I'm going to start off with a quote from agent Nathan Bransford, "Think about what everyone else would do, then do something different."
I entered my first contest for this year, Chicago-North's Fire & Ice contest. I entered the first 23 pages of Bixby's story. And even though the Fire and Ice contest is sponsored by an RWA organization, there is no romance in those first 23 pages (or the 50 I've completed). There's not one paranormal character to be found and there are sentient adults--in a YA manuscript. Agh...(Watch the teens run screaming from the room.) In today's tough teen market I've broken just about every rule.
I'm really going out on the "do something different" limb, but will it pass muster in a traditional contest? Will making the reader laugh make up for not having a vampire or ghost in the story? Will the lesbian wiseacre make up for the Bixby's lack of girlfriend tension? Will paintball become the national past time? Probably not, but you have to admit, it's something different.
Nathan Bransford was talking about query letters, but I hope his advice will hold true for writing in general. As long as the story and the writing is able to support the "something different", hopefully the readership will follow. I know I like the something different writers. Mr. Bransford ended with this, "And trust me, when writing a query, entering a contest, or writing a grant it pays to stand out from the crowd."
So, here's to doing something different and standing out from the crowd. I'll let you know if it works. In the meantime, I'd love to hear your comments.