Na No Wri Mo … National Novel Writing Month

Today, November 1st, is the beginning of new month, but more importantly, the first day of NaNoWriMo, or, to the rest of the world, National Novel Writing Month. Thirty days in which writers from around the world make the commitment to write 50,000 words in a single month. A most impressive commitment.

This is my second year participating. Last year I revised an existing novel, and wrote 15,000 words of two different novels, and a few short stories. Came in at just over 50,000 words.

That’s a lot of writing. But well worth the effort. This year, I have temporarily laid this novel, my second, to rest, to be resurrected later when I have the feedback from an amazing writer and friend who has offered to mentor me. In the meantime, I will learn all I can, and apply what I have gleaned from this last attempt, and hopefully create a much tighter and more polished third novel.

This new novel began as a short story that has since morphed into not one, not two, but three separate books. The first, the second, and a prequel. Now it just remains to be determined if I can accomplish what I hope to.

Just over 3800 words so far. A good start.

To all my writing compatriots attempting NaNoWriMo … may the words flow freely and may the worlds and people you are seeking to create be amenable to your manipulations.NaNo-2017-Participant-Facebook-Cover

My Writing Journey

Three and a half years ago I made a decision that would impact my life in ways I never dreamed possible.

Following shoulder surgery, which was unfortunately unsuccessful, I was forced to reduce my hours at work. As a physiotherapist, more specifically a manual therapist, having healthy and strong upper extremities is a necessity.

With this unexpected windfall of extra time on my hands, I approached my husband with the idea of taking a writing course through our local university.

When he agreed, I found myself signed up for a WRITING FOR CHILDREN course.

Throughout the years, I have knitted, sewn, drawn, painted, thrown pots, and sculpted, the latter being my favourite. But despite being a voracious reader, and lover of words, and writer of stories as a child, not to mention being a frequent composer of eloquent letters to my children’s teachers and coaches, I had never considered writing as a serious occupation.

This class, although a disappointment, stirred something in me. Before I knew it, I was up until the wee hours of the morning, night after night, rushing to get the words that flooded my mind down on paper.

When I wasn’t writing, I was thinking about writing, when I wasn’t thinking about writing, I was dreaming about it. Soon I was completely obsessed.

I wrote my first novel, a middle grade story, which shall remain forever buried deep beneath by desk in a unmarked grave. At first I was ashamed of how bad this story was, but then I realized this was the story I needed to write in order to learn how to write. Through the mistakes I made in this manuscript, I began to hone my craft. Hundreds of short stories and narrative non-fiction pieces, multiple drafts and seven different titles of my manuscript, and millions of words edited later, I now have a complete manuscript that I am proud to call my own.

I’m pretty certain I’m now more obsessed than ever.

As I continue to study, realizing how much I have yet to learn, this obsession will likely continue to expand.

I couldn’t be more excited by the prospect.

A Good Week.

This week has been filled with milestones.

On Monday, after suffering through a major software glitch on Saturday, where my entire document turned into asterisks, (my backups didn’t work for the entire 18.5 hours of copy editing I’d just finished due to the same problem—forcing me to redo all) my manuscript was finally finished.

I sent out my very first full request to my dream agent.

There may have been a glass or two of prosecco consumed in celebration of this monumental event, not to mention a lot of happy dancing.

Feeling very pleased with myself, I woke up on Tuesday morning to this email:

Hi Leslie,

Congratulations! Your story, “A North Wind,” was awarded First Place in the Genre category for the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. You’ve won $1,000 and $100 off a purchase from the Writer’s Digest Shop; more information regarding this will be sent from the competitions department in the next few weeks.

I had to read this email several times before I was willing to believe it was true. More happy dancing ensued. If it hadn’t been 9:00 am, there may also have been more Prosecco involved.

Then, the next morning, I woke up to another email:

Hi Leslie,

Congratulations! Your story, “The Bare Truth,” was awarded Eighth Place in the Magazine Feature Article category for the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. You’ve won $25 and $25 off a purchase from the Writer’s Digest Shop; more information regarding this will be sent from the competitions department in the next few weeks.

Feeling quite overwhelmed by my good fortune and finally some indication that perhaps I was beginning to master this wonderful new passion of mine, I received even more good news over the next few days.

A few months, and many, many revisions ago, I entered a contest sponsored by:
Ink and Insights.

I can highly recommend this annual contest to anyone with a manuscript they are trying to polish.

I had no aspirations to win, instead compelled to enter by the amazing opportunity to receive feedback from four different editors on my first 10,000 pages for the measly sum of $40 US.

In this contest, writers had the opportunity to submit to the Apprentice or Master category, or both, (for an additional $40) Not quite certain where my manuscript sat, I decided to enter both. I decided that receiving feedback from 8 different editors would allow me to search for common issues and resolve those.

This week I received my feedback.

The first to arrive were my scores in the Apprentice category. These seemed pretty decent, although with no reference point I had no way of telling if they were good enough to move on to the finals. In this next round, the top three would win a monetary prize, and in the Master’s category, also move into an agent round.

I still don’t know if they are, but a blog post by one of the editors suggested that any mark over 200 was a stand out. (All my marks were over 200, one even at 242!)

The comments made were incredibly detailed and insightful. When I re-read what I had submitted, I must admit to feeling somewhat embarrassed. Since that time my words have been subjected to numerous rounds of intense edits. Happily, it seems I have addressed most of the concerns mentioned. (Yay me.)

Then a few days later I received my marks for the Master Category, where I was certain I would be slammed. In this category marks are given for things done correctly, as in the Apprentice category, but also taken away for things done incorrectly.

Surprisingly, I did even better in the Master Category. Which only proves to confirm how subjective this business of writing is.

I have no idea where this places my manuscript, but I am so grateful to these wonderful editors who put so much of their time and effort into reading my words. Again, going over their comments, I am so happy to realize that most of their concerns have already been resolved.

All eight editors stated that they really liked my story and characters. Several even indicated I should let them know when my story was published. (Lol. Wouldn’t that be a dream?)

No matter the outcome, this has been a wonderful learning opportunity, and, as an insecure writer, how nice to receive validation.

Now, let’s hope the next bit of happy news I receive will be an agent wanting to represent me.

Happy writing.

2017 SCBWI Summer Conference

For the past few months I’ve been madly editing my manuscript, writing short stories when I become stuck, working on my query letter and synopsis, and writing CNF essays when I get stuck again. Not much time for my fledgling website.

But today, I decided it was time to post a little something about what has been happening in my writerly-world.

In July I had the opportunity to attend a SCBWI conference in LA with my wonderful friend and critique partner, Bonnie Jacoby. What an amazing experience to be surrounded by over a thousand fellow writers who all shared a common passion for writing for children. Truly inspirational. I met so many gifted and passionate writers, it was a tad overwhelming. I wanted to buy ALL the books but managed to limit myself to four, three of them signed by the authors. (I have since ordered more.)

Meeting two editors from two well known publishing houses, and agents from several different agencies were some of the highlights for me. What surprised me the most was how kind and approachable these women were. I think as writers, we sometimes imagine agents and editors as stern faced, unapproachable individuals who exists only to reject our work. Not so. They were lovely and encouraging, and incredibly supportive.

We headed home exhausted but so encouraged, and determined to begin the querying process.