24 February 2012

The Eyes of February

Right on the heels of my last blog post comes the latest announcement by the folks at Amazon about the results thus far of their Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. The "winners" of the first round were announced. 

For those who are unaware of this event, Amazon invites authors of both General Fiction and Young Adult Fiction to submit their books; the final winner will have his or her book published along with a host of other prizes. The first round of the competition involves judges reading 300-word "pitches" for the novels and deciding which 2000 of the original 5000 will move on to the second round.

Of course, I don't like to boast (well, sometimes it's all right) but I am on the list. To be more precise, my name is on the list. Specifically the General Fiction list. Peruse thus:

That means that my concise advertisement for my novel, THE DREAM LAND, was enticing enough to compel someone to invite me to stick around. A mere 297-word blurb has impressed someone enough to put my name on a list, and we all know the list is life, contest-wise.

Here is my list-worthy "pitch" for THE DREAM LAND:

Sebastian, that quiet tax examiner at the corner desk in the IRS service center, carries a dark secret: once upon a time he and his high school sweetheart Gina found a rip in the universe and stepped through it to a strange world of magical beauty.  
Far from being a Disney-esque playground, the world of Ghoupallesz bursts with cosmopolitan elegance, alien perversions, and political strife. Gina, the adventurous one, falls in love with the adventurous possibilities. Not Sebastian; always practical, he insists they return to Earth. Gina refuses so he goes back alone, vowing never to return. Yet he finds himself drawn back repeatedly--he calls it “research”--and often crosses paths with Gina. Sometimes he saves her, sometimes she saves him, forever soul mates. 
Now years later, life on Earth hasn’t gone well for Sebastian. Then the headaches revisit him, with flashes of memories from Ghoupallesz. Gina is in trouble again, he senses, and he must, as always, save her. Meanwhile, a pair of too-curious IRS co-workers have accidently overdosed on the Elixir of Love he brought back his last trip and the antidote exists only on Ghoupallesz. With these co-workers in tow, Sebastian returns through the interdimensional portal, fearing it may be his final adventure. He must gather his old comrades from the war, cross the towering Zet mountains, and free Gina from the Zetin warlord’s castle before her execution. Perhaps then she will stay with him.  
But are his adventures to the other side real? Or are they just the dreams of a psychotic killer? That’s what the police want to know when Sebastian returns without his co-workers.  
THE DREAM LAND (128,000 words) is a genre-mashing epic of interdimensional intrigue and police procedural, a psychological thriller marbled with twisted humor, steampunk pathos, and time/space conundrums.

What does this all mean? Last year I submitted a literary novel and the pitch did not impress anyone. I worked on it endlessly, tweaking every time someone commented on it. I'm not quite sure what I ended up with. This year, I wrote the blurb once...took about an hour with all the back and forth of ideas and editing...and only tweaked it three times, based on comments by only three close author friends who had read some of my work previously. Then I left it alone; I trusted my instincts.

As for structure, I think I did the right thing:

1. I did not try to tell the whole story in a nutshell, but

2. Gave the general situation and something of who the principal players involved were, and

3. Gave a direction for the story line, which

4. Ended with a compelling question that could only be answered by reading the book!

It may have helped that I tried to indicate a crossing of genres, thereby broadening my audience and the appeal of the story. Is it sci-fi or psychological thriller or interdimensional romance? Read it and find out, eh?

Word choice counts when you only get 300 of them. I did have some redundancies but I felt they were needed for individual phrases. And I noticed one typo after seeing my name on the list and returning to read my pitch and bask in the afterglow of winnerdom. Can you find it?

The next round involves judges reading the first 5000 words of the novels. Knowing this, I made sure to get all three major story lines started within that excerpt. I hope that it will prove compelling enough to advance me to the quarter finals where the full manuscript will be read. You can read the same excerpt judges will read by clicking here: Excerpt.

My forte is not the blurb. I need room to spread a story out and a novel seems the best venue. However, a lot of people will not attempt the novel unless they are hooked by a 300 word pitch (often fewer on the back covers of books). I was lucky this time. Some of my friends were not. Fewer of my author friends entered this year, it seems. Perhaps the reason is that they are simply too busy publishing their books from last year. That is, obviously, the preferred outcome, no matter whether it is achieved through a contest or through an agent, editor, or publisher.

Stay tuned for the amazing results!

You can also visit the DREAM LAND page for more of this sci-fi trilogy!

(Some day the deconstruction of the Sekuatean Empire shall indeed be complete - and we, the survivors, shall project our hearty guffaws across the universe!)

(C) Copyright 2010-2011 by Stephen M. Swartz. All Rights Reserved. No part of this blog, whether text or image, may be used without me giving you written permission, except for brief excerpts that are accompanied by a link to this entire blog. Violators shall be written into novels as characters who are killed off. Serious violators shall be identified and dealt with according to the laws of the United States of America.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on making it to the second round! That sounds like a very good pitch! :)