Late last week I decided to enter the Amazon Breakout Novel Contest. This year, they added a separate Young Adult category for submission, which is a pretty cool deal for us YA writers because our books were compared against adult fiction in the past. They really are different categories in my view. The style of YA is often quite distinct and needed its own special place.
Seeing as how Mythos wasn't ready, I decided to enter The Children of Midian. However, I realized some things needed changing: the opening and the pitch. As far as the opening goes, I eliminated chapter one and the first half of chapter two. The book now begins with fourteen-year-old Elliot in the woods at dusk, moments before curiosity brings him into the shack from which he's carried off to Midian.
When I originally wrote Midian, I didn't subscribe to the notion that your book should begin when everything changes for your protagonist. I wrote the story where it began. In fact, I once had a way cool prologue, but I put the thing in the guillotine. In theory, everything that occurs before the "big change" is nothing but back-story. That includes prologues. Once this finally sunk into this slack brain of mine, it became quite simple.
What are you supposed to do with back-story? You weave it in throughout your book. In the case of Midian, I've long feared starting where things changed for Elliot because some crucial character information resided in those opening chapters. When it "clicked" this weekend, I was able to weave those critical bits of back-story into the opening scene. And wouldn't you know it? The book opens at a brisker pace, with a bonus of 4000 fewer words!
As far as pitch goes, well, I had one already. But it seemed to me I could do worse than to come up with something entirely different - a whole from scratch kind of thing. So, I spent Sunday before and after the Jets game (sniff) working that puppy until the light bulb stayed on.
New opening? Check.
New pitch? Check.
Last year I stayed up until midnight Sunday into Monday to submit. This year, I got up at the butt-crack of dawn Monday and submitted. Heck, I had to get up and go to work anyway, didn't I? So now I wait. Actually, I'm going to completely tune it out and resume working on Mythos. Spealing of Mythos, I owe you all a new Birth of a Novel entry.