A lot has happened since I started this blog back in 2011. It was just about this time of year, and it was this post (Prepping for NaNoWriMo 2011) that launched it all. It seems that every 2-3 years is the magic number for me because I’m gearing up for a third NaNoWriMo this year.
Let me catch you up on my writing life before and after NaNo 2011. I “won” NaNoWriMo in 2009 with 51,000+ words and promptly threw the virtual manuscript in a virtual drawer. Then in 2011, I tried again with a historical fiction novel. I still love that novel’s concept, but it was a slog to make it to 8,589 words that year. Needless to say, the novel was abandoned and lies like Frankenstein hoping one day to be shocked back to life. In 2013, I began reworking the 2009 NaNo project–this time with first-person narration. Let’s call this project, Project A. The new point of view really worked for me, and I pitched the first page at a writers’ conference page reading session. What happened? The agent was enthusiastic about my writing and asked for 50 pages at our private pitch session the next day. She also asked about any other projects I had in the works. I pitched another idea off the top of my head. Let’s call that Project B. The agent gave me her card and asked for 50 pages of Project B, also.
Here is the problem… the hide-my-face-in-the-sand problem that I am almost too embarrassed to admit. Although Project A was going well, prior to pitching I had only rewritten approximately 25 pages of the book. Project B was an idea… in my head! No words on paper, no character names. Nothing more than an idea. But I pitched it anyway. Don’t ask for what you can’t handle.
If I’m being perfectly honest, I couldn’t handle the pressure. What was I thinking? I came home from the conference and frantically worked to rewrite 50 pages of Project A while frantically working to create 50 pages of Project B and an entire synopsis for this book. What happened? I never sent either to the agent. Chalk it up to putting the cart before the horse and a hard lesson learned. I still have the agent’s card sitting in my office as a reminder to NEVER PITCH A PROJECT THAT ISN’T FINISHED.
There it is–my dirty little secret I’ve been stewing about for quite some time. Meanwhile, fiction writing went on hold (yet again) as I took on even more writing projects for work, and I took on even more volunteer opportunities at my boys’ school. I did have one more foray into the fiction world in the fall of 2013. After the impromptu pitch, Project B, although it wasn’t close to finished, took flight in my head. I wrote almost 100 pages, polished up the first 10 pages, and submitted them to a writing contest last fall. Although I didn’t win the contest, I did have some very helpful comments back from the judges. I was pleased with the new experience (submitting to a contest) and lots of great advice from the judging responses. Another notch carved in my fiction writing bedpost.
Then out of the blue in April, I got an email from one the contest organizers. I will quote the email correspondences below because although they may not seem like much to most people, these are the emails that keep me going when I think about throwing in the fiction towel.
Below is a message I wanted to pass along from one of your contest judges.”
The Message from the contest judge:
“I judged this submission, and would love to talk to the author about his or her work a little more. It’s a story that stuck with me. If he/she is open to that, can you pass on my information and have the writer email me?” [NOTE: She says his or her because the contest is blind judged so she didn’t know anything about me except the name of my manuscript.]
Am I open to that? Heck yeah! I did a little research and discovered that the judge is a published author whose name I actually knew. So, I emailed her. She was really nice and very encouraging. Here’s a snippet of her note:
“I mostly just wanted to say that I looked for your manuscript on the winners’ list and hoped you’d place in the contest. Contests are so subjective and I know I felt crushed after a few, so I just wanted to tell you that your voice and writing were strong and that I like to think I know a little something about the biz. Is your manuscript complete? And have you started querying it? I wish you the best with it and any other writing you do! :)”
Let’s put this in perspective. I am fully aware that agents ask for sample pages more frequently at writers’ conferences than they do from the unsolicited slush pile. Even though I was dancing a jig when the agent asked for pages from two projects, I know that this isn’t an uncommon occurrence. I am also aware that nice words and compliments from one judge do not get a manuscript finished, let alone published. (No, it’s still not finished!) HOWEVER, it’s the little things that keep you going when you are new to fiction writing. So, these little things are what keep me going. Thus the reason that I am using NaNoWriMo 2014 as an excuse to take the plunge back into fiction. During the hiatus, the characters and stories haven’t stopped pestering me, I just did a better job of keeping them locked in my brain. November is the time to let them out again and FINALLY FINISH A DARN BOOK.