Richard Hacker had two entries in the 2011 manuscript Contest. He was a finalist in Mystery/Thriller and he won Science Fiction. He has been a member of the Writers’ League of Texas since 2011. He makes his home in Seattle Washington.
I came to the Writer’s League of Texas with two submissions in 2011. The first, a sci-fi fantasy in the spirit of Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy entitled Shaper: My Life As An Interstellar Tool. I had procrastinated for years about writing, finally letting the ink flow (well, fingertips tap) and had been shopping the manuscript around, but had yet to get any takers. The second, a humorous crime thriller along the lines of Carl Hiaasen or Elmore Leonard was my attempt to move on from Shaper. The submission, entitled Toxic Relationship was set in Pflugerville and Central Texas.
Toxic Relationship was a finalist in the mystery/thriller category and Shaper won in the sci-fi/fantasy category. With both manuscripts I received the sought for feedback. And with the winning manuscript, I got to sit down with an agent who then read the entire manuscript. Her feedback, while not what I wanted to hear, was invaluable and on target. I began to understand why agents and publishers weren’t breaking down my door for Shaper. My experience with the literary contest–winning, but still not breaking into the published category– led me to take a year long certificate program at the University of Washington (I moved to Seattle in 2009). I found critique partners who left ‘nice’ at the door, studied great writing and continued to work on my craft. That same year, with the confidence gained in Austin, I pitched Toxic Relationship to a publisher at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference in Seattle. The publisher, Champagne Books, picked up the novel and has since publish two more in the series: Dirty Water and Chain Reaction.
Why submit your work to a literary contest? If you’re self-publishing, you’re not looking for an agent or a publisher, but a literary contest can still give you some critical feedback on the important first sentence, page, paragraph and the following ten pages of your novel. In addition, you will gain some valuable insight into the market by seeing what floats to the top in your genre.
If you do want to work with an agent and eventually a publisher, contests offer a path for getting your foot in the door. As writers, we find ourselves feeling a bit like beggars, querying and pitching in short sound bites work we’ve spent months and sometimes years developing. Imagine, rather than sitting down with an agent for a brief time slot during a pitch session, a contest gives you the possibility of an agent sitting down with you for a longer, more detailed conversation about your work. Sweet!
For my part, I had several motivations going on at the same time. First, I had moved to Seattle in 2009 and the Writers League of Texas was a link back home. Second, my experience of pitching and querying Shaper had been a long, increasingly frustrating process with little or no feedback. The contest offered the possibility of getting some much needed objective feedback on my writing. Finally, as in most things in life, nothing happens if you stop moving. I submitted to keep moving and to get my work out in the world. So, yes, my submission won. No, I didn’t create a relationship with the agent at the conference. However, I did gain some precious knowledge about my manuscript, learned a little more about the market, gained some confidence, found additional motivation to continue to learn and grow as a writer, and had a good reminder that you don’t score if you never take a shot at the goal. I think I got my money’s worth.
Both Available Now from Champagne Books at your favorite digital bookseller
Watch for CHAIN REACTION, available March, 2014
Web & Blog: www.richardhacker.com
Amazon Author Page
Goodreads Author Page