I was selected for QueryKombat! QK is a contest where queries and novel excerpts are pitted against each other, bracket-style, until the strongest query is reached. I’m on Laura Heffernan’s team, competing with the query for IN HER OWN SKIN, my YA selkie novel.
As of last night I officially survived Round 1 and made it to the stage where agents become the judges, and request pages. To say that’s exciting is a severe understatement. I’m ecstatic to have made it this far, and whatever else happens is gravy.
You can find my Round 1 entry here: http://writersoutworld.blogspot.co.za/2017/06/qk-round-1-shes-better-than-420-vs-this.html And Round 2 is here: http://blog.lauraheffernan.com/2017/06/query-kombat-agent-round-11-this-selkie.html. I revised quite a bit based on feedback from judges and other critiques.
The seed for this book was planted a long time ago, possibly as far back as high school, as I have a memory of thinking about it on the school bus. I have a thing about female characters who get the short end of the stick in myths, fables, legends, and other tales. I always felt the lady selkies in traditional Scottish stories had a rough time of it. Then I did some more thinking and realized that their kids have an even worse predicament. That’s how Emily came into being. I’m so proud that she’s being shared with more people now.
Anyway, the last couple of weeks have been instructive as well as exciting. Here’s some of what I’ve learned so far.
Feedback, Feedback, Feedback
The QueryKombat Forum is my new best friend. This year the hosts set up a forum before the contest for people to swap entries and give feedback. My query went through about five rounds of edits based on the comments of readers, and I credit that process and those readers with my making it into the pool. My query changed radically–the best word would be honed.
I also learned a lot giving feedback to others. I’ve done plenty of research into what queries should look like. The best way to learn is to apply those rules, not just to your own work but the work of others. Being able to recognize elements as pros or cons went a long way toward helping me see them in my own work.
Even better, each round of QueryKombat invites judges and other readers to comment on the entries, resulting in even more feedback. My query and first page are so much stronger now.
Emotional Roller Coaster
So many emotions.
When I enter contests or submit queries, I block the memory of doing so from my mind and do my best to forget about it. I figure if something important happens, they’ve got my email. Unfortunately, that only works through the first round of notifications. Once I got the news that I had been accepted to QueryKombat, all those emotions became unhinged unleashed.
Excitement! Nerves. Impatience. Self-doubt. Despair. Defiant pride. Optimism. On and on, cycling between highs and lows like you wouldn’t believe.
Even when Round 1 began to wind down and it looked like the votes were in my favor, I stayed on tenterhooks until closing time. Then I kept checking the feeds to get confirmation. I’m still not sure this isn’t all a giant mistake and I wasn’t supposed to be selected in the first place. Shh, I don’t think anyone’s noticed yet.
Your Friends Will Get You Through It
Community really is one of the best parts of a lot of current writing contests. Through the magic of Twitter and the forums I’ve been getting to know other entrants. I love their work and I want them to succeed. We help each other and commiserate over this crazy thing we’re all going through. It’s like NaNoWriMo that way–we’re all in this together, so why go through it alone?
And I’m not neglecting my existing pals, either! They were the first people I told, and I feel the love each time they ask me how my entry is doing. They’ve helped me a tremendous amount, too, reading my work, giving feedback, recommending resources, and cheerleading.
I know I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the love and generosity of other people.
I’m sure there are more surprises and lessons to come. I’m looking forward to all of it because it means I am that much closer to my goals.
Cheers, gang. You helped make this happen.