Yesterday morning I went to Lowes for a quart of deep sea blue paint. Okay technically I’d been thinking a maroon or rusty orange but I have a weakness for oceany-indigo, especially with a name like “Salty Dog.” My plan was to redo the mudroom and make it more functional and visually appealing. The plan behind the plan was to do something creative in order to spark further creativity. I’d written 1900wc Wednesday and I’m on a slight roll right now (did another 1500wc yesterday) so I wanted something physical to counter that.

When I got back, I found #PitMad trending on Twitter so I checked it out and it was a writing challenge: pitch your novel in a tweet. I can’t resist a challenge like that. Restraints are parked firmly in the wheelhouse up my alley, especially when they involve word count limits/parameters or (better yet) character limits. Since I have all my query materials ready to go at any time, I just pulled the WS material, edited it, and sent it out:

The professional lesson to take is one that I’ve espoused before but not since I created this version of a personal website: always be prepared with your query materials,  including  a concise pitch in your mental file. Be ready to share (1) what happens in the story and (2) what the story is about.

The personal lesson here is that life happens and I haven’t queried in years because raising two kids who have special needs takes up time and energy that I’m more than happy to expend because they are spectacular human beings. But sometimes there’s a little nudge from the universe and I was lucky enough to catch that nudge yesterday.

DOW 2015

We had a nice number of Dead of Winter entries: enough to be competitive but not so many as to be overwhelming. As has been my experience in the 15 years I’ve judged this contest, there were about ten entries left for rereading and, from those, I had three clear favorites. My favorite popped right into my top spot. That’s not to say it’s a guaranteed winner; Erin and I still need to collaborate.

Still frustrating: stories that don’t follow word count parameters, stories that arrive late, stories that aren’t horror stories (DOW is a horror story contest), stories that don’t use the theme, and stories that have the theme shoehorned in rather than written into the story. This happens every time. Sometimes a single entry checks off a couple of those boxes.

Invariably, this eliminates at least 25% of the entries. So if you stay within the word count parameters, use the genre, use the theme, and send it in time, you’re already in the top 75% of entries.