Last week I posted about how Spirit World made it into the semifinals, and someone requested I do a post on how I did it. Well, I can only share what I feel worked for me.
1. The first round of the contest is a pitch, which I looked at like a query. CreateSpace (where you submit your entry) has a place where you can display your pitch/part/all of your work for review. You can write up to 5 questions for those reviewing your work. I asked them to identify the strongest and weakest part of my pitch, as well as any suggestions. Maybe two or three of the responses I got were helpful. Some simply left one or two stars with no explanation. So not helpful. It could have been they simply didn't like the genre, but they didn't tell me so I just discounted them.
While I don't have the exact pitch on hand, it looked something like this:
Riesa Adair hears voices. The scratchy, mind numbing, get into your nightmares and throttle you til you cry kind of voices. And her stepfather doesn’t help. His plan to “cure” her includes beatings, group homes, and exorcisms.
When her unique talents attract the attention of a powerful Spirit, the mental attacks grow more aggressive, the bruises come more frequently, and her emotions spin out of control. Enter Garrett, a man with a similar “gift”. With his help, Riesa discovers the immense power lying dormant within her. But will that be enough when they travel to the Spirit World and find themselves engaged in a battle against those voices personified?
The novel, which is written in first person narrative, details Riesa’s struggles and triumphs as she travels the road from troubled teenager to the beginnings of adulthood. She must face tragic circumstances that take away her best friend, her freedom, and her love, and still summon the strength she needs to fulfill her destiny.
2. What I feel was more helpful was having someone from my writing group critique the work. If you are doing any sort of writing, I highly recommend joining a writing group or finding a critique partner. I'm not talking about a friend or family member to gush about your work. I mean someone who is well read in your genre, and isn't afraid to rip your work to shreds. Someone whose work you can critique in return. I have learned so much about my own writing by critiquing others' work.
A few weeks ago, there was a post on Kidlit.com where people were invited to advertise for critique partners. You can find that post here. There are 103 comments listing people looking for partners.
I am also part of an online writing group. http://www.kelleyarmstrong.com/cgi-bin/ikonboard.cgi? It's free to join, but you do have to ask. Just scroll down to "online writing group" and read the instructions.
3. Have someone read your entire manuscript before submitting it anywhere. This is something I did not do, but definitely will before I start querying.
Again, if you haven't read the first chapter, it's still available here, or by emailing me at belle5678 at yahoo dot com. And if you have read it and liked it, head on over to Amazon and leave a review. I'm not sure if they take those into account, but it couldn't hurt.