Why I’ll Never Participate in NaNoWriMo Again

I have dreamed of successfully completing at least one NaNoWriMo competition since 2011, and this past year I finally realized that dream. I wrote 50,014 words of This Dread Road, Book Three of The Bennett Series, in November 2015.

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I was so proud of myself. Not only had I finally managed to complete a challenge, I did it in the same month my husband and I purchased a home and moved.

For several months after I finished, I was convinced that participating in NaNo was a great thing that everyone should do. After all, I’d never managed to write so much so quickly in my life. But now that I’m finished with revisions, I can look back and say with all manner of certainty that NaNoWrioMo, while well-intentioned, did me far more harm than good.

 

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For one thing, it ushered in a horrific period of burnout. I never stopped working on This Dread Road, but it took nearly six months for me to finish the second half of the book. I went through several weeks of just not caring about the story anymore. Working on it was painful and torturous. For a while, I worried I wouldn’t finish it in time. Or at all.

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Our trip to South Carolina in March forced me to rest and rejuvenate. I came home more excited about the story than ever, having seen places like Stella Maris Church (pictured above) that were connected to the story of This Dread Road. It took another month after our return, but I finally finished the draft. I was so happy to finish, and still eternally gratefully for NaNoWriMo. If I hadn’t written that 50,014 words last November, how much further behind schedule would I be?

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But when I started revisions a few weeks ago, I realized that those first 50,000 words were essentially useless. That section of the book was packed with filler words, unnecessary characters, and subplots I hadn’t taken the time to flesh out. I could almost map my exhaustion during the month of November just looking at that first half.

I had to rewrite the first twenty-seven chapters.

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I don’t wish that I hadn’t participated in NaNo last year–it was a fun experience, and I enjoyed the camaraderie and solidarity that I experienced all across the Internet. It was finals week, but without the stress of grades hanging over my head. I got a lot done. Had I not participated, I most likely wouldn’t have taken a break to redesign all three of the covers for The Bennett Series. I wouldn’t have been able to let my experience in Charleston influence my descriptions nearly as much.

Most importantly, I wouldn’t have learned a valuable lesson: what works for others does not necessarily work for me.


This Dread Road is currently in the editing stage and is tentatively scheduled for a December 2016 release. I will hopefully have a firm date for you soon! 

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#TeaserThursday – New Trailer for The Bennett Series

Check out the new book trailer for The Bennett Series! Trailers for the individual books will be out soon. Tell me what you think in the comments, and make sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

THIS DREAD ROAD Cover Reveal Blast!

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 This Dread Road
Cover Reveal Blast

We cried with Hattie as her life fell apart after one forbidden mistake. 

We held our breath as Molly walked the razor-thin tightrope of ambition and morality. 

Now, it’s Claire’s turn to break and mend our hearts . . .

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Now that college is over, Claire James doesn’t know where to turn. All she has is a business degree she isn’t using and a trust fund she doesn’t want. She longs to leave her poor little rich girl past behind, but when she leaves her fiancé and finds herself stranded in a strange city with no job, no plans, and nowhere to stay, she has no choice but to seek help from her father, the fearless leader of their family’s hotel empire. 

But when he offers Claire the keys to a penthouse apartment, and with it, a path back to her old life on the Upper East Side, something inside her snaps. Instead of taking the easy way out, as she has so many times before, she makes a counteroffer: she wants to work in a James Hotel, preferably one far from the city and close to her best friend. 

As it turns out, though, Bennett is not the answer to all of Claire’s troubles. Hattie, who has always helped her in the past, is busy caring for her own growing family, and the other employees at the James see her new position as nothing more than an act of nepotism. Claire is left an outcast in a town she once called home. Lonely and depressed, she begins to wonder if this attempt to alter her fate was just one more mistake.

When Claire connects with one of the hotel’s guests during one of her long overnight shifts, though, her move finally starts to make sense. Their conversation shifts quickly from lattes to loves lost, and as her newfound friend reveals the tale of her own ruined heart, Claire realizes that she just might hold the key to repairing them both. 

Following The Partition of Africa and The Marshall Plan, this stunning conclusion to the Bennett Series whisks us across space and time to remind us of one simple truth: 

Love never fails.

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Join in the party on Facebook! 

 

Exclusive Excerpt:

“James!”

Claire’s head snapped up at the sound of her boss’s voice. All the color drained from her face when she saw the anger twisted into his features, which were usually gruff but kind. He made his way across the foyer as quickly as he could manage, his right leg lagging slightly behind the rest of his body. He stopped at the front desk and leaned on the counter for support as he caught his breath.

“What can I do for you, Hank?” she asked, hating how shrill her voice came out.

His eyes hardened when he took in her phone, which was once more open to Trevor’s Facebook page. He and Jenna were visiting her family over winter break. She had posted several pictures the day before of them touring an old retired lighthouse. A true New England Christmas. Claire locked the screen quickly and shoved it in her pocket.

“My office. Now. Richard will take over for you here.”

Like a ghost answering the summons of a séance, Richard appeared by Hank’s side. “Anything you say boss.” He gave Claire a self-satisfied smile before sliding behind the desk. He stood behind her chair, hands clasping each other primly at his waist, waiting for her to vacate the chair.

Without another word, Claire rose and followed Hank. Usually she would have demanded to know what was going on before abandoning her post to Richard, of all people, but she had never seen Hank in such an agitated state.

While he had only been her boss for a few months, Claire and Hank had been friendly with one another for several years. She’d briefly lived in the suite usually reserved for her father before defecting to the dorms after a nasty fight with her mother, and she often spent long weekends here during her student days when she needed a quick getaway. During those stays, Hank had always been kind to her, taking extra measures to make sure her needs were met. He’d once even seen to caring for Hattie when her plans over Thanksgiving abruptly changed and she no longer had a place to stay, going so far as to pick her up in Bennett and send Claire daily reports on her wellbeing while she languished at her mother’s house in Connecticut.

Now, though, Hank’s usually sparkling gray eyes were dark and brooding, like a bank of thunderclouds gathering on the horizon. Once he was sure Claire was following him, he turned and limped off toward his office with as much speed as he could muster. She wracked her brain as she fell into step behind him, trying to figure out what in the world could have elicited such strong emotion in him. Nothing she’d done came to mind, except for the tense conversation she’d exchanged with Richard a few days before, when he’d accused her of slacking off. She wondered now if Richard had lied to Hank about why she left the front desk that night, or perhaps exaggerated how long she was gone.

The two of them wended their way through the employees-only section of the first floor together, passing the conference rooms and the small kitchenette where most of the employees chose to take their breaks. Amalia was the only one back there now, and she regarded them with wide eyes as they passed. The surprise evident in her expression confirmed she had nothing to do with whatever this was. Even though she’d been somewhat cold to Claire since her arrival in August, the college student didn’t seem intent on bringing her down. Unlike some people.

When they reached Hank’s office, he held the door open for Claire so she could pass through first. A sudden terror that he was about to fire her seized control of her body. Everything inside tensed up, and her stomach churned so much she worried she would get sick again. Thankfully, she made it to the arm chair opposite his desk fully intact. He closed the door and walked past her to his desk.

Trying not to tremble, Claire crossed her arms over her stomach and waited for him to begin. Where mere months ago, her conspicuous ribs had poked out, a soft swell of flesh met her hands. Had she been in happier surroundings, she might have smiled.

Hank folded his hands on top of his desk calendar and issues a deep sigh, but offered no explanation as to why he had dragged Claire to his office. They stared at one another for several minutes before she cleared her throat, determined to put an end to this agony.

“Hank, I–”

“Claire, we need to talk about your future here.”

She swallowed and looked down, taken aback by his abruptness. “All right,” she said slowly. “What about my future here?”

“Whether or not you have one.” He unwrapped a toothpick and held it up to his mouth gingerly, as if he was contemplating how great his need for it was, before tipping his chair back. “I had high hopes for you, Claire, but I don’t think this is working out.”

This Dread Road

About the Author

12194847_10206411210811399_2494367645966130343_o​Olivia began writing creatively at eight years old. During middle and high school, she attended several writing conferences and submitted poems and short stories to various writing contests. She finished her first long work of fiction, a novella entitled Heaven’s Song, in the tenth grade. Her short story “By Its Cover” placed first in its division in the 2008 District III ​Alabama Penman Creative Writing Contest. She took a reprieve from writing during her years at the University of Montevallo, where she earned a degree in history in 2012. She finished and published her first novel, The Partition of Africa​, in 2014.
Olivia currently lives in central Alabama with her husband, to whom she’s been wed since the age of twenty-two, and their cat, Buddy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching quality television—The Office (US), Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, and Friends are her favorites—and cooking without recipes. Along with working full-time at her alma mater and studying English at the graduate level, she is busy working on her next literary adventure.

CONNECT WITH OLIVIA:

WEBSITE | BLOG FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS | LINKEDIN

Other Titles in the Series

The Partition of Africa: Book 1

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Hattie Greene is a serious-minded sophomore who always follows the rules. She earned her place at the prestigious Howard Knox College & University, and she intends to keep it. Much to the chagrin of her socialite roommate Claire, Hattie ignores the usual college activities in favor of focusing on her academic career. Hattie’s status as a perpetual good girl comes into question when Samson Campbell, a married professor with rugged good looks, enters the picture. He’s wrong for her on every level, but she can’t stay away. They enter an affair that threatens everything Hattie holds dear, causing her to question her very identity. All actions have consequences, and this is no exception. The heart wants what it wants. . .but what if the heart is wrong?

The Marshall Plan: Book 2

51QUn72sLUL._SX373_BO1,204,203,200_Molly Marshall is fresh out of graduate school, armed with a shiny new degree in journalism and ready to take over the world. There’s just one little problem: no one seems to care.
Six months have passed since graduation and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t find a paying job in the field she’s spent years preparing to dominate. Stuck in a menial job she hates, plagued with memories of an abusive childhood, and engaged to a man she may no longer love, she’s running out of options and fast. When she stumbles across a long-kept secret, though, everything changes and she’s forced to make a choice. What will it be, her ambition or her heart?
This standalone sequel to THE PARTITION OF AFRICA invites you to examine your thoughts on family, desire, and the nature of love itself.

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2015: A Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that 2015 has already come and gone. In just a week and a half, we’ll be bidding it adieu forever.

It’s hard to believe that this time last year, I had not yet finished The Partition of Africa. I was still hammering away at revisions, wondering if I would ever finish the dratted thing. When I hit the “publish” button on December 26, I honestly didn’t know what I was getting into.

I worried over whether I should have submitted to more publishers first, instead of choosing to self-publish. If I should have waited a little longer, gone through one more draft, tweaked one more thing.

Looking back, I do wish I’d been a bit more prepared for the whirlwind that is the self-publishing world before pushing Partition out to the masses. I didn’t realize how much hard work was ahead of me. How much more I needed to learn. How many connections I needed to make.

I also didn’t realize how many wonderful things I had in store. Wonderful write-ups in the local newspaper. A lovely reception and book signing planned and thrown on my behalf. Connecting with readers and fans in person at various events. Becoming best friends with other writers, editors, and publishers all over the country and the world, thanks to social media. Writing, revising, and editing a second book in less than ten months. Getting started on a third.

It’s been a crazy ride, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for a second. You–you right there, on the other side of this screen–are what has made all of it worthwhile. Every moment of self-doubt or crippling anxiety or exhaustion. Your kind words to me and in your reviews of my books remind me time and time again why exactly I put myself through this.

So, from the bottom of my heart: thank you, thank you, thank you. You’ll never know how much I mean it.

Here’s to an equally successful 2016.

As you might know if you follow me on social media, I’m about halfway finished with my rough draft of the third and final Bennett novel, This Dread Road, thanks to NaNoWriMo. I’m not at a point where I can promise a release date, but I’m hoping for next Christmas!

I’m also working on a few other projects, a collection of short stories, and a Christmas novella that will be released as an eBook next Thanksgiving (*fingers crossed*).

I will also be blogging more in the coming year, which will hopefully mean getting to know all of you better.

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And with that, I leave off. May you and your family have a safe and blessed Christmas. I’ll see you in the new year!

Molly Marshall’s Top 10 Journalistic Ethical Dilemmas

This blog post was written by Olivia Folmar Ard from the perspective of her character, Molly Marshall. The Marshall Plan is now available in Kindle and paperback formats from Amazon.

I’ve wanted to be a journalist for years now, but I never realized how hard it would be to do the job the right way. As it turns out, journalism is so much more than writing interesting stories, and it takes more than a good person to be ethical. Whether you dream of having a community column or penning a dramatic exposé, there are rules to follow when you’re responsible for disseminating information to the public. I break more than one of those rules on my quest for glory in The Marshall Plan. Here are my picks for the top ten ethical dilemmas facing young journalists today.

1) Truth should be your guiding principle.
This might seem like a no-brainer—it certainly did to me at first—but it’s harder than it seems. It’s one thing to be honest about the facts you present; it’s another to have anything other than the truth motivate your search for a great story. Pesky little things like jealousy and desire for revenge like to sneak in when you’re not looking. No matter how tempting it is to follow them, don’t! They’ll only hurt you in the long run.

2) Stories should be completely, 100% unbiased.
There’s a reason jury selection is such a long, drawn-out process—the courtroom process only works if the jurors come to a decision based on the evidence presented them, not on any prejudices they may have. This is why I should have never tried to write that exposé—I had entirely too many personal connections and biases.

3) Journalists should respect the individual’s right to privacy.
While snooping is sometimes required when looking for the truth, there’s a right way to do it. When I was trying to gather information for the exposé, I did some bad things. Not only were some of my actions unethical, they were highly illegal and violated more than one person’s right to privacy. Thank goodness I had some sense knocked into me before I kept going down that road!

4) Accuracy of stories should be confirmed early on.
Like #1 this seems a bit obvious, but I still managed to slip up here. In journalism, as in a courtroom, circumstantial evidence alone isn’t enough. Before I started investigating such a he said, she said story—especially one so scandalous—I should have gone straight to the people involved to get their accounts. I didn’t have confirmation that my story was correct until after I dropped the story. If I’d published it without knowing for sure it was accurate, I might have ruined someone’s life for no reason!

5) Concern for the public does not justify distorting the facts.
Despite my personal biases that played into my investigation, there really was a part of me that thought I was doing the right thing for the Bennett community. Unfortunately, wanting to help others doesn’t justify unethical practices. Putting an intentional slant on a story for any reason is not okay!

6) Avoid conflicts of interest like the plague.
If a story has the potential to cause you benefit or harm, you’re probably more interested than anyone else in seeing to its outcome, but trust me—drop it on someone else’s desk. The moment your primary concern becomes personal welfare, it’s impossible for you to follow guideline #1. This is one of the few rules I didn’t violate while trying to write the exposé. Ethics: 5, Molly: 1.

7) Don’t insert opinion into a piece being presented as news.

Editorials have their own sections of the paper for a reason—opinions have no place in a news story. This is a crucial mistake I made over and over again. Instead of gathering all the evidence I could, I cherry-picked so the story would match up with my opinion of the people involved. It seemed like a good idea at the time. . .

8) Stories shouldn’t be written expressly for accolades.
Once again, in case you’ve been snoozing—in journalism, the TRUTH should be your primary motivation at all times. Technically I didn’t violate this during my investigation, since I wasn’t trying to win an award. Even so, the hope that the story would launch me into a successful career was a major factor in why I pursued it in the first place.

9) Make promises only if you can keep them.
This goes back to #4. Accuracy matters! I almost turned in a story proposal to my editor without even getting firsthand accounts from the people involved. What if I’d written the initial article and then hadn’t been able to follow through? Not only would my credibility (rightly) be damaged, the reputations of others would be called into question without resolution. Bad all the way around.

10) Don’t use your position to manipulate outside business interests.
Writing stories encouraging people to invest in or patronize your business is wrong, for obvious reasons. They didn’t pick up a newspaper to read an advertisement in disguise? Unfortunately, I did this to an extent with my community column. Since I wasn’t manipulating a news story, I suppose it wasn’t so bad, but still a little sketchy.

You’re probably thinking, “Hey Molly, maybe you shouldn’t be a journalist after all!” I thought that for a while myself, but honestly I think I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t judge me until you’ve read my story!
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Items on this post were based on the Associated Press Media Editors’ Statement of Ethical Principles. Thanks to all the ethical journalists and correspondents who keep us informed!

Blog Tour Line-Up — The Marshall Plan

It’s almost time for what I know I’ve been looking forward to…my very first blog tour!

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Genre: Women’s Fiction, Family Life, Romance, New Adult
Publisher: Three Amigas Press
Publication Date: October 31, 2015
Formats available: Paperback, Kindle

Summary:

Molly Marshall is fresh out of graduate school, armed with a shiny new degree in journalism and ready to take over the world. There’s just one little problem: no one seems to care. Six months have passed since graduation and no matter how hard she tries, she can’t find a paying job in the field she’s spent years preparing to dominate. Stuck in a menial job she hates, plagued with memories of an abusive childhood, and engaged to a man she may no longer love, she’s running out of options and fast. When she stumbles across a long-kept secret, though, everything changes and she’s forced to make a choice. What will it be, her ambition or her heart? This standalone sequel to The Partition of Africa invites you to examine your thoughts on family, desire, and the nature of love itself.

About the Author:

9458_10203783495880168_8517268708680578282_nOlivia began writing creatively at eight years old. During middle and high school, she attended several writing conferences and submitted poems and short stories to various writing contests. She finished her first long work of fiction, an unpublished novella entitled Heaven’s Song, in the tenth grade. Her short story “By Its Cover” placed first in its division in the 2008 District III Alabama Penman Creative Writing Contest. She took a reprieve from writing during her years at the University of Montevallo, where she earned a degree in history in 2012. She finished and published her first novel, The Partition of Africa, in 2014. Olivia currently lives in central Alabama with her husband John, to whom she’s been wed since the age of twenty-two, and their cat, Buddy. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys watching quality television–The Office (US), Parks & Recreation, 30 Rock, and Friends are her favorites–and cooking without recipes. Along with working full-time at her alma mater and studying English at the graduate level, she is busy working on her next literary adventure.

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Blog Tour Schedule

October 31

Books and Fandom
http://www.booksandfandom.com/

The SMART Book Club
http://thesmartbookclub.blogspot.com/

Let’s Talk About Books
http://www.scarletbennett.com.au/lets-talk-aboutbooks/

November 1

Paging Through The Days
http://pagingthroughthedays.blogspot.com/

Shine Like Stars
http://caracorrenti.blogspot.com/

November 2

The Phantom Paragrapher
http://thephantomparagrapher.blogspot.com/

Wyndy Dee
http://wyndydee.wordpress.com/

November 3

Book About
http://www.bookabout.com.au/

OCD Book Promotions
https://www.facebook.com/OCDBooksPimpsPromosBlog

November 4

Cafe Art Space
http://cafeartspace.blogspot.com.au/

November 5

Charlene’s Blog and More
http://www.CharlineRatcliffBlog.com/

November 6

I Lay Reading
http://ilayreading.com/

TBA:

Hippies Read Too
http://www.hippiesreadtoo.com/

Whispering Stories
http://whisperingstories.com

The Avid Readers Blog
http://www.theavidreadersblog.com/

Books, Baking, & Other Objects of Beauty
https://mrsaubergine.wordpress.com/

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If you would like to join the Blog Tour, there’s still time! Contact me at ofa.author@gmail.com for more details.