Are you embracing the insanity of NaNoWriMo this month? In keeping with the spirit of NaNo, I’m excited to welcome debut author and NaNo veteran T.J. Kline. After T.J. crossed the finish line in NaNo 2012, she submitted her manuscript to Avon Impulse. Today, she shares her inspiring story with us, and her editor, Tessa Woodward, explains why T.J.’s story made the cut.
Welcome to RU, T.J. and Tessa!
Whether you find them inspirational or insane, thousands of NaNoWriMo participants take pen to paper every November in an attempt to reach the elusive “50,000 words in 30 days” goal.
I was no different than other first-time NaNoWriMo participants. I saw that goal as overwhelming. I’d written for years without publication, more than I cared to count, but I’d never had any discipline or regularity in my writing habits. I fit writing in among the many tasks vying for my attention each day – kids, my business, grocery shopping, wasted time online – and writing always seemed to never reach the top of my priority list. But, as I stared at the NaNoWriMo website, I decided this year was going to be different. With a click of a mouse, I joined the mass hysteria called NaNoWriMo and committed to putting my writing first for the next 30 days.
The next morning, I sat, staring at a skeletal outline I’d created for a story about a rodeo queen that had been rolling around in my head for years. Beginnings tend to be easy for me, filled with promise and hope, so the first 300 or so words poured forth without trouble. Then my computer notified me that a friend needed to chat. Not one to turn a friend away and, assuring myself I could pick up where I left off, I clicked over. One distraction led to another and the day passed with little more written.
By the end of the week, I had barely written anything, a mere 1500 words. The second week didn’t go much better than the first and I came to the middle of the month with only 4000 words written, feeling like a NaNo failure, certain that I was the only quitter. Shame filled me. I stared at my word count, poured myself a glass of wine and prepared to mourn the end of my story. And then I did something I hadn’t up to that point, I went back and read what I’d written.
I felt the flutter of butterflies in my stomach. I wrote this? I realized I had turned off my inner critic and simply let the story flow. I was swept away by the characters and plot. When I finished reading it, I found I didn’t want to give up. It no longer mattered if I hit that 50,000 word goal. I just wanted to see how the story was going to turn out, even if I didn’t finish it by November 30th.
However, being the competitive person I am, I was going to try to get as close as possible to being a NaNo Winner. That left me with two weeks and about 45,000 words to write. It was going to take some drastic measures to make it happen. Writing needed to become my #1 priority every single day. I sat down with my family to make sure they were ready for the sacrifices total devotion to my writing would necessitate. With their blessing, and copious amounts of caffeine on hand I gave in and let the story of Sydney and Scott pour forth – 46,000 words in two weeks.
By November 30th, I was exhausted, my mind completely spent. Rodeo Queen was written so quickly I didn’t have time to second guess my thoughts, my inner critic or that voice whispering that it was no good. I pressed on every day ignoring doubts, distractions and demands. And, the best surprise, was that the world kept spinning. My family pitched in and helped with the menial tasks I’d given too much attention. Priorities fell into place.
At 11:20 p.m. on November 30th, I typed the last two words – THE END – taking me to 50,088 words. I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the end for Sydney and Scott. A few days later, as I made my way through the winner’s prizes, a note from Avon caught my eye. You could submit your story and skip the slush pile.
Hmm…no, it was too raw. I needed time to edit more, clean it up, make it better, perfect it. However, that message stared me in the face daily. I gave in and found a trusted person to critique my novel and help me smooth any rough spots. After a marathon ten days of editing, with my heart in my throat, I clicked the submit button.
I honestly didn’t hold out much hope that it would be published. Not because it wasn’t good but because I know how competitive writing can be, and I didn’t feel like I’d spent enough time making the manuscript look perfect. One thought continued to resonate in my mind – does anyone even want to read about a rodeo queen and the cowboy who steals her heart? More than three months passed before I got the answer to my question. I noticed an email from Tessa Woodward, one of the editors at Avon Impulse. They wanted to make me an offer on my rodeo story.
Looking back, I think there were two things that led to Rodeo Queen being a NaNoWriMo success story:
1) I cared more about the story than perfection.
Because I was putting words to paper so quickly, I didn’t have time to edit as I went along. I assumed I would go back and edit it to perfection. With Rodeo Queen, I was forced, due to time constraints, to choose between perfect grammar and punctuation or telling the best story I could. I have come to realize it’s better to tell a great story with memorable characters, an interesting plot and fresh ideas than trying to be a copyeditor with a cliché story.
2) I wrote with abandon.
I didn’t stop and plan out every detail of the story so it unfolded naturally. When a plot detail left me stuck, my mind was already planning twists to get the characters out of the predicament. Because I wrote so quickly, there was never a time when I wasn’t thinking about my characters or how they would react, even if I wasn’t at the computer. The story was constantly playing out in my head throughout the day so I only needed to get it out. Pour your heart and soul into everything you write. If you aren’t wrung dry by the end of it, there’s not enough emotional connection to impact your readers.
Tessa Woodward, T.J.’s editor at Avon, tells us what drew her to the story.
Honestly, I knew that Tina’s story was for me the minute I read the words “Rodeo Queen.” I could see the cover in my head! And, as a city girl, I’m completely fascinated by the world of cowboys and rodeos. (I still have a little trouble believe it all exists!) On our submission form, we have a spot for “best scene” and I really liked the part that Tina picked. You can tell a lot about a writer by what they think of as their best scenes. This one had the right amount of hero/heroine tension and got across the heroine’s personality. I knew, then and there, that I had to read the rest. The perfect hook, the author’s personal connection to the material, and the great writing sample, was what it took to get me to download the complete manuscript.
Want to read more about Tessa’s acquisition of T.J.’s manuscript? Click on this link
Are you participating in Nanowrimo this year? Have you submitted your Nano manuscript for publication? Share your Nano secrets and success stories!
Kate Cuthbert, Managing Editor of Escape Publishing (a subsidiary of Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd) joins us on Friday, November 15th.
Sydney Thomas may be the newest Rodeo Queen on the circuit, but she’s more than just a pretty face and fabulous horseback rider. If only her new boss could see it! But the frustrating, bossy, drop-dead gorgeous man seems bent on pushing her away every chance he gets.
Scott Chandler learned at an early age that he needed to “cowboy up” and take care of his family. The one time he let his guard down, his heart got trampled, and he’s not about to let that happen again. He knows Sydney’s type: rodeo queens who hide their manipulative ways behind good looks, tight jeans, and glittery tiaras.
But just as Scott and Sydney are finally realizing there might be more to their fiery relationship than scorching kisses and passionate nights, secrets from their pasts come back to haunt them. Will the cowboy and the Rodeo Queen ever be able to ride off into the sunset together?
Bio: T. J. Kline was raised competing in rodeos and Rodeo Queen Competitions since the age of 14 and has thorough knowledge of the sport as well as the culture involved. She has written several articles about rodeo for small periodicals, as well as a more recent how-to article for RevWriter, and has published a nonfiction health book and two inspirational fiction titles under the name Tina Klinesmith. She is also an avid reader and book reviewer for both Tyndale and Multnomah. In her spare time, she can be found laughing hysterically with her husband, children, and their menagerie of pets in Northern California.