I have always loved the written word—both to read and to actually be the one doing the writing. I kept a journal when I was young and I always had other notebooks with scribbles of poems, story ideas, dialogues, etc. Then I started writing full stories and I printed them out for my sole benefit when I got a bit older. For those stories I thought were good, I gave them away as gifts to friends and family. Not only was it a personal and creative gift, it was a cost effective one too!
I had always dreamt of becoming a published author, but I never had to the nerve to submit anything for publication. In 2010, I, along with some of my High School friends, embarked on a writing project which ended up in a self-published book (Life in the Middle, A Discovery). We were so excited! We gave some away and even sold some. But the book never took off, because we never marketed it and ourselves as authors effectively.
Fast forward to November 2014 and I stumbled on an event—National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo. Apparently it is a global movement. The target is to write a novel with at least 50,000 words in one month. There is a whole support organization, events, badges, prizes and what have you. What did I have to lose, right? So I joined. And I discovered a whole new community. It was almost surreal. Everyone was doing what I loved and everyone was supporting each other! I completed a novel during that time, Turning Points, and I felt very good.
2015 rolled in and I had a 60,000-word manuscript and I didn’t have the drive to move forward with it. In fact, I didn’t really know what came next. I knew I had to have it beta read, and I did send it off to some people – but the comments I received were not so encouraging. So, I flaked. I got sidetracked. I saw another writing opportunity—article writing for an online news site—and I got through the test and interview. I was “drunk” on seeing my byline online that I didn’t really think about what I was doing—which was spending almost three hours per day pitching, researching, drafting, and rewriting articles based on already existing showbiz and gaming news online—for almost nothing. If I completed my four articles per day quota consistently, I could make around PHP10,000 a month, which I invested online on stocks. Not bad, but not good as well. I wasn’t really writing what I wanted to write and I felt like a hack. Plus three hours out of my day is three hours I spent early morning or late at night typing, away from my family.
Then, I had to make a major career decision (on my day job)—continue being a contractor/consultant or get absorbed as a full-time employee. After months of analyzing, I went for it. So I was a full time employee again after four years of subcontracting. I started travelling frequently. I decided to quit my article writing.
Then I saw a post that literally changed my life.
An online writing workshop–#JustWritePH—offered by the PinoyWrimos, the community formed for NaNoWriMo. The workshop, which ran from July 1 to August 8, 2015, challenged participants to write a story and prepare it for publication in a little under 6 weeks. Tips and lessons were delivered online & in person. The reward? Guaranteed distribution on Buqo, plus marketing opportunities like a bundle launch (held at Bo’s Coffee Megamall on August 22), a Facebook party, and a blog tour.
I was hooked. I was told I could start with an existing story that needed to be re-written, so I took out Turning Points, which languished in revision mode, and made it my project. I learned a lot from the online and class sessions—beta reading, editing, author/book marketing, etc. I attended some of the face to face sessions and got to meet co-authors for the first time.
I had my novel beta read after a major rewrite, then, I had it professionally edited. I had a cover made. I set up my Author page and Twitter handle. I cleaned up my website. I did everything I could to follow the recommendations of the class.
I was determined to do it, and I did! I finished the novel at 85,000 words and released it online through Buqo, as part of the #JustWritePH For Redemption bundle, and the rest, as they say, is history.