So I’m strolling through the NewsFeed one day…
Back in May, between the cute kitten videos, endless memes, and ‘Who/What Kind of ____ Are You?’ quizzes, I see an announcement on FaceBook that changed my life. There, pretty-in-pink logo attached, is an Avon Books (aka the Romance world’s Mount Olympus) post about the Avon FanLit 2015 Contest.
Oh. . .and lookee there! They are having an #AskAvonBks chat on Twitter to get more information directly from the Avon Editors - the folks that would be running the show, and providing feedback during the contest that would eventually result in a novella titled A DUKE TO REMEMBER.
Having, just a few months back, taken my first *real* steps to test my writing chops with NaNoWriMo, I wasn’t sure if I was ready for my newbie efforts to ‘go live’. After staring at the post long enough for my husband to ask me how long my face was going stay scrunched that way (yes, he’s still breathing), I decided that I needed to tune in to the Twitter chat ( imagine me wincing here; complete Twitter newbie – it wasn’t pretty) to see what this thing was all about.
Little did I know at the time that I was embarking on the most torturous, frustrating, and completely exhilarating ten weeks of my life, or that I would never *ever* be the same person once the contest had reached its end.
For those that aren’t aware, the basic premise of the FanLit contest was this: Contestant authors would be provided with a story-line basis and a number of “prompts” which they were required to work into their Chapter One submission. Additional prompts would be provided for Chapters 2-5 based upon the chosen winner’s submission for the proceeding chapter.
Because of this, I hold Chapter One winner, Anne-Marie Rivers, personally responsible for the crazed woman that took over my household for the duration of the contest . . . and ultimately the insanity that resulted in my Chapter Five submission. The blame is entirely at her feet, and if she were within reach I probably would still be on the floor kissing them.
Anne-Marie’s Chapter One laid the groundwork for everyone. For me it created an obsession for her secondary characters, Birdie and Wakefield, that I was not able to shake, and which consequently fueled a back-story that my imagination simply could not ignore. This fascination, (admittedly laid bare in my Chapter Two submission and eventually re-purposed for my novella, The Earl Can’t Help It), was set on low simmer from that point forward, when successive winning chapters required all of us to continually change tracks and write in entirely different directions.
Many weeks, four winning chapters, and hot air balloon rides later, this last and final set of prompts was unleashed upon us all:
“It’s five minutes to midnight…five minutes until the announcement that will change Felicity’s life forever…more than enough time for a happy ending. But what will that ending be?
Here are your ingredients for the HEA:
One grand gesture
A dash of desire
A hint of suspense
A mention of a corgi or two to taste (optional)
Mix together and add in true love’s kiss
Before this chapter is over we will find out what really happened while Maxwell was away. And Felicity will finally take a stand.
Endings are really important in romance novels so be prepared to dazzle us!”
Our esteemed Avon Editors were obviously trying to kill me.
I will admit, by the time the start of Chapter Five rolled around, I was certain my brain had reached the crispy-critter level of fried. If I had a functioning brain cell left it was hiding in a dark corner somewhere whimpering incoherently...and calling me names I cannot include in this post.
I read, and re-read each previously winning chapter, saw four very different and entirely engaging styles of writing. I just knew in my heart there was no way I was anywhere near being in *that* league of writers.
Why was I doing this to myself?
For almost a week, (the amount of time it had taken me to post each my first four initial submissions) all I did was stare at a blank Word document.
Completely frustrated with my lack of ideas, I re-read through all of the advice from our Avon FanLit mentors: Tessa Dare, Lorraine Heath, Julia Quinn, Beverly Jenkins, and Cathy Maxwell. I kept coming back to one pearl of wisdom from the brilliant, and unfailingly kind, Beverly Jenkins, who encouraged us with her rallying command that we all “write fearless”!
Suddenly, I realized it wasn’t a void of ideas that was holding me back.
It was *the idea* that my voice was just too different. That I just wasn’t meant to be included within this group of writers I’d come to know through Avon Fanlit. Because, Chapter winners or not, their collective talent amazed (and intimidated) me repeatedly throughout every single stage of this process.
Who did I think I was, anyway? Who was I trying to kid? These people were just too good, and weren't they all so nice to be putting up with me and encouraging my mediocre efforts --cuz they all just *ROCKED* that way--and still do!
Anyway. . .Tapper, I said, (because I talk to myself and at this point no sane person wanted to be a party to the conversations going on in my head) maybe you just suck at this writing stuff. . .and if that's the case, what do you really have to lose? Heck, you’ve done this four times already; it’s not like folks are just finding out that you suck. At this stage, whatever you end up writing isn’t going to surprise the needle on the Suck-o-Meter all that much. Just write and have fun...because good or not, this was the END of the contest, of this experience, You're going to fall over kicking your own pantser-butt if you don't take a chance, and make this ending everything you imagined it could be. . .
So, yeah, maybe writing fearless got all kinds of easy after that. :)
Oh yeah. . .and after I won Chapter Five I realized something else.
Sometimes writing “The End” is only the beginning.
Get your copy of A DUKE TO REMEMBER, an Avon Impulse novella.
Please read about the other winners Behind the Scenes experience below:
Anne-Marie Rivers: Behind the Scenes, Chapter One - Blog Post
Eve Marie Perry: Behind the Scenes, Chapter 2 - Blog Post
Liana De la Rosa: Behind the Scenes , Chapter Three - Blog Post
Susannah Erwin: Behind the Scenes, Chapter Four - Blog Post