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NaNo, Day Five

In which I complain yet again about the whole thing.  Have I mentioned how this kind of challenge just doesn’t work for me?  Oh, I have.  Have I mentioned how I just don’t have the time to … Oh, I have.

Let me try it a different way then.  I’ve got that day job.  Yes, I’ve mentioned that before.  I know.  Here’s the deal though.  It can be stressful and draining and leave me feeling like an empty shell by the end of the day.  And when NaNo rears its demanding head, I have nothing left to offer it.  Day after cotton-picking day for an entire month.  Friday was good.  Saturday was a bust.  Sunday was good.  Monday was pretty good.  And today?  I DON’T WANT TO WRITE!!!!!!!  But I’ve written anyway.  Another 800 or 900 words on Northville.  What has that got me?  I’m at about 4,000 words.  Still treading water at about 50% of the NaNo pace.

That’s the bad.  Here’s the good.  NaNo has pushed me to write those words in the last five days.  800 words per day actually is pretty good for me these days.  Without NaNo, I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t have had the discipline to write as much as I have since November 1.  But I’m tired.  Just so tired.  So, I’m done for the day.  We’ll see how I feel tomorrow about this whole thing.  I know where the next few parts of Northville are headed and I remain excited about it.  I still don’t know exactly how or when it will happen.  But it will need to wind up soon.

I’ve also started thinking about the re-write of Terror in a Small Town — my half completed novel about a string of terrorist attacks in the United States that will undergo enough change that it will basically be a new story.  I’m pretty certain I’ll be able to rattle off thousands of words pretty easily when I switch to that.  But I can’t yet.  I must practice the completion principle and finish Northville before I turn my attention to the shiny new toy in the show room.

Just for the heck of it, here’s a piece of what I wrote today…

            When we were little, Sophie and I would sit on the floor in our parents’ bedroom with her lipsticks and eyeliners and perfumes scattered around us.  Being the oldest, I knew everything there was to know about this as I applied bright red lipstick and blue eyeliner to Sophie’s face and then enveloped her in a cloud of Charlie.  Sophie was the perfect model, keeping her otherwise restless body perfectly still for me to apply the rouge and whatever else was handy.  By the time I was done, she was perfect.

Until Mom walked in and playfully gasped with her hand to her mouth.  “What have you done with my little girl?”  She would turn around and look under the bed.  “Where did Sophie go?”

Sophie would pop up and, through the gap made by her missing front teeth, lisp gleefully, “I’m right here, Mommy.”

“You?  You aren’t Sophie.”  Mom would bend down and inspect the girl before her.  “Why you look far too old and mature to my little girl.”  Turning to me, she would threaten me, “Lily, how many times have I told you to keep track of your sister.  Now, what has happened with her?  And where did she come from?”

The giggles that followed oftentimes led to hiccups and sore stomachs that were more than worth it.

Once we got back from Gloversville, the afternoon passed much the same way.  We were little girls again, filling the afternoon with giggles and laughter.  Even a tear or two when I mentioned our younger experiments with Mom’s make-up and Sophie let on that she didn’t remember them.

I must have curled her hair, styled it, washed it and then dried it again at least four or five times trying to figure out just the right look.  We finally settled on curling her long blond hair into ringlets that draped down her shoulders.  The make-up was just as challenging, but we finally settled on her “look.”

When it came time to get dressed, I pulled out a lacy bra I bought at Panache when Sophie wasn’t looking.  She looked at it in all its frilly red glory and shook her head.  “No thanks.”

“I insist,” I replied, shaking it in front of her.

“No.  I’m not wearing that thing.”

“Sophie.  You’re going to a dance with a boy and I want you to feel different.  I want you to feel beautiful and special and maybe even a little sexy.”

“Pffffft.  That isn’t gonna happen.  Besides why does it matter if I’m wearing that?  Nobody else is going to see it and nobody else will see me the same way.”

I turned her wheelchair around to face the mirror.  “Look in the mirror, Sophie.  You are beautiful.  You just don’t realize it.”

She looked in the mirror for a moment, studying herself, before turning away from her image.  “It’s a bunch of make-up and a hairdo.  None of which will cover up the reality.”

“It’s not just the make-up.  It’s you,” I pleaded.

While we were staring at the mirror, there was a knock on the door.  We both looked at the clock on the wall.  It read 5:45.  Pete wasn’t supposed to be there until 6:00.  “He can’t be here yet,” we whispered quietly.

I went out to the front door and peeked through the peephole.  It was Pete, only he was standing with his back to the door looking out to the street.  “It’s him,” I whispered to Sophie who had followed me to the door.  “Go back to the bathroom and finish getting dressed.  Put the damn bra on, you’ll feel better.”

Pete turned at the sound of the door opening.  The first thing I noticed was the massive black eye.  Then I noticed the scratches across his cheek.  The goose egg growing out of his forehead.  The torn Yankees shirt he was wearing.  That he held one arm to his side and that his breath rattled.  “What the hell …”

“I fought back,” he whispered before collapsing to the ground.

Thoughts on NaNo, Day Three

Here are my excuses so far:

1.  I’ve got the day job that took up nine hours on Friday.

2.  I met with Poetry-meister Geoff after work.  Had a couple of beers, ate a lot of chips and salsa, talked about writing, about family, about life, about his little publishing effort he started up a while ago, talked about writing, about family, about life.

3.  I didn’t get home until almost 9:00.  It was a great evening.

4.  I actually did, then, sit down and start working on Northville Five & Dime.  Wrote 800 words.  Half of the daily target for NaNo.

5.  I drank Friday night which these days means I’ll feel like crap the next day.  I did.

6.  I also woke up at 3:00 Saturday morning and tossed and turned for two hours, thinking about a couple of things.  Got up at 5:00, wrote a couple of emails to deal with the tossing and turning.  Slept from 6:00 – 8:30.  Woke up still feeling exhausted.

7.  Made my kid breakfast.  Pancakes and bacon.  Something that doesn’t happen nearly often enough anymore.

8.  In between the cooking and the showering and a short errand, I wrote bits and pieces here and there.  Hither and yon.

9.  My kid had a soccer game that took me away from the tools of the writing craft from Noon until 3:00.  Before we had left, I hit 1,400 new words on Northville.

10.  When we got back from his game, I took a nap.  It’s an inherent part of my weekend existence, particularly considering the tossing and turning of the night before and particularly because …

11.  90 minutes after we got home from the soccer game, we left the house again.  The kid was volunteering to be a scarer at a haunted house.  Alongside the new girl that he’s smitten with.  We drove him there, had dinner, went to see Captain Phillips (an absolutely excellent movie, by the way, and in the final ten minutes or so, Tom Hanks demonstrates why he is such an incredible actor — just for those final moments, you should see the movie), had dessert, met with the girl’s parents (old friends of mine) for a drink at 10:45, and finally got the kid and went home.

12.  I was pissed that we had to go do all of the things in #11.  I was in my head, in my story, and I wanted to stay there and explore and write and move it along because of #14.

13.  I had two epiphanies about writing and NaNo during the course of the day yesterday.

14.  First, I came up with an approach to writing to the climatic scene in Northville that will either make or break the story.  Up until now, I’ve been switching back and forth between the first person narrated versions of the story of the three main characters — Sophie, Lily, and Peter.  Each portion typically is about 4-6 pages long and each character has several portions in the first part of the story, which is now almost 13,000 words long.  As I switch to the day in which the climactic event takes place, those portions are going to become significantly shorter.  Maybe only two pages.  Maybe only one.  Maybe only a couple of paragraphs.  I think it will help ratchet up the tension.  I think.  Either that or people will get massively confused by the switches of voice.

15.  Second.  Here’s my problem.  I’m excited about #14.  Really excited to see if I can pull it off.  But, I realized what happens when I’m in a rush to write as a result of these artificial challenges like NaNo.  I end up telling more than showing.  For me, there is very much a mental part of writing.  It’s why some of the things I write take so long.  I have to kick it around the corners of my brain, chew at it, spit out bad ideas, run a few laps with the bits and pieces.  When I eliminate the mental part, I end up telling.  I found myself doing it over and over again in the short amount of writing I did yesterday.  I feel like I’m going to have to go back and completely re-do those 500 words I put down yesterday and, if so, why bother having done the writing in the first place?  Well, they do provide the guideposts for how the story is developing.  True.  But still, this is not how I write.

We shall see.  I’m going to continue soldiering on.  Even if I’m already one day behind in the word count and have a few things planned today that will interfere with my writing goals.

Quasi-NaNo

It was NaNo 2003 that got me writing.  As a result, even though I didn’t write 50,000 words during the month of November 2003, there is something about the challenge that is near and dear to me.  I tried it once or twice after 2003 and each time I’ve achieved less.  I simply am not built as a writer to be able to churn words out like that.  I think far too much about what I’m writing as I’m writing to be able to just let the words flow.  In addition, there are simply too many other demands on my time to be able to commit to the time needed to do this for an entire month.  Some of those other demands have been eliminated in recent years — no longer coaching my kids’ soccer teams, for instance.  But, damnit … it is just so difficult to find the time.

This year, there’s another hurdle.  I have too many works in progress that I want to finish before I turn to something new.  I simply cannot let myself turn away from those projects now and start something new.  I committed at the beginning of September to the following:  finish Deviation in September, finish Northville Five & Dime in October, finish Carlota in November, and then turn to another short series I’m thinking about, before finally returning to one of my half-completed novels.  I finished Deviation as planned.  I made major progress on Northville, but probably won’t have it done by tomorrow.  Probably?  Who the hell am I kidding?  There’s no way it’s done by tomorrow.  I need to be true to these goals I set and not let NaNo distract me.

So, here’s what I’ve decided.  I’m going to strive to write 50,000 words in the month of November.  First, I’ll complete Northville.  I think there’s another 5,000-10,000 words to that story.  Once I’ve done that, I’m moving on to Carlota.  I’m pretty certain there’s another 10,000-20,000 words there.  And, as I get stuck with any of those projects, I’m going to return to Terror in a Small Town.  I started this story back in 2007.  It involves an Islamic terrorist plot.  I didn’t finish it.  Since then, I’ve decided to change the terrorists to whacko, right-wing, anti-tax, sovereign citizen loonies who are a burgeoning problem in this country.  The result of this is that I need to significantly re-write what I have already written.

Ultimately, I’m probably “cheating” to the extent cheating is possible on NaNo.  Splitting the goal up over several different projects, considering re-writing as writing.  But, I don’t care.  If I can get anywhere near 50,000 words this November, I will have done for more than I expected.

P.S.  In looking through my posts on this, I realized that I committed to something remarkably similar last year.  Let’s see if I do better this year.

Day #1: How Are You Starting?

Courtesy of I Saw You Dancing, I now know I’ll have a topic for each day to close out 2012.  Day #1:

How are you starting this last month of 2012?

Take a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and ask yourself the question: how do you feel…

… in your body? in your mind? in your day job? in your creative life? in your heart?

It’s a post-NaNoWriMo world and I’m writing now.  Working on The Irrepairable Past today, with an outline for the remainder of the story.  Something I have not had in the past.  I fully expect to write a couple thousand words on the thing today.

I’m also undergoing an effort to address some of the things that bedevil me — at home, at work, in my life.  Some of those efforts will be external, but most will be internal.  I am reading Mindfulness Yoga, will soon begin Rod Stryker’s The Four Desires, and am exploring ways to achieve inner peace for the first time in a loooong time.  The things that bedevil me will always be there, the question is whether I allow them to control me.

I’ve tried reading things like these books in the past, but I don’t think I was entirely open to them.  It’s time for me to figure out some of the mysteries of my life.  Olivia O’Bryon wrote about the difference between becoming and being.  It does a good job of describing my dilemma.  I’ve spent most of my life becoming something.  It’s time for me to stop trying to become something and be.

Debra Kreps writes that she is starting this final month of December 2012 by gathering roses.  I don’t think I’m ready to gather roses yet.  I first need to figure out how to find and then see them.

NaNo This

The good:  I completed part III of The Irrepairable Past.  And have made major strides in the mental process of writing the remaining parts.  Talked through the arc of the remain story with Guest Blogger, tossed an idea or two to the side, adopted a couple of new ideas.  The story is pretty much now laid out in front of me.  Just a question of putting the words to paper.

The bad:  Argh.  Couldn’t even make it to 10,000 words this month.  Had a non-work work project that took up too much time and mental energy.

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