All the contests I’ve entered have asked for the first chapter of a manuscript, or between ten and thirty-five pages. This makes perfect sense since those are he critical beginning pages an editor reads right off the bat when the story is finally submitted. However, once the contest judges have commented and I’ve incorporated their suggestions, all I have now is a polished beginning. Good so far, but one chapter doesn’t make an entire book.
Then I face the middle—inevitably the sagging middle where I really need the assistance of helpful and knowledgeable judges. Except for my fabulous critique partners, I’m on my own from this point. I wander through the bewildering forest of plot, verging down the wrong path, following rabbit trails that lead nowhere except rabbit holes that are hard to dig out of. Or delete. Well sometimes they lead to brilliant ideas, but usually for another story, not my wip. Often these fresh, new ideas hook my attention and hurl me down another path until I’m utterly lost. I put my old wip aside. This is how I end up with a computer clogged with false starts full of promise, but left unfinished.
Sometimes my hero, heroine and their entourage gallop through the woods before coming to an abrupt halt at a hurdle too high to jump. While they pause and I try to solve their dilemma, secondary characters arrive at the scene. Inevitably they’re more colorful and more intriguing than the main group, so I follow their stories until I’m racing down rabbit trails and falling into rabbit holes again.
Critique partners may rescue me from myself, or not. They may think I have a plan and know where I’m going even though I don’t have a clue. Often I discover I have two main plots where only one is needed. And I love them both.
What I need is a contest to help me stay on the road that leads to the end of the main story, the one with the original hero and heroine. It might be difficult to have a contest involving the middle section of a manuscript, but that’s exactly what I’d like to see. This is my problem area -- where the plot thins and the padding thickens.
Does anyone know of a contest to help prop up a sagging middle?