Goodbye 2016, Hello 2017

To everyone who is following my blog and my journey to become a fiction writer, thank you for coming along for the ride. It’s about to get exciting, so I hope you strap on your seatbelts and stay tuned. I’m starting  a new annual tradition to write a year in review for 2016 and give you all a preview of what is yet to come in 2017.

For many reasons, I am glad to put the year 2016 behind me and to keep stress at a minimum, I’m going to focus on the positive. It’s hard to imagine that I started writing seriously on my fiction in the fall of 2015 and to see how far I’ve come. I’m going to start with December 2016 and work my way backwards to review my progress thus far.

December

This month, I’ve wanted so much to write a blog post about my experience writing for Nanowrimo this year. Every time I sat down to do so, I couldn’t. The experience was difficult…and i’ve been somewhat traumatized…but it was also profound in ways that I am not yet able to describe.

Instead, I spent every free minute editing the first draft of the Nuclear Conspiracy. The first weekend in December, I took the dogs out to a cabin in New Germany State Park (Maryland). I was completely cut off from the Internet, cellphone and TV. I went up there with my hardcopy manuscript with the intention to read it for the first time and begin the arduous editing process.

What happened is far less romantic that the notion of spending the weekend in a cabin in the woods…I had a meltdown. I began reading my manuscript and hated it. I know that I’m not the only writer to feel this way. But seriously, the story needed so much work…and I didn’t know if I had it in me to fix it. 115,000 words of it.

When I returned home to Washington, D.C., I realized what I had done wrong. I had forgotten to put on my editor’s hat. I was not able to stand back from the hard work, the sacrifice of producing a first draft and look at it analytically. My emotions overwhelmed me and perhaps because I was stuck out in the woods and couldn’t express them to someone, I didn’t understand what was wrong (Myers Briggs INFJ).

During the first full week of December, I began to hack at the manuscript mercilessly as if I wasn’t the author. I deleted whole scenes. I added new ones. I rewrote scenes. I completely changed the story of my protagonist.

By the end of December (maybe January 2), I will have completed my first edit and will send my manuscript to several beta readers for their thoughts.

A few days ago, I decided to design covers for the full trilogy (more on this later in the preview). I also converted my blog to a website in preparation for becoming a published author in 2017. I hope you like the new look.

November

So, I did Nanowrimo in November. For those of you who don’t know what that is…it’s a challenge to write 50,000 words in 30 days undertaken by 300,000+ authors. To be clear, I learned about Nanowrimo for the first time in September. Then I decided NOT to do it…how could I possibly write that many words in my free time. By middle of October, I decided what the heck…I had started on The Bionic Bug (originally intended to be crowdsourced) and decided to write 50,000 words on that book during the month of November.

I made it to 50,000 words!! And then, I stopped writing. I haven’t been able to write anything “new” ever since. Some of you may be wondering…whatever happened to Lara Kingsley and The Bionic Bug? Don’t worry, she’ll be back. I’ll finish the novel and post the scenes…but you’ll have to wait until early 2017

Nanowrimo was a beast. Especially when you don’t do any research or planning for the book in advance. Seriously, I wrote from the seat of my pants and researched while I wrote and kept up with about 1,600 words a day. It was insane and it tested my ability to create on the fly. Still, it was exhausting, and I haven’t fully recovered from the pressure of getting those words down.

If there is one major lesson I learned doing Nanowrimo, it was that it is possible to write every day. I’m still riding the waves of the discipline I learned in November (even if a bit traumatized). I’ll be doing Nanowrimo again next year, but I expect there will be some planning and research done beforehand…to avoid some of the pressure.

October

In October, I shot my first short film (a trailer). Yes, you read that correctly…and no, I’ve never done anything like this before. With the help of my very good friend from Michigan (who was in town to visit me), we drove around D.C. with the sun roof open and filmed footage with my iPhone of different sites around town. Then, I used Filmora software to edit clips and add some special effects to create a trailer for my first book. I still need to write a script and record my voice reading the text…but if you’re interested to see what I was able to do, check it out.

September

In September, I embarked on an experiment that soon turned into me writing a second novel entitled The Bionic Bug. Doh! I had this idea about crowdsourcing fiction. Wouldn’t it be fun to have readers help develop the plot? Turns out, it was fun. And I’d like to do it again sometime. In the meantime, I’ll finish Lara Kingsley’s mystery adventure to discover who killed Phil Sullivan in early 2017.

August

In this month, I began listening to different podcasts about self-publishing and fiction writing. Now, I consider myself a podcast junkie and listen about 12 hours a week. I’ve learned so much and they have shaped my life in important ways. My favorites are:

  • The Creative Penn – Joanna Penn is amazing. If you are at all interested in self-publishing or like a soothing British accent in your ear, you need to start listening to her. She just recorded her 301st episode.
  • The Story Grid – Tim Grahl and Shawn Coyne talk about fiction writing and editing. Shawn has 25+ years of editing experience. Tim is known for non-fiction and launching authors, but is trying his hand at fiction for the first time. It’s been an amazing journey, walking beside him. I’ve struggled with many of the same issues.
  • The Self-Publishing Podcast – Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David Smith talk about writing fiction, self-publishing, author entrepreneurship. It took me a while to get used to them, but once I did, I became hooked. If you can get past the language and fooling around, they offer nuggets of brilliance every episode.

I discovered the concept of content marketing and began thinking about how to offer my readers and followers valuable content. I’ve started developing two series: Technical Series on WMD Issues and Film and WMD Series. Admittedly, I’ve fallen behind in production. My apologies, I’ll get to it in 2017.

Oh, and I also finished the first draft of Nuclear Conspiracy. Woohoo!

July

In July, I embarked on my bucket list trip to South Africa. It was epic. I’ve uploaded all of my pictures to Flickr if you’re interested.

Oh, and I also did a misguided edit of my first novel before it was finished. That caused me a lot of problems. Write first, edit later.

April-June

In April, I launched my Nuclear Spin Cycle blog and announced to the world that I’m a fiction writer. It was a really big deal for me because I was wrestling with whether or not to write fiction under a pen name. For me, it didn’t feel right…even if I have a notoriously difficult last name to say. Don’t pronounce it. Just call me Natasha B.

January-March

I wrote the first scenes of my novel, developed new characters and brought the story in my head to life. And I also started using Scrivener (if you don’t, buy it now. You won’t regret it). This time already feels like decades ago.

What’s coming in 2017?

Well, if you’ve read this far, you’re a true friend. Next year is going to be very exciting for me, and I would love to have you join in on the fun.

  • January – I will announce a giveaway that includes a brand new Kindle, paperback copy and ebook copy of my first book and other goodies.
  • February – I will launch a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to raise money for professional editing services for Nuclear Conspiracy. I am also attending a two-day Story Grid workshop with Shawn Coyne and Tim Grahl in NYC.
  • March – I will finish The Bionic Bug. Stay tuned for new scenes starting in January.
  • April – I am attending a two-day writers conference called The Smarter Artist hosted by Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant and David Wright in Austin, Texas.
  • May-July – I will write the sequel to Nuclear Conspiracy. It already has a title (The Pulse) and a cover (see above).
  • July – I am attending a one-day workshop at the FBI in NYC for writers.
  • July-August – I will publish Nuclear Conspiracy and have a book launch.
  • October-December – I will write the conclusion to Nuclear Conspiracy. It already has a title (Fallout) and a cover (see above). I will write part of this book for Nanowrimo.
  • Anything else I manage to do is a bonus! Whew!

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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