Writing books is the easy part. Selling books is more difficult.
I'm learning a lot about marketing and selling books, but it can get really overwhelming. I need to always have a creative outlet, and lately that's been plays.
Normally, I write plays for middle school aged kids. They're fun, silly, and weird, and I really enjoy writing them. I usually write them for my students, so I have an idea of who will be playing what part* and when the performance will take place.
*Confession: I've written parts for certain students before. They can be such a great source of inspiration.
This time, I am writing something different. A play for adults. Nothing quirky or fantastical. It's all based in reality - which is a definite departure from the norm. It's still funny, maybe a little dark (like most of my writing), and completely different from anything else I've written.
I have no plan for it. I'm not sure what will come of it (if anything), but I really like it. It's been a nice distraction from marketing headaches. I find writing plays so relaxing, and I'm looking forward to the next steps. Hopefully, I'll see it on stage some day.
I have one other project that I'm currently working on - in addition to the numerous other projects on pause right now. My daughter is always asking if she can read my books. Considering the content of my books, the answer has always been "not until you're older."
One day I was clearing out my bookshelves, and I found an old proof copy of a YA book I wrote. It was actually the second book I ever wrote. I liked it, but I took a break from writing for a little while and kind of forgot about it. I switched publishers and didn't think about it again until my girl wanted to read my writing.
It needed some work. My writing has definitely improved in the last eight(?!) years, and I wanted to give my girl my best work. So, the project I am mostly focused on right now is to revise, re-format, and re-publish my second book. I talked to my cover guy, and he is working on a gorgeous new cover for it. Really hoping to have it ready for her birthday.
It's November and that means it's time for NaNoWriMo!
That's National Novel Writing Month, in case you were wondering. Writers spend the entire month working toward the goal of completing a 50,000 word novel. It's not an easy task. There is no time to think. No time to rewrite. You just write and write and write some more. Editing comes later.
I love it. I love the challenge. I love that there is no time for second-guessing. It's like the free writing exercises we used to do in high school. Stream of consciousness.
Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.
I have officially "won" NaNoWriMo only once. It was the first time I tried it. I think it was 2011. It was a novel called "Fat Ass" - terrible title, I know.
At the time, I was working on losing weight and training for a marathon. I was dealing with a lot of past issues, mainly to do with eating disorders. I wanted to write about it. Writing is how I deal with most of my problems, though sometimes they come out as something completely different. (I love it when that happens.)
I started a few days late because I didn't know about it until the first week of November. A friend mentioned it, and after a quick Google search, I was in. I worked really hard on it. I wrote until my hands cramped. It was not a good novel, but I finished it.
Then it was time to revise, and I couldn't bring myself to look at it. I had been so obsessed with writing it that I focused on little else for the entire month. I was sick of the story and put it away.
Fast forward about six months (I'm guessing here). I applied for a grant through the Flynn Center for the Arts to create an original musical (or the beginnings of one). I got the grant and was granted use of space at the Flynn to work with actors and musicians to create a script. I gathered some old friends and some soon to be friends, and we started working. SuperGym was born.
It was based on the idea from Fat Ass, but I completely started over and reworked the plot. I changed the characters and the setting. Only a glimmer of that first terrible novel remained. The creation process was one of the best things I have done. We ended up with a mixture of scenes, songs, and videos. It was funny and sarcastic and one of the few pieces of work I have created that I was truly, deeply proud of. We had a work-in-progress showing and Q&A for a small audience, and it was pretty well received. It was the first time my words made an audience laugh, and it was thrilling.
Unfortunately, work on SuperGym got derailed by life. I tried to go back to it a few times, but it never went anywhere. It happens.
I wrote a lot of other stuff. Plays, books, blogs. I improved my writing skills. (Working on this all the time) Still, the SuperGym idea stayed with me. It was always in the back of my mind. Random thoughts would arise, and I would jot them down and promptly lose them. But, it didn't matter. Somewhere in my brain, the pieces were coming together. I started to consider turning it into a novel (again).
I was resistant to the idea at first. The script was huge and had taken a lot of effort. The idea of trying to move the dialogue into a novel format was daunting. I realized that I needed to start over. One day I knew that I had to just start writing (NaNoWriMo style), and I sat down and wrote for six hours.
The plot changed. Some of the characters changed. Some remained but were fleshed out a little more. It became a real story. I was engaged in that world again. I struggled in places, but I just kept writing until I once again knew where the story was going. The day I came up with the ending, I could have jumped for joy. Endings are my biggest struggle, and I tend to leave them - well, until the end. This time I had an idea of where the story was going, and it shaped the novel.
I was pleased when the first draft was finished and dove immediately into revisions. It was daunting. The beginning had to be reworked to fit the ending, and let's face it, revisions are tedious. I got through it and put the manuscript away. I didn't look at it again for quite some time.
I wrote more plays and books and stories and blogs. I felt better about it this time. I was taking a break, not abandoning my baby. I went back to it with fresh eyes and a few new ideas. And, I revised and revised and revised some more.
I recently finished it. Do I feel that it's perfect? No. Not at all. But, nothing ever is. I think it's ready to be shared with others. That's what matters. Not everyone will love it or even like it, but I do. I think there are people out there who will also enjoy it. I'm in the process of creating a book cover and making plans for the launch (tentatively February 2017).
And, it all started with NaNoWriMo.
As I jump back into this frenzied month of writing, I thought it was appropriate to reminisce a little about the last time I completed this challenge. It's taken a long time, but it was worth it. I can't wait to see what this year's NaNoWriMo will bring.
I've written four books. With the first two I was in a hurry to get them out into the world and self-published immediately. Of course, once they were out there for all to see, I started finding things in them that I wanted to change. The more I learned about writing, the more I wished I had not put them out there so soon. I pulled them from the internet and set them aside to revise later.
With each book I feel that my writing has improved. There is always room for more improvement, but I am starting to see my writing style develop. The book I'm working on now (#5) is probably the most honest writing I have done yet, and I am very excited about it. Still, I won't be publishing it any time soon. It still needs a lot of work.
The other day I stumbled onto Book 4. It had been my favorite before I started the new book, and I almost jumped into self-publishing it as soon as I had finished. I didn't do it, though. I waited. I approached a few literary agents and tried to do the standard publishing thing, but I didn't push it. Something told me to wait. I started other projects and forgot about it.
I was nervous to read it again. I remembered being proud of my work, and I didn't want to read it now and feel disappointed. I'm my own worst critic and rarely feel good about my work, so I knew it might not go well. I started reading it, and I was pleasantly surprised. It needs a little tweaking here and there, but I still like it. I've added it to my project list, and other than the new book, it has become my focus right now. The revising is minimal, and my writing style is definitely present. I'm excited.
The plan right now is to finish revising it and approach a few small publishers. If that doesn't pan out, I will self-publish this one and market it myself. It's the first book that I have had a specific marketing strategy for, and I feel good enough about it to put in the effort needed to get it out into the world.
Em is a writer, theatre director, and hiker. She likes mixing horror with magical realism and adding sci-fi twist.