Randy: What went through your head when you won the First Chapter contest?
Randy: The whole thing had a very surreal feel to it. Even as it happened it struck me that it reminded me of a scene out of a movie, or a novel.
When they started announcing the winners I thought I had a reasonable chance to be among the top three entries, especially when they revealed that there was a three way tie for third place. Surely, I would be one of them.
As each name was called up my heart sank a little bit. Still, second place remained as yet unclaimed.
Then my hopes pretty much vanished when I failed to be called as the second place winner. There was no way that I was going to win first place. And yet held on to an anemic hope that it could happen.
When they announced that first place had been awarded to Last Dispensation Space, my mind stopped working. I thought “Gee, that title sounds familiar. Didn’t I write a story by that name?” (Yeah, I know. That bit of the story doesn’t really paint me in a very bright light.)
It occurred to me that it might actually be my story, but I waited to hear the name of the author before I could be certain. They did. They announced my name. I numbly looked around the table and said, “That’s my story.” (Thank heavens I write better dialogue than I speak.)
The walk from the back of the room to the front went by entirely too quickly. I spent too much time wondering if I were dreaming rather than enjoying the moment. I had won a contest. I couldn’t wait to tell my wife. I couldn’t wait to tell my friends.
I went back to my table and sat down, answered a few questions, but mostly remained quiet; staring in disbelief at the piece of paper with my name and the title of my story.
Randy: What was the best part of winning the contest?
Randy: The validation of my efforts as an author. Having someone who knows the industry indicate that my writing has merit gives me hope that I will one day be published and that I’m not just wasting my time.
Randy: What was the worst part of winning the contest?
Randy: Worst part? Are you kidding? There is no down-side to something like this. It’s all good. Although, I wish I hadn’t been so deeply in dreamy-dream land during my walk to the pulpit.
Randy: How has winning the contest changed things for you?
Randy: It has given me confidence. For me, that translates into more writing getting done. One of the prizes was a “Get Out Of The Slush Pile Free” card that will guarantee that my finished story will be read by the publisher I send it to. That motivates me.
Randy: Do you plan to enter the contest this year?
Randy: Yes. That same wonderful wife of mine that suggested the winning chapter insisted that we fit the writing conference into our budget next year. I will be there and plan to enter two chapters.
* (Yes, I asked this question in Part I of the interview, but the answer has since changed.)
Randy: What stories will those chapters be from?
Randy: Don’t have the foggiest idea. I’ll have to look at my list of story ideas and see what I’d like to write next. Next meaning, after I finish the next three projects I’ve already promised myself I’d write.
Randy: What did you learn from this experience?
Randy: Besides that I should always listen to my wife? Jump into the story and make the readers wonder what is going to happen next – and do it quickly.
I also learned that the story you, as an author, think everyone will love is not necessarily the one they actually like. Rather than be discouraged when your “Best” story is rejected, be prepared for them to accept a different one altogether. In other words, keep plugging away because you never know which story is going to really resonate with the audience.
Randy: What tips can you give other authors entering the contest?
Randy: Keep in mind what the entries are judged on:
The Hook – What about your story is going to make people read more?
Conflict – What’s at stake and what, or who, is opposing the hero?
Character – Why will readers care about this character?
Setting and Mood – How will readers feel like they are IN the story?
Pace and Style – Do your words get in the way of the story?
Resolution/Prompts – What in the story makes readers want to continue?
Mechanics – Is your grammar going to stop people from enjoying the story?
Randy: Do screaming fans fight over your autograph now?
Randy: Only when it’s signed on a check.
Randy: What’s next in your author quest for publication?
Randy: Finish the novel I am currently working on and start the next one.
I am sorry to announce that I need to really focus on finishing my novel this month. In order to help that goal along I will be cutting back on my posting until it’s done. For the rest of December I will only be posting once a week. I’ll go back to my normal Tuesday and Friday posts in January.