Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Post NaNoWriMo Experience

For those of you who’ve successfully completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, congratulations! To those of you who participated but may have fallen short of your goal, I also send good wishes. The challenge is not easy, especially when you’re standing at the base of a 50,000 word mountain. I believe that the mere act of starting this challenge is a major accomplishment.

But remember, life continues after November's novel writing challenge. I’d like to share a few of my own experiences, post NaNoWriMo.

My project, Fall Again, began as an idea for a short story that I never found time to write. Timing is everything. In mid- October of 2012,I realized the NaNoWriMo challenge was starting in a few weeks. I had been thinking about my story idea for so long that I feared it had grown well beyond a short story format. Perhaps it could become a novel. The truth was that I didn’t know if I had 50,000 words in me.

Fall Again was to be a romantic novel set against the backdrop of working actors. The story takes place in New York City, Los Angeles and points in between over two decades.

On November 1, 2012, I actually remembered to start writing and continued writing every day. I reached my 50,000 word goal on November 20, while the actual novel was completed ten days later on November 30, coming in at just over 80,000 words. I was very happy and excited as I printed (and framed) my certificate. I enjoyed the well wishes of friends and family for the first few days of December while languishing in my good feelings of accomplishment. Then, I put the manuscript away until after the holidays.

Several weeks later I reread my manuscript. Time away from my project had changed it somehow. What had been pretty good in November was now barely mediocre in January. I realized I didn't have a novel. What I had was a passable first draft. A friend who has been writing professionally consoled me as he encouraged me to keep writing. “You know what Ernest Hemingway said, don’t you? The first draft of anything is shit.”

By mid-January I was now back in writing mode, only now with a much deeper understanding of my characters and story. I realized that while I’d written an okay beginning and end of my novel, I had somehow ignored the middle. My month long separation from my manuscript helped me to see the manuscript more clearly and with critical eyes that did not exist during November where I wrote quickly.

Now I was writing at my own pace as I developed my main characters and added a few more that hadn’t made themselves present a few months earlier. I changed a few key plot points which led to new pivotal scenes.

Months later, and after forcing myself to stop writing, I gave my manuscript to a mentor to read for an honest critique. Three weeks later we met for lunch so we could discuss the manuscript. He found it amusing that I was rather anxious about his critique which he didn’t begin until we’d placed our food order.

He began slowly. “Well, I don’t think you have a novel.”

I let out a deep disappointed sigh as I sank against the back of the booth.

But he hadn’t noticed and continued. “I think you have at least three, or maybe even four novels here. Have you ever thought of turning this into a series?”

  I barely had time to process this information as he asked me another rather surprising question.

“And are you thinking about self-publishing, or trying to go with the more traditional route?” Was he joking? I’d never considered actually publishing my novel. But then I’d also spent close to a year working on a story that I believed in with characters who I liked and respected. Maybe their story needed to get into the hands of readers. The more I considered this idea, the more I liked the idea- the frightening idea of people reading my story.

I returned to my desk and turned my (very long) stand-alone novel into a four-part contemporary romantic series. There were more weeks of solid writing, then revisions, and then editing. I went through angst and frustration as I formatted the first novel to a Create Space template. Pagination almost drove me insane.

My mood improved greatly when I received my first proof. The project that had begun almost three years before as an idea for a short story, was now a fully realized novel. My novel which I was now holding in my hands.

After a final edit and a few final revisions, I came to the conclusion that the first part of the Fall Again series, Beginnings, was complete. I honestly didn’t want to let go of the project that had become another full time job, and a rather large part of my life. But on May 28, 2015 at 1:30 in the afternoon, I clicked a box on my laptop’s screen- the box that read, publish.

On November 13, I published the second installment of the series, Fall Again: Lost Boy. In 2016 I plan to release the last two books in the series, Fall Again: California Girl and Fall Again: Reunion. 

This unexpected journey has been rewarding on many levels. I have become a better writer. I’ve met many people I never would have encountered had it not been for the Fall Again Project. I’ve discovered that I truly love writing and plan to continue.

I’m still struggling as I try to find the proper balance between writing and the rest of my life. Maybe one day I’ll solve the Rubik’s cube that is marketing and promotion. Many of the technical elements necessary to writing and self-publishing still leave me frustrated, but I’m leaning, and it’s getting easier.

This was my journey. Back in 2012 when I began the NanoWrimo challenge (praying that I had 50,000 words in me), I never imagined myself as a publishing anything. I simply had a story that I wanted to tell- a story that I later hoped people would enjoy.

This summer I received this message on the Fall Again Facebook page.

"I really enjoyed Fall Again: Beginnings When will the sequel be released and how many sequels will there be?"

I couldn't have been happier. So again, congrats! You deserve it. The challenge has come to an end, but this doesn’t mean that your writing has to stop. Why don’t you see where your writing can take you? Everyone’s experiences, post NaNowrimo as in life, will be different. I seldom give advice, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Enjoy the ride! Best wishes.


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