricks interest in the outcome. The writing is smooth, and the excerpt ended with me wanting more.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dave Enkosky says:

    That’s awesome. Congratulations.

  2. Wendell Cooper says:

    Thanks for taking the time to post that. I am sure I am not the only one who enjoyed hearing the story of how you succeeded. Good luck with the rest of the contest!

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