Saturday, February 25, 2017

The world's craziest writing contest? Or not

I just did something so completely crazy it will probably destroy any credibility I have as a writer but, oh, what fun it was! I sent in my entry in a contest to be a co-author with James Patterson. I know, I know – bestselling author, gazillions of books sold, co-written by equal gazillions of co-authors foaming at the mouth to get their byline in small print under Patterson’s.

If you’re still reading, here are the details, because the contest, for better or worse, ends at one minute before midnight March 1, 2017, Pacific Time. Contestants must be registered for Patterson’s online writing course at Master Class (more about that later in this post). The course costs $90, which is probably the least expensive writing class I’ve ever taken.

The contest is also limited to residents of the Australia, Canada (excluding, for obscure legal reasons, Quebec), the United Kingdom, and the United States, including District of Columbia, but excluding, again for unfathomable legal reasons, Arizona and my beloved native state of Louisiana (luckily, I’ve actually been a resident of Texas for the last few decades).

Oh, and the writing? Right, you’ve got to submit the opening chapter (1000 words maximum) and a two-sentence logline (100 words maximum) for a mystery or thriller in Patterson’s writing style.

The contest opened February 1, as I wrote in the January 12, 2017, post “Writing contests – there's more here than book reviews,” so some of you may be feeling smug just now, your entries polished within an inch of their lives, pitying the late comers.

Truthfully, I had some initial buyer’s remorse about the class, which was not alleviated by reading the recommended homework, Patterson’s 2005 thriller Honeymoon, co-written with Howard Roughan. Words of every creative writing instructor at whose feet I’ve sat echoed in my mind as I flipped the pages. (Yes, they do practically flip themselves, as Patterson asserts in the windup to the online class.)

No depth of character! Awkward sentences! Shallow, shallow, shallow! But fast, fast, fast!

As Patterson himself notes candidly in the class lectures – “I’m not writing realism.”

I couldn’t even bring myself to open the course until mid-February.

A lot of those qualms were quieted when I actually listened to Patterson. He comes across as such a nice (albeit driven) person, friendly, personable, even funny in a disarmingly nerdy kind of way. I thought, hey, why not enter his contest? What do I have to lose – I’ve already paid for the class.

Of course, as every writer is, I was in the midst of another project. Oh, maybe I could use the opening chapter of that book, which has only been promised to an agent since last summer and which I’ve since entered in another, probably equally crazy contest, as my entry in Patterson’s contest. Uh, no. Reading the fine print, which is always one of my last things to do, I learned that no manuscript entered for anything else is eligible for the Patterson project. So it was the last half of February and I had to come up with something completely new? I couldn’t possibly.

Nothing makes me more determined to do something than being told, even by myself, that I can’t do it. I mulled ideas one night before lights out, pounded out my 1000 words the next morning, begged members of an online critique group for comments, and zapped off the results.

Fast and fun. In the unlikely event I become a semifinalist, Patterson will expect me to outline the whole book. But dang, I’ll outline it anyway. What writer can ever have too many stories?

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