Last October, a friend over in the Philipines convinced me to do NaNoWriMo with him. NaNoWriMo is ‘National Novel Writing Month’ and is a crazy venture where writers from all over the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel from start to finish in one month – the month of November. Even though it was only a week before the frenzy began, I actually came up with an idea for a book. The original idea was really more of a series of short stories somewhat loosely centered around a group of mercenaries. My working title was ‘Billy’s Revenge’ and took its name from the inn out of which my merry band of men and women worked.
As the tale progressed, I began to fall in love with one of the characters, and the story began to be more about him and his life. That is how Sir Julian Lackland came into being. I actually began with the last chapter, which was a short story called ‘The Last Good Knight’. The premise was this: How does a hero retire gracefully from the business of saving people when old age has caught up with him?
A wandering old knight is still rousting himself out on a daily basis to help folks that may need him, dragging his poor, sorry horse out into the cold and damp despite the fact that the horse would prefer to remain in a nice warm stable. The knight finds himself in a town that he has not been in for many years. Nothing is the same, and the contrast between the way the town is now and the way it was then is sharp in his memories. Once I had the final chapter written, I was able to piece together a series of vignettes of Julian’s life leading up to that moment.
I had my 65,000 word novel written by the 21st of November, because once I began the project, I could not get it out of my mind. It consumed my every waking moment! After Thanksgiving was over, I went back to the beginning, and rewrote the story, adding about 30,000 more words and fleshing out Julian a little more. Every time I went back to it, I fell in love with it again, and found new characters that amazed me and piqued my interest. In January, I heard that there would be a contest for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards and on the spur of the moment I decided to enter ‘Billy’s Revenge’ as I called it back then.
In January of 2011 I didn’t have a clue as to what I was getting myself into. I scrupulously read the entry requirements and assembled my package. One of the requirements was to write a sales pitch – a 300 word ‘commercial’ to get the judges interested in your book. I sweated bullets trying to describe my book in 300 words, and when it came to the actual competition I was chucked out of it in the first round. My pitch had sucked! I was incredibly relieved that the waiting was over, and that I could move on with my life. I had not realized just how much having your book hanging about in limbo affected the creative process negatively.
Despite the fact that I was a flop in the contest, I had made many friends among the other authors whose works had been entered into that contest. Before entering ANBA and NaNoWriMo I had been going it alone, unable to see where I had gone wrong. Once I made those professional connections through the conversation threads at ANBA I discovered that the world is full of people like me; people with a good story and no way of getting it noticed because we don’t understand the business of publishing.
The publishing world is hard to break into, because there are only a few big publishing companies, and with the advent of the computer and word-processing, there is an explosion of people who wish to be published. The big companies are swamped, and many people are like me, submitting their work to editor after editor, and agent after agent, trying to be noticed and simply not standing out well enough to get that big break.
Enter the world of e-pub – the place where indy authors with no street creds to speak of can build a resume and most importantly get their work noticed! In the world of e-pubbing, you can at least get your book out to where it is available to your target market. The problem is, you are going it alone, and unless you have a knack for marketing, you are still not likely to make a dent in the publishing world.
Through the contacts I made at ANBA I was fortunate enough to fall in with a crazy group of indy writers who banded together and formed a publishing company called Myrddin Publishing Group. This group of authors combine their talents to do all the day-to-day things that a big company does for its authors, doing everything from editing to creating book covers. Each member of the group has a strength to bring to the table, and with everyone contributing what they can in the way of talent, this little company is making some big waves.
My little NaNo novel from last November has been given a new cover, a new pitch and has been edited and re-edited. It is now being published as a perfect-bind softcover book and will be available in brick and mortar stores. The new cover is more beautiful than I ever expected, and the revised manuscript is beyond my expectations. ‘Billy’s Revenge’ has truly come full circle as ‘The Last Good Knight’ and I am as proud of this as I could ever be. Many people had a hand in it, just as I am having a hand in getting their work published.
And all because a friend in the Philipines challenged me to write 50,000 words in a month.