Last fall, my friend Diana and I decided to write novels for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). Basically, participants try to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November. I had tried two years before and had given up after only a few thousand words. But this time, both of us managed to complete our books.
It was a fantastic experience. Half of the time I was writing, I was drunk, sleep-deprived, or creatively blocked. I wrote on the couch, at coffee houses, on transatlantic flights, in hotel rooms in Prague and Vienna. I woke up early and wrote before work, I wrote during lunch, and I wrote while Victor watched countless movies at night. Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with my characters. I fell in love with the idea of being a writer.
I’m not going to lie… I also fell in love with the idea of becoming a bestselling author and living the life of luxury. Logically, I know that’s probably not going to happen. But Diana liked my book. And I liked hers. So, maybe we could actually do this…?
After letting the book rest for a while, I worked on a second draft, using Diana’s constructive criticism. Some of my writing was pretty bad. You could definitely tell where I was just trying to get some words on the page. There were entire sections that were basically unnecessary, and some of the characters were woefully underdeveloped. But I persevered, finished the second draft, and gave it to another friend. She liked it too, and she gave me some really great feedback. I’m currently in the midst of a third draft, after having done a bunch of character work and not a little soul-searching. And I’m going to write a sequel in November (again for NaNoWriMo). Heck, I have ideas for possibly two to five more sequels!
Maybe my friends are telling me they like it because they are my friends. But what if they’re not? What if there is an actual book there? How do I make it better? How do I go about getting it published?
My main problem with writing, now that I’ve convinced myself that I can actually do it, is that I’m lacking a lot of the tools necessary to write well. It’s like trying to build a house with only a hammer and some wood. I need the the rest of the tools in the toolbox. I need some freaking nails! So I applied for a writing program through The Writer’s Garret, a local literary nonprofit. I had to submit an application, an essay, and a writing sample (I chose the first chapter of my novel). Lo and behold, I was accepted.
The program is called the Community and Mentorship Program (CAMP for short). It’s a mix of classes, seminars, peer critique, mentoring (and being mentored), and much of it is self-directed. I’m “paying” for it by working in my spare time for The Writer’s Garret. I’ve just started my first class, an intro to creative writing which I desperately need. I’ve not taken any English or literature classes since high school. While at the time, I thought testing out of English classes in college was a good thing, but now I realize there was a lot I didn’t learn back then. Anyway, I’m hoping that CAMP will help me become a better writer. If anything I write for class is any good (or hilariously bad), I’ll post it here.
And in case I haven’t already talked your ear off in real life about my book, it’s a young adult novel, sort of a coming-of-age tale with a healthy dose of romance mixed in. There’s a plucky Arkansas girl, an Irish boy, a Thanksgiving disaster, some songwriting and concerts, a sassy best friend, the prom, and a Mexican emo kid. The sequel will be the same kind of stuff, only bigger, better, faster, more! I have a lot in store for these kids. I’ll probably post an excerpt every once in a while, so please don’t steal it.
Like I said in my earlier post, I’ll be using this blog partly as a writing journal, so feel free to skip over those parts if you’re not interested. It won’t hurt my feelings. But if you have some constructive feedback on something I’ve written, then please comment!