Monday, May 3, 2010

Stormy Waters.

For the last two years I have entered Amazon's Breakthrough Novel Award contest knowing I'd not only have to be good, but lucky as well if I wanted to win. This year they split the competition between Adult Fiction and Young Adult Fiction. The adult category closed early meaning they reached their capacity of 5000 entries, so we my pitch, and excerpt feared enough to advance me to the Top 250 I felt pretty good.

Last year I entered the manuscript of my comedic novel, Plundered Booty and it had advanced past the first two rounds as well. Round three is judged by reviewers from Publishers Weekly and save for one line of the reviewer had good things to say about my writing and the novel. However it was clear that the reviewer had not been blessed with a great sense of humor and therefore didn't fully enjoy the comedic flair of that novel.

This year I entered a women's fiction manuscript titled Waiting On The River. At it's heart River is a relationship story. A tale about the various relationships between men and women. As lovers, spouses, brothers, sisters, daughters and fathers. The core relationship is between Blue Riggins, a grieving man whose wife died in childbirth and Lindsay Parker a young woman who ran away from home at seventeen after her father forced her to have an abortion. Tormented by the fact he has neglected his child, Blue is running from the fact that a large part of him wished his wife would have had the abortion suggested by her doctors.

Two character two very different set of regrets.

I thought this type of emotional story would have a broader more commercial appeal. I truly thought I'd stand a good chance to make the Top 50 this year.

And then I got cut.

But I reasoned that with 500 entries there had to be more than 50 really good books entered. Surely book 51 was publishable. Maybe even book 75 or 80. Of course Amazon doesn't rank them so an author has no idea if their entry would have been 51 or or number 250.

However, you do get to read your Publishers Weekly review so I figured that would give me some idea how close I was.

Well, a week after the cut my review finally came in. and in the terms of closeness to that Top 50 I am somewhere on the other side of the Milky Way.

Therefore I must revert to angry pirate talk from this point on.

Her she be. The Full skivvy from them scabrous bastards who dare challenge me authority to dip a pen in ink and set sail upon the literary world. BE WARNED -- SHE AIN'T PRETTY.

ABNA Publisher Weekly Reviewer

A love story that is long on melodrama and short on dramatic tension, this novel traces rodeo star turned champion poker player Blue Riggins and his unlikely companion, Lindsay Parker, on a road trip from Idaho to Oklahoma. The strangers are thrown together when Blue nearly runs down Lindsay while she’s out for a pre-dawn run. It turns out that they have an acquaintance in common, and that connection is enough for them to decide to become traveling companions. Both of them are damaged and running from their past, and neither is willing to reveal the cause of their pain. The author spends much time detailing their inner torment and hinting at an inexplicable bond. The exact cause of their distress is annoyingly withheld from the reader for too long, and when the details are finally revealed, the circumstances do not seem to merit the characters’ brooding. By the time they reach Colorado, Blue and Lindsay have divulged their secrets and hopped into the sack. Meanwhile, the landscape and minor characters pass by without comment as Blue and Lindsay learn, at tedious length, to let go of the past.

Aye, the review ran blood red like the streets of Portabello upon Captain Morgan's invasion, but we pirates are not one to take a scabbard without a fight. I shall live to prove thy 'stablishement has erred. I shall push off from port and find new treasures to plunder. I shall, dip my pen in ink and ply the waters with me next manuscript. A true tale of rotten and wantful lust called The Feedstore Chronicles. Tis chocked full of shady characters, including meself fer it is a coming-of-age memoir with heavy emphasis on that first word if ye get what I'm point me musket at. The critics might sink that ship as well, but you can bet your booty it won't be before I make 'em blush.


Debra She Who Seeks said...

Man yer musket, Travis. I know you won't be a Minuteman! You'll outlast yer critics!

Jennifer Archer said...

If I'm not mistaken, I once judged RIVER in a contest before I knew you and the names of entrants weren't included anyway. I believe I gave it 1st place. Am I remembering this correctly? I do recall that I loved what I read. So phooey on the PW Reviewer. In my humble opinion he/she has very poor taste in fiction.

dee said...

it is all in the taste...of course I have a vested interest because I am breathlessly awaiting the full manuscript for The Feedstore Chronicles....BUT I have to say they were a little harsh...I picture in my mind some little twenty somthing intern they paid to write this review...gotta remember they don't know their elbow from their ass and think lettuce is a food group so what do you expect???

Stephen Parrish said...

As Jennifer said, phooey on the PW Reviewer. My PW review was awful. The others have been good or great. Don't let one opinion get you down, especially when it's from a nobody trying to bolster her low self esteem by taking shots at writers; someone who reviews for a slowly sinking journal trying to resuscitate itself through snarkiness. Trust your talent, your guts, and your manuscript.

Yes, I enjoyed writing this comment.

Old Kitty said...


You will find your treasure soon enough, don't you worry. And it won't be in a map marked x either because you know in your heart where it's buried and how to dig it out!


You can do this.

Good luck.

Take care

Steve Malley said...

For what it's worth, my best-selling graphic novel (and the one that most people still seem to remember today) received MUCH more savage reviews. To say critics hated it would be an understatement.

There might be something in that review you can use-- or they might just be off base. It happens.

In the end, just keep writing, right? :)

Beth said...

If your novel made it to the Top 250, it’s good. Don’t let one review get to you – you know better! Tweak it if you will, but keep sending it out to publishers.
And good luck. :)

Tena Russ said...

Don't get mad; get even: Revise and find a publisher. Sorry about the crappy review, Travis. But placing in the top 250 is great!

Terri Tiffany said...

You really did awesome getting as far as you did!!! Don't be so hard on yourself:)) You did great!

B.E. Sanderson said...

Hang in there, Travis. I think it's awesome that you even enter these things. (I've never had the courage.) And finishing in the top 250 means you've really got something good - even if the PW reviewer panned your work. Keep up the good words and sooner or later you'll be making that reviewer eat his words.

Junosmom said...

Travis, Both my girls are in the arts, and it has been a real education for me. Entering lots of contests and winning some, losing some, we've had to learn to tell ourselves that, after a loss, it was that person's opinion that day. Doesn't make it true or real in general - just that judge's opinion that day. Anna had one painting that one THIRD place in a podunk county show - THIRD PLACE. The same painting went on to win STATE grand champion over all entries, including tomatoes, for 4H entries. Goes to show, don't pay attention, do it because you know it is what you do and do it the best you can, and don't worry about those that don't like it - worry about those that do.

alex keto said...

Ah hell, what does Publisher Weekly know anyway?
Last year, when I remembered to enter, I got the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde response. One reviewer gushed over my book and the other wanted to murder me before I further polluted the earth with my genes.
Remember one word: subjective.

jerseygirl89 said...

Like Publisher's Weekly knows anything. They love a lot of stuff I think is total drivel. . .you can't let one person's opinion stop you.

I liked it.

Mark Terry said...

Ye'll have their guts fer garters.

Eh, one opinion and a snarky one at that. Apparently many others disagreed, which is how you made it as far as you did. Do you believe in the story? Then give it a little bit of time, see if there's a way to rewrite it, do so; or, if you still believe in it as is, start marketing.

Success, matey, is the best revenge. And we pirates loves our revenge.

Eric said...

Well Travis, I'm sorry things didn't go better for your entry. But rest easy knowing that you're out there and still plugging away at it. You're ahead of the game than I am, so as far as I'm concerned, that's pretty awesome. Keep at it bud - you'll get there when it's time.

Charles Gramlich said...

One day ye'll take their bloody ship, and then they'll be a swabbing the decks while ye walk with muddy boots back and forth above them.

Lisa said...

Sometimes I think those PW people just like to run authors over a cheese grater for kicks. It seems they do everythign to try to discourage writers and promote pap. In the words of John Wayne, don't let the bastards get you down.

Shauna Roberts said...

Has the reviewer never read a woman's fiction novel before? It sound like it, given they complain about about the time you devote to the development of the relationship. Hello! Reviewer, the relationship is the point of women's fiction!

And I agree with the others that the person must be young, too young to have experienced enough of life for these characters to have any resonance.

Don't get tied in knots about the review, Travis. It wasn't THAT bad, and clearly the reviewer is not a member of your intended audience, so their opinion doesn't matter.

Danette Haworth said...

I'd read a book by the pirate. He's cool!

Dizzy Ms. Lizzy said...

Ah, hell with them, Travis. You are a great writer; don't let them make you believe otherwise!

I'm waiting for you to get published, and I will definitely be a customer!

March2theSea said...

Critics blow.

Anonymous said...

Okay, they didn't like it, and that's always hard on the ego, but it's not a bad review--in the sense that they aren't shredding you, and they did include comments that could prove useful to you.

Their opinion was:
- needs more tension (slow read)
- emotional payoff didn't seem believable

Some of this could just be an issue of personal taste, but it's always useful to go over a piece and try to see what the reviewer was seeing. Sometimes you start noticing things you realize could be improved.

That said, getting a mediocre review hurts, but Travis? You have talent, a wonderful writing voice, and heart. Keep working at it; you ARE going to get published someday.

Texanne said...

Guts for garters, as Mark Terry said. I think that's a weird barter, but okay.

Obviously the judge knows nothing about women's fiction. But anonymous has a good point, too. Sometimes things can be learned. Sometimes, of course, the judges are idiots.

I read it, wanted to read the rest of it, am ticked not to be able to read it.

And I can't wait for the feedstore chronicles. Man, how many trips did I make to Mr. Joel's store for horse & mule feed in bags so heavy they made my rear springs groan and threaten lawsuits? Can't wait.

Suzanne said...

Well, Travis, there's no accounting for taste or brains when it comes to reviews. Too bad that the reviewer is apparently clueless about what women like to read. I liked what I read and I am ready and willing to buy and read the rest when an intelligent publisher sees the work and snatches it up. Then you can thumb your nose at the idiot who didn't know when he had a good book in his hands.