Okay, blogging a day early out of sheer thrill-dom. Usually, when one receives a letter that begins, "We regret to inform you that you were not selected as one of our finalists," feelings of elation don't follow hard upon, but in this case that doesn't apply.
Did I mention that, in my early writer's zeal, I joined the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, as well as that succinct Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators? Anyhow, the PNWA conference is at the end of the month, so months and months ago, when I registered, I also entered the writing contest and sent in the first chapter of MOURNING BECOMES CASSANDRA and a synopsis with my $$$. And I lost! But, on the plus plus plus side, they give you two people's critiques along with the you're-such-a-loser letter, and these were both encouraging and helpful.
For example, two of their suggested revisions were also made by my early readers, so the book that went to press took care of those:
1. Set the book later in time. I initially opened just months after Cass's Tragedy, but later added in a year passing.
2. Delete a tangential story where Cass and Troy witnessed a guy choking in a restaurant. 75% of my readers (including my sister and brother-in-law emphatically) recommended this. Done.
A couple of their suggestions I would have ignored, had I known them:
1. One contest critic found Cass a little too distant and flip in the first chapter. That was deliberate. Hmm...maybe could have thrown in a line about someone criticizing her for always trying to keep a lid on her feelings. Joanie does later, but not early on.
2. Same critic objected to the "Laying Low" 2nd chapter title and said it should be "Lying Low." All well and good, except that NOBODY ever says he's going to "lie low." I prefer idiomatic.
Both critics deemed my synopsis too short and too vague about the ending. This was my ignorance. What writer likes to give away the ending? I didn't.
But the good news was that they both rated it 25 of 25 for "Would you read more?" One gave it an overall 88/100 and the other an 81/100. And they threw in pats on the head for humor and characterization. So I can comfort myself that, if I entered it today with a real synopsis and two of the suggested revisions, victory would be--er--well--a little closer. I count myself well-pleased.