What NaNoWriMo Gave Me as an Author—and a Person

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The road from plotless to polished to published can be long and filled with potholes (and plot holes). But, as NaNo participants continue to prove, it can be traversed. Today, author Christa Avampato shares her story of how she turned an outline into a published book:

In the five years after I
survived an apartment building fire on the Upper West Side of
Manhattan, I sketched the outline of my novel, Emerson Page and Where the Light EntersThat fire was a turning point for me, as a person and as a
writer. It also plays a prominent role in Emerson’s story.

On November 1, 2014,
I set a goal to transform my outline into a 50,000-word first draft
in thirty days as part of NaNoWriMo. It seemed impossible, but I was
constantly encouraged by the supports that NaNoWriMo offers:
webinars, blog posts by authors I admired, writing prompts, social
messages, and special offers for books and tools.

My first draft was
terrible, but I’ve never been prouder of something so awful.

Over the next two
years, I completed a dozen more drafts of Emerson’s story. New
characters, plot lines, and settings emerged. Save for Emerson, the
story was almost unrecognizable two years later. I got
feedback from several close and brutally honest friends. I agonized
over every word. It is the toughest job I ever loved.

“If you are willing to do the hard work of recognizing your wounds, if you write your truth through programs like NaNoWriMo, even if your voice shakes and sputters […] there is so much light that awaits you. ”

Still, Emerson
continued her incessant tap, tap, tapping on my shoulder because it
was time to get her story published. I queried agents, and received
fourteen rejections—and those were just the ones who bothered to respond
at all! One of them, my dream agent, responded with the loveliest
rejection. Twelve were form letters. One particularly prickly agent
responded in less than five minutes with a one word email: No

I’m
not kidding. That actually happened.

I finally found a happy medium when I
began to explore independent publishers. Six months after querying my
first independent publisher, one of them accepted the book. 

When
you launch a book, you launch a brand and a business. I completed
several full edits in 2017 with the assistance of two editors. Then I
hired the artists and art directed the cover art myself. With my MBA
and business experience, I put together a marketing plan, and began
to work that plan every day.

On November 1, 2017,
I became a published author. Emerson left the safety of my care and
ventured out into the world wrapped in paperback and eBook formats on
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in independent bookstores across the
globe. It’s no coincidence that Emerson’s birthday was exactly
three years after I started writing the draft of her story during
NaNoWriMo 2014. 

And on her birthday, I began writing the draft of her
second book as part of NaNoWriMo 2017. That supportive tribe of
fearless writers with impossible goals was there for me again, just
as they were in 2014.

Emerson
and I stand before you as an unfailing reminder that if you are
willing to do the hard work of recognizing your wounds, if you write
your truth through programs like NaNoWriMo, even if your voice shakes
and sputters, if you will honor the cracks in you rather than trying
to spackle them shut, there is so much light that awaits you. 

That’s the greatest lesson that NaNoWriMo and Emerson taught me: that
light will flood your mind, heart, and hands in a way that you never
imagined possible. That light, however small, lives in you now. Your
only job is to fan it into a flame that the whole world can see
through the masterpiece that is your life and your writing. You
matter. Your story matters. It matters so damn much. 

I can’t wait to read
your book.


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Christa
Avampato is
an author, journalist, and business leader in New York City. She
began her career managing Broadway shows, and now works with
performing arts organizations and museums to help them use technology
to grow their audiences. She’s been
an invited speaker on the power of the imagination at
SXSW and Games
for Change.
Her writing has been featured in
The
Washington Post,
Royal Media Partners magazines, PBS.org, HuffPostMegyn
Kelly TODAY, and Cheddar. Dedicated
to helping young people find their own voices, she’s worked
with 826national.org, Sesame Workshop, New York Public
Library, University of Pennsylvania (her alma mater), and Cornell
Tech. Christa
earned her MBA at the Darden School at the University of Virginia.
Find her on 
Twitter
@christanyc
Instagram
@christarosenyc
,
and 
christaavampato.com. Her
young adult novel,
Emerson
Page and Where the Light Enters
,
is available online and in bookstores worldwide.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Jon Seidman on Flickr.