Case Study: Beautiful Toronto

For those who don’t know me, and I realize that’s probably most of you, I am a middle aged mother of three teenage boys, who also happens to be a singer-songwriter.

Some might think that being the mother of three teenage boys would provide plenty of fodder for songwriting, but that would not be accurate in my case.  I don’t write about my sons, or my location, or my dog, or anything about my day to day life. I write love songs.

I write heart wrenching, gut punching, longing for something that can never be, love songs.  Why? I’m not entirely sure. It may be the hopeless romantic in me, or it could be that I’m just bored.

Back in June of 2014 I was laid off from my job as a college registrar. I should have seen it coming, because the school was struggling financially, but I had built up this wall of false security and ignored the signs.

I didn't want to think about being unemployed and not being able to pay the bills because that was an unpleasant thing to ponder.

Eventually I did have to face it though.
I lost my job.

Suddenly I had all this free time on my hands, at the very beginning of the summer. I live on Cape Cod. Many people would be thrilled to find themselves free of the burden of a day job, with the whole summer on Cape Cod stretching out before them.

cape-cod

At first, I was happy.  I didn't have to drive an hour each way to work, or get up early, or deal with people.

I could take some time to breathe, and relax.  I saw it as an opportunity to figure out what it was that I really wanted to do with my life. What was my true path?

What was my calling?

I explored all the possibilities and started to remember that when I was a kid, all I wanted to be was a writer.

How had I lost sight of that?  I mean, I was a songwriter, sure. But when I was around 9 or 10 years old, I wanted to be an author.

I wanted to write books. I would spend hours writing short stories, and I even had my own typewriter (this was the seventies, mind you).

I then heard about NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month. I thought this was the perfect time to see if I still had what it takes to be a writer.

I’d never written a novel in my life, but now I had all the time in the world, so why not? It would give me something to do, keep my brain functioning, and who knew what I would end up with?

On November 1st I began writing a story based on one of my songs. The story had been rumbling around in my head from the time I decided to do NaNoWriMo.

I had written a song called Beautiful Toronto, which was, of course, a love song.

NaNoWriMo

So I thought I would just expand the story. I took the basic theme of the song, the little stories within it, and elaborated on it. I let my imagination go crazy and created this wonderful love story.

At least I thought it was wonderful, and after all, no one else was going to read it, so who cared? Yeah. Right.

beautiful-torontoI wrote my novel, Beautiful Toronto, in 15 days.  NaNoWriMo is 30 days.  I was so into my story, so excited about getting it all down, and getting to the happy ending, that I blew through it in 15 days.

I realized I now had 15 more days to wait while the rest of my regional group finished their novels, so I began editing and revising.

All the while, my bills were piling up and I was falling behind on things. My son’s college tuition bill was like an albatross around my neck, pulling me under a dark sea of despair (dramatic, I know).

Then I had a crazy thought.

What if I could publish my novel?  What if I could sell it?  I kept revising and editing and fine tuning it, although admittedly I didn’t really know what I was doing.

I sent out a few query letters to agents but got no response.

Finally I checked out Createspace, and realized that self-publishing might be my only option. So, after one more round of editing (those sex scenes scared the crap out of me, because I kept thinking about my mother reading them) I self-published Beautiful Toronto.

It is on Amazon.com and B&N.com, and so far I’ve sold a grand total of nine copies.

I have no idea if it’s any good, although I love it, much like the mother of an ugly baby thinks it’s beautiful even when others are turning away in horror.

I didn’t have the funds to use a professional editor, so I did the best I could on my own.  Now, after 40 days of having it out there, I’m nervous and thinking about pulling it down.

I have received no reviews yet, which of course I’m taking to mean that everyone hated it.  Rationally I know that might not be the case, and at the same time, it very well could be.

In any event, the whole experience was worthwhile because it brought me back to the realization that I want to write. I am a writer. I am a songwriter and I am a novelist.

I’m still broke and unemployed, but at least I can say, when being interviewed for a job, that during my down time I successfully wrote and published a novel instead of lounging on the beach on Cape Cod.

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Radu Balas

Radu is the Founder of Publishing Addict and author of "Sell More Books Using Your Author Website | The Easiest Way To Brand, Build, Market, and Manage Your Authorship" Soon available on Amazon.

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