Guest Post: Authorial Doldrums by Mike Crowl

Oh, how I love it when regional members submit articles for us to share! After all, this blog represents everyone in the MD/DE/WV region, so it’s awesome being able to share different and fresh voices. If you’d like to contribute, check out our submission guidelines. We’re waiting to hear from you!

Today’s fresh voice comes from Mike Crowl, who not only crushed NaNoWriMo, (National Novel Writing Month,) by cranking out over 76,000 words … wow, that’s amazing! Congratulations, Mike! … he also shared what he experienced afterwards in the following post!

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Authorial Doldrums

Coping With Post-NaNo-Withdrawal by Mike Crowl

I am a fidgety person. I have to keep my hands busy, or they might get bored and do something stupid. So, I build furniture, I try to play guitar, I draw, I work on my family tree, and of course, I write. Lately though, I find that the fidgets have found their way into my head. My mind has always wandered, but over the past couple of months, I’m not even sure where it has taken me. But alas, I think I have figured out what causes my malaise. It is withdrawal.

I scoffed at NaNoWriMo (Yes, I do accept that I am wrong about that now). How could I get excited about trying to write a whole book in a month? Seriously, no thank you. NaNo is not for me. Oh yeah? Well, I had an idea. I thought it through to the end. I outlined it. I entered that outline, chapter by chapter into Scrivener. And then, I sat there at 23:59 on Halloween, laptop balanced precariously between my knees (My eyes need the extra distance… I’m over fifty, you know.), fingers on the home keys, ready to go. I am prone to exaggeration from time to time, by the way.

I finished at just over 76,000 words by the time I was done with NaNo, and after my first revision. But as you all well know, I am not done. Oh no, I am not done. My manuscript is resting, like a roast waiting for the juices to distribute evenly throughout, bringing out the savory bits that taste oh so good. In other words, my wife has read my manuscript. My daughters (24 and 27) are reading it, and my manuscript is hanging out with a few of my colleagues in my critique group. I just can’t wait until I get feedback. In every case, I am sure their perspectives will help me make better gravy. (I shouldn’t write when I’m hungry.)

But all of these things take time. I was very excited about finishing my manuscript. I even enjoyed the first edit, the first revision, and even making a big ol’ change to one of my characters after my wife gave me that look. You know the one. But, it now must rest. How do I stay pumped up about my story? How do I keep up my energy level, so when my friends and colleagues come back with suggested changes, I don’t just say, “Whatever.” I have a few suggestions.

Design Your Book’s Cover

You can do this. I believe in you. I personally find this step REALLY satisfying, because I have something that I think is more tangible to me than a big ol’ Word file. Don’t get me wrong. Having that Word file makes me feel really good inside, because it represents a lot of hard work. I love that file. I back up that file. I open the file just to look at it. But it ain’t no book yet. If I make a cover, I get to start visualizing what my book could look like. I think having this visual lets me see what my book might look like on the shelves of Target next to Divergent or Mockingjay. Dream big! Target!

But believe me, this can be a real boost for those of us who are still writers, and not yet authors. And if you’re self-publishing, this step could save you millions of dollars! But the bottom line is, I want to know that this dream is achievable, and that someday, my name might be out there in public. Seeing that book cover with MY name at the bottom (because that’s where I chose to place my name on my cover) is motivating. I found some images in Google that suited my theme, picked one, cropped it, fiddled with it, found a font I liked for the title, and made it look like a real book.

And then, there’s the back cover. The back cover is where I get to practice telling people what my book is about. It’s good prep work for your query letter, to write that description of your book that you will see on the back of your dream book. I found that coming up with that description is one of the hardest parts of the process, but once I saw it on the back of my book, it was energizing. I had to get that right. I now find myself just looking at the covers (which I printed and slid inside the front and back covers of the loose-leaf notebook that houses my printed copy) to admire my work.

If you find this process daunting, there are a few websites out there that guide you step-by-step through the process. I found the one listed below to be very helpful, because Roseanna White, who happens to be a historical fiction author, does an excellent job of leading you through her thought process—why she chose a certain image, why she picked the colors she did, how she manipulated the image. It’s downright fun! Give it a look if you want to take a crack at making that cover.

Roseanna White: Book Cover Design: A Fair to Remember

Take Yourself to an Imaginary “Meet the Author” Event

No, I’ve not been drinking. So here’s where my mind has wandered for the past couple of weeks. I picture myself pacing at the edge of a stage, hundreds (okay, a dozen) of my new fans waiting for me to expound on my fictional world, telling the back story of how my characters met, or whatever. When I pause to take a breath, some guy in the back yells out, “Do you expect me to believe that your antagonist wouldn’t just shoot the hero?” Or maybe the teenage girl three rows back next to the guy in the Fozzie Ozborne T-shirt jumps up crying, “You fiend! I can’t believe you killed off Justin! He was my favorite character!”

Maybe you published authors out there have experienced this. But the reason I am going into the dream sequence is because I think there are some nagging questions inside my skull that are trying to tell me something. It’s those off-the-wall questions that my imaginary fans keep asking everywhere I go. They make me stop and think about it. What if I am in this predicament someday and someone does ask me a question like this? If I know my book, I can answer this question on the spot, no stammering, no hemming and hawing, no need to fake a heart attack—I can just answer it. If I can’t do that, maybe there is more work for me to do when I get my manuscript back from my colleagues. Maybe they will ask me the same question.

Now for some real entertainment, try to imagine what an elementary school class might ask you. Or, when you are in your metal folding chair trying to get comfortable at the library, what are the patrons saying to you while you are vandalizing their book with your signature? If there are imaginary parents with their children in line waiting for you to sign, what do you overhear them telling their kids about you? How many of those fans have dressed like your character to meet you in person? It’s fun. Go on, try it!

Cast the actors who will play your characters in your movie

You’re almost famous now… I have been wrestling with my manuscript as I get feedback from folks. “What does your character look like?” Well, I could describe him or her, but I chose not to. Now true, if my character has a fro-hawk, yellow eyes, and a scar that reaches from his ear to the opposite side of his mouth, I might want to mention that in my text. But, I can also let my reader decide, and that’s what I settled on for my manuscript. The question still bounces around in my empty cranium like a super ball though. What does my character look like?

I think, while I was writing my book, I started developing my own mental image of my protagonist, my antagonist, my friendtagonist, the parentagonists, and all the other agonists. That said, I couldn’t necessarily describe any of them in any detail. Hmmm.

Here’s something to do while you’re watching the Blacklist or American Idol—Go to your Google images search bar and type something like, “teenage boy hairstyles 2015,” or “girl,” or, “outdated,” or, “futuristic,” you get the idea. You will be presented with a wide array of images auditioning for the lead in your movie, and you will now know what your characters look like. Think of it as a police lineup. Your antagonist slapped you in the back of the head and stole your wallet. You are now standing behind the one-way glass while a plethora of characters is paraded in front of you. “That’s him!” you shout. “The second from the right, third row down.” See? It worked, didn’t it?

Try to contain yourself. . .

Now that you are suitably pumped, oozing with enthusiasm for your manuscript, ready to hit ‘Send’ on fifteen emails to agents, you need to just put down the Pinot and chill. Just a little while longer, I promise. Your colleagues, your friends, you family members, all want you to do well. They are taking very good care of your little manuscripts. They are picking up after them, changing their diapers, wiping their noses, and holding them after they’ve whacked their little manuscript heads on the corner of the kitchen counter. Be patient. Be cool. Be calm. But also be ready for their update when you get back from the movies. “You will not believe what your little manuscript did as soon as you walked out the door,” they say. And then, you can get back to work. The difference is, now you have something more tactile to aim for. Happy daydreaming!

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Fantastic, thanks again, Mike, for this fantastic post! I’m looking forward to trying these suggestions after finishing my current work in progress.

Happy writing and drawing … and as Mike says, daydreaming, everyone! 🙂

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About Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger/vlogger at Write, Run, Rejoice and Joyful Miles, mom of two college boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She clearly likes run-on sentences and adverbs. She also still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that.
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10 Responses to Guest Post: Authorial Doldrums by Mike Crowl

  1. Thanks for the shout-out, Mike! I too have always found designing a cover to be a great way to keep the excitement alive for a story. =)

    • mikecrowl says:

      You are welcome! The information found at the other end of the link (your “Book Cover Design”) is very useful, and though I have done this a couple of times, your hints helped me bring out colors and details that I had not thought to do before. For everyone else… Go check out the link!

  2. Jo Donaldson says:

    Great post Mike. You have a very active imagination and so much energy.I’ve barely begun editing my (not quite 50,000 word Nanowrimo) yet and haven’t thought beyond that. You have given me more ideas to keep myself excited.

    • mikecrowl says:

      Sounds like you’re into NaNoEdMo. You get past that first edit, and then see if a cover design gives you a little spark to get you through!

  3. Cool post Mike!! Loved it!! I hope the roast percolates in its juices long enough to taste all velvety and satisfying with that Pinot.

  4. Michele Miller says:

    Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you…that was great! I too finished (yay) NaNoWriMo. This was the first time I was able to write over 50,000 words…and I have felt the same withdrawal as you describe as I wait for the last remaining critique. What a great suggestion – illustrate the cover, cast the movie, meet and great the fans. You have inspired me to got those creative juices flowing again (as well as the Pinot) and I can’t wait to revise, revise, revise!

    • mikecrowl says:

      Congrats on finishing NaNo! It’s satisfying, isn’t it? Best of luck with the revision stage (refinement stage). Have fun, and thanks for the kind words! – Mike

  5. I enjoyed this day dreaming fun post!

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