Lessons Learned from ABNA

I’m watching today as some of my fellow writers await news of their fate in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) competition. At some point today--and if Amazon holds true to tradition, it might be well into tonight--the announcement will be made of those making it on to the Quarterfinals.

Last year, I was among those awaiting news. This year, I’ll be cheering from the sidelines since I got knocked out of the competition in the pitch round.

It brings mixed feelings. Sure there’s disappointment. I would love to have that competition anxiety today, to feel my heart beating a little faster each time my computer chimed its new message alert, to have that beautiful feeling of potential there, that this-year-it-could-be-me high. But I’m finding that I’m also excited for those people who might be moving on, particularly those people who I now count among my friends. There’s also curiosity. One of these people will be a published novelist soon. (Not to mention curiosity to read the excerpts.)

Besides, I’ve already gotten something out of this year’s ABNA: a polished manuscript. That deadline forced me to get myself in gear and finish the revisions I’d been working on off and on for a few years now. It forced me to work on my pitch. That’s prize enough itself.

I’ve also made some great new writing friends. Plus, it’s been a lesson in networking, and many of the other contestants have graciously supported me by voting in the “Fresh Blood” contest, where I’m a finalist.

Maybe more importantly, it’s also been a great reminder that no matter how much work you’ve put into a novel, no matter how strongly you believe in it, the details matter. You need to have a strong pitch (or synopsis or other marketing material) to get your novel read in the first place.

So while it stung a little to get knocked out so soon in the competition this year, particularly after making it to the top 100 last year, I’m still happy I entered and will be looking forward to doing so again next year (hopefully with a much stronger pitch).

Good luck to those who are still waiting for news on their entry. I wish each and every one of you the best, both in ABNA and beyond. This is just one step in the journey. Onward!


  1. What an inspiring post. There's always something good that comes from working hard, even if you don't see it on the surface. Congrats on your polished MS. :)

  2. A writer's life is a roller coaster of emotions. Talent doesn't go away. Like the sun, it just shines brighter on some days :)

    Best of luck with all your writing projects!

  3. So true on both counts. Something good always does come from working hard, and a writer's life is a roller coaster of emotions. It's nice to know that we're all in it together.


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