This week I officially submitted St. Charles at Dusk to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. One winner, and four runners-up, receive a publishing contract and a monetary prize. I should have submitted it last year, but I didn’t discover the contest until after it was already over (sort of how I manage to overlook curbs until I’ve fallen flat on my face).
To enter the contest I had to submit:
The “Pitch”– up to 300 words
An Excerpt- 3k-5k words
The Manuscript- 50k-150k words
In addition to a Biography, Background, etc.
The manuscript submission was simple; its been complete for a long time. The excerpt, according to the rules, had to be the beginning of your novel, up to 5k words. Sadly, my prologue was 5.6k words (doh!), so I had to make a judgment call on the best place to cut it off in a way that was not awkward.
The pitch, on the other hand, was one of the most ridiculously difficult things I’ve ever had to write. I know what my book is about. People who have read it could probably give a good summary of it as well. Trying to summarize it in 300 words, though- in a way that will make it stand out amongst thousands of submissions and grab their attention in a unique way- was stressful and difficult. I spent a couple of hours writing and re-writing it, and I’m still not sure I achieved it.
In the end, this is what I wrote:
When Oz Sullivan is a young man of one-and-twenty, he experiences love for the first time. Adrienne Deschanel is spirited, passionate, and impulsive…all of the things that Oz is not. Oz is drawn to her in a way that is inexplicable to him and everyone who knows him, and the matter is complicated further by the fact that she is not yet an adult and the relationship is forbidden by her father.
Following a turbulent summer, Oz and Adrienne make a desperate and secret plan to run away together. Before their plans come to pass, though, Adrienne seemingly disappears completely after a tragic accident that takes the lives of her parents and three beloved sisters. Oz is left devastated, unable to move on but also unable to solve the mystery of her fate.
Several years later, Adrienne is discovered, alive and well…but with no memory of where she came from. Oz is conflicted: grateful that she is alive but still wounded from her disappearance and hesitant to get involved. Yet when she seeks him out for help, Oz finds himself unable to resist her, and, against his better judgment he finds himself enmeshed in the mystery of what happened to her when she was sixteen. The more he learns, the less he understands, and as the story unfolds and Adrienne’s memory slowly returns, everything they thought they both knew gets called into question.
New Orleans, with its rich history and alluring landscape, is the perfect backdrop for this introduction to the august and mysterious Sullivan and Deschanel families. The story of Oz and Adrienne pulls us into a non-traditional love story that will be all too familiar for anyone who has struggled between their love for another, and their fear of losing themselves completely.
The first round of judging of the contest will be based on the pitch, so there’s a lot of pressure to make sure it represents the story as best as it can. I have until the 1/27 to edit or change it. Knowing me, I will probably make eleventh hour edits, and will still smack my head into the wall in shame over how inadequate it was.
There’s a lot of very talented, undiscovered writers out there. I’d like to think I am one of them, but I am not harboring any illusions that my novel is the best of the bunch, or will even make it past the first round. If I take away from this nothing more than additional experience of learning to communicate about and market my writing, then that in and of itself is invaluable.
But winning would be cool, too!