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NaNoWriMo Author Spotlight: T.L. Costa

Published on Saturday, November 17, 2012 by

nanojpgT. L. Costa is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College and has a Masters of Teaching from Quinnipiac University who taught high school for five years before becoming a full-time mom and writer.

She has lived in Texas, New York, New Jersey and Spain. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children.

T. L. can be found online:
Twitter: @TLCosta1
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tlcostaauthor
Google + as T.L. Costa
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15…
Email: tlcosta.author1@gmail.com


When is a game not a game?

Tyler MacCandless can’t focus, even when he takes his medication. He can’t focus on school, on his future, on a book, on much of anything other than taking care of his older brother, Brandon, who’s in rehab for heroin abuse… again.

Tyler’s dad is dead and his mom has mentally checked out. The only person he can really count on is his Civilian Air Patrol Mentor, Rick. The one thing in life it seems he doesn’t suck at is playing video games and, well, thats probably not going to get him into college.

Just when it seems like his future is on a collision course with a life sentence at McDonald’s, Rick asks him to test a video game. If his score’s high enough, it could earn him a place in flight school and win him the future he was certain that he could never have. And when he falls in love with the game’s designer, the legendary gamer Ani, Tyler thinks his life might finally be turning around.

That is, until Brandon goes MIA from rehab and Tyler and Ani discover that the game is more than it seems. Now Tyler will have to figure out what’s really going on in time to save his brother… and prevent his own future from going down in flames.

Coming July of 2013 from Strange Chemistry Books.
Book buying info can be found here:

How many years have you participated? I’ve participated in NaNoWrimo twice. “Lost” both times.

What attracted you to the challenge? I wanted to see if, with a crazy schedule, I could make the time to sit down and write every day. The best thing about NaNo is that it taught me that I can, in fact, write every day, maybe not 1600 or so words, but I can do at least something.

Are you a pantser or plotter? Crazed plotter. My first book, the pre-NaNo, unpublished, forever-under-the-bed book that took me two years to write, that was my only attempt at “pantsing.” My plot outlines vary in the amount of detail. I usually figure out the big events first, like the inciting incident, the black moment, and the ending, and from there go back and fill in other major turning points along the way.

What’s inside your NaNoWriMo writing survival kit? At the risk of sounding mad cliché: coffee. NaNo gives me an excuse to start writing a shiny new book each November, so I typically try and include little “incentives” for myself when I reach a major turning point. Like a “if I finish through turning point three by the end of the week, I can take one night off and go see a movie” sort-of-thing.

Do you have a NaNoWroMo playlist? No and yes. I make playlists sometimes for different books or even for different characters and listen to them while working out. But I can’t listen to music when I write. I end up singing along and losing the voice of the character I’m writing.

Where do you write? On my treadmill. My husband built me a desk for it, so I write there at a 1 or 1.2 mph pace. If I didn’t write on the treadmill, I’d have to get up ever half and hour and walk around. I’m an antsy girl by nature. Always moving.

What preparations do you make before beginning a novel? Character analysis. For this year’s NaNo book I have over 40k words of character analysis. Very few of the details tend to make it into the book, but the characters have a lot more depth as I write them if I know everything, and I mean everything, about them before I write.

How long did it take you to finish your book? Did you take a break after November or work steadily on until it was complete? PLAYING TYLER took me seven months in total to complete a first draft. NaNo got me to the computer almost every day, and that was a wonderful habit, even if my word-count was well below what was expected. Starting in December, I set my own goal of 1000k, five days a week.

Tell us about your writing process. What were the most challenging aspects? Getting through the rough draft and getting “lost” in my characters. Last year’s NaNo for me was an epic fail, because I wrote 40k words of wonderful, well-developed people doing NOTHING. My plotting beforehand was weak, clearly. So I scrapped the whole thing and re-worked the plot and the characters and spent a year doing research for the book, and I’m attempting to write that book for NaNo again this year. So far, so good.

Also, since NaNo last year was such a mess, I started writing a new book this past February, and was able to finish that in four months. So I may not, by nature, be a fast writer, but the pace at which I write is definitely increasing.

Was writer’s block an issue? If so, how did you overcome it? Not writer’s block, per se. Sometimes I get frustrated when I don’t have ideas for a new plot. Usually I get over it by watching a bunch of movies, good movies, like Hitchcock films or clever films that are relentlessly paced. That usually shakes something loose.

But I do get very angry about three-quarters of the way through every book I write. I want it to be over already and it becomes painful to force myself to sit down and get the scenes done. When that happens, I let myself write fewer words per day until the feeling passes and force myself to go and do something outdoors. A hike or bike ride or even a slow, leisurely walk does wonders.

How did you set about finding a publisher? First, I found an agent. I finished a rough draft PLAYING TYLER on May 12. On May 14 I went to a conference where I had an opportunity to pitch five different agents. Shockingly, almost all of them requested fulls on the spot.

This was fantastic, but BAD, because I hadn’t even proof-read the thing yet. So I had to level with them and tell them it would take a while to send, at least a month, maybe two so I could edit it and get it through my beta-readers.

None of them minded. And, as it turns out, just about everything in the publishing process takes a long time, so it was no big deal to them, even though it seemed, at the time, like a huge issue in my mind.

I signed with one of those agents, (she’s fantastic) and through her agency we found my amazing publisher, Strange Chemistry Books.

What would you say is the key to your success? Not writing to the market. Which I guess is another cliché and also a kind of misnomer. I don’t think that anyone can write to the market because no one really knows where the market will be when you finish.

I wrote my “under-the-bed” book and made sure it was like other books I was seeing on the shelves, sure that this would guarantee a sale. It didn’t. I sent it out to tons of agents and none of them felt that they could sell it.

When I started writing PLAYING TYLER, I had totally given up my dream of becoming a published author. Clearly, I had no idea about market trends, so I wrote the story I really wanted to write and did it in a way that kept me interested, kept me at the keyboard.

As it turns out, that’s what sold.

What do you say to those writers who frown upon the challenge? Giddyup! Frown all you like. NaNo isn’t for everyone, and I ignore half of their suggestions anyway, because my process is clearly different. (Turn off my inner-editor? For a whole month? There’s no way. I’m too type-A for that to be even remotely possible.)

But it does offer structure, an outline for how to sit down and do it.

The other great thing about NaNo is that it offers you not only guidelines, but also encouragement, the feeling that you are part of a community of writers, that you’re not out there all alone at a keyboard in the wilderness.

My advice for writers who frown would be to use NaNo as a starting point, tailor it for your writing style and let it help you get to your goal: a rough draft.

One of the things that I would caution against, however, is in getting caught up in the “winning experience.” I met a few folks at different NaNo events who write and win NaNo every year, but they get to fifty thousand words and just stop. Stop! Whether the book is done or not.

Don’t do that. That defeats the entire purpose of doing NaNo in the first place. It hurts me when I meet those people. If you have fifty-thousand words that’s great. Fantastic. Yay. But you only have words, not a novel. Everybody writes fifty thousand words in some form or another through email and blog-posts and whatnot. Fifty thousands words floating out there in the ether is nothing. Means nothing. Gets you nothing. What you NEED to get out of NaNo is a novel. Period.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned from the experience? Well, I love that little chart where you can see you words go up along that little line every day. That’s very cool. I want to write one of those for myself, so I can have a neat little chart for the books I don’t start in November.

But the best thing I’ve taken away from NaNo is diligence. Don’t stop writing until the book is done, whether it takes one month or even one year, don’t stop writing.

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