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May 22, 2013 marked my seven year anniversary at Critique Circle. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. In some ways, it seems like yesterday. Obviously not, though, since I’ve published three novels during my time at CC.
I was referred to CC by a friend I knew from a writing forum that is no longer in existence. We were both working on an anthology project at the time—a collection of short stories set in the same fantasy world. Since our two stories shared some of the same characters, we worked together quite closely on our stories. As a CC member, she was submitting hers for critique and suggested I do the same. I signed up, submitted by story through the newbie queue and got some very helpful feedback that I used to revise the story.
I don’t know what happened with that anthology project, and I don’t believe the member who referred me to CC is still active, but I am grateful she led me here, because without CC I doubt I would be a published author.
It was five months after I joined when sign-ups for National Novel Writing Month were going strong. At this stage of my life, I was very much a ‘someday’ novelist, meaning ‘Someday, I’ll write a novel.’ Thanks to CC, my someday came that November.
I didn’t know what I was getting myself into with Nanowrimo, but there were quite a few CCers participating and I decided to give it a try. Writing a novel in a month is somewhat of a crazy idea, and if not for knowing other people doing it, I would never have signed up. We had a thread on the Nano forums and we formed a great support group and cheer squad for each other. We had word wars and challenges and pep talks.
Looking back, I think I found lightning in a bottle that year. I won Nano, completing a draft of my first novel. I couldn’t believe it. I wrote a novel!
I started a private queue on CC so those of us from the Nano could submit our stories, and I ran my entire novel through the queue for critique. It had some problems. It was, after all, written in a month. For a first draft of a first novel, though, it had potential.
Still, I wasn’t ready at the time to do anything with it. I think I was burnt out from the past pace of writing it. I set it aside and got involved in other things. I moved. I formed new friendships. I worked on other projects, including writing a screenplay. I signed up for Nano again the following year, but the experience wasn’t the same. I wrote 50,000 words in the month, but the book was far from complete. I lost my writing mojo for a while and I stopped visiting CC.
Two and a half years ago, while doing some spring cleaning in my house, I found the printed manuscript of that first novel and started reading it again. And I didn’t hate it. In fact, I liked it enough to want to resume working on it.
But where to start?
The answer was simple. I reactivated my CC membership and found all of my credits were still intact and all of the crits I received on the first draft were still on the site and accessible to me.
I was able to rekindle friendships with some people I knew from my first stint at CC and also formed new ones. I revised the book and submitted it again for critique and revised it again.
Finally, in October 2011 I published my first novel, After Ten. It would not exist if not for the motivation I found from fellow CC members during our great Nano run.
I have since published two more novels, Sixth South and Aggravated Circumstances, all with the help of my friends at CC, and am working on two more, which are also being critiqued here.
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