I am extraordinarily chuffed (that’s “pleased” for you Northern-hemisphere-excluding-the-UK types) to have learned that I’ve made it through the first round of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Hurrah! They allowed 5,000 entries in the General Fiction category (plus another 5,000 in the Young Adult category). They read all 5,000 novel “pitches” (query letters, essentially), then sent 1,000 of them through to the next round. In late March, 500 people will move on based on a novel excerpt, then their whole manuscript will be read, and finally 1 person will win a publishing contract with Penguin…

I very much doubt that will be me, but I’m glad to have made it this far. It means that even if I get knocked out now, I finally have a query letter that is getting notice. That hasn’t been the case for a long time; I hadn’t been getting through any publisher/agent doors, but this is a new pitch that I reworked after a query webinar with the fabulous Rachelle Gardner. It was hosted by Writers’ Digest; she gave an overview of what a query should contain, but also critiqued our queries on an individual basis. I learned exactly where mine was confusing, flat, and vague (concrete details are key, I discovered); I learned that it was trying to do too much (I have a LOT of plot elements in my novel and was trying to stuff them all in), and what plot thread the query should focus on. If Rachelle ever runs that webinar again, take it. A few friends graciously read it, kicked its tyres, gave more advice, and I sent it off to fend for itself.

So now I just have to bite my nails for another 3 weeks until the quarter-finalists are announced…

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