3K

It’s halfway through Nanowrimo, and I have more or less (probably somewhat less) 3,000 words. That’s not 30,000, or even 25,000 that I should have: that’s three thousand. That’s fewer words than two days’ worth. How did this happen? 

I got sick. 

You wouldn’t think it, but a week’s worth of flu can really knock the writing out of you. You would think that a week’s worth of day dreaming in bed or lolling about on the couch would be the perfect opportunity to write. It’s a writer’s dream, isn’t it? Well, not so much. The little grey cells don’t function quite up to speed. Which means Nano isn’t happening for me this year.

But that’s ok. It’s good for my humility; it’s good to remember I can’t accomplish everything I set out to do. And, in some ways, it’s good for my writing, too. Instead of working on the story I meant to write this November, my brain has been going around and around with the murder mystery I’m almost finished with, and I’m actually starting to tie up some loose ends. If a flu will make me lose Nanowrimo but help me finish a year-old project, I hope I get the flu every year!

Meanwhile, I hope your projects are going well, and your Nano counts are getting higher and higher every day!

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My word count, two days into Nanowrimo. I must admit, this is rather unusual; I tend to frantically stack word upon word for at least two or three days, to have a “bumper” for the middle of the month when time goes all wibbley-wobbley and quickens its pace. One thing after another, and I still haven’t put the first sentence into my freshly-opened Word document. But word count is just a number, right? 

One

One more day. One day more. Twenty-six hours from now, and I will be wide awake, panicking at the first quarter of an hour of November 2013. That quarter of an hour will determine the fate of my novel, my story, my soon-to-be bestseller, my brainchild, my life.

*cue dramatic music*

Yeah, or not.

Most likely, I will just fall asleep.

The story will write itself, one way or another. I am a writer; I write. This doesn’t mean that I’ll actually become the next Jane Austen; it doesn’t mean that anyone will ever read anything I ever write; it doesn’t even mean that I will ever finish a single writing project. All it means is that I put words one by one down on paper or type them out; these words mean to me some thought or emotion or problem or curiosity. These words express, consider, question, describe, imitate, contemplate, criticise, and analyse Life as I know it. I write as a matter of course. I write because I must write, because I am meant to write. I write because …

NANOWRIMO IS COMING.

Two

Despite my brilliant frantic current writing project, despite my newest fascination with certain members of my ancestry, despite the alluring possibility of travel and adventure, I will and I must drive all such distractions from my mind, in order to concentrate on this coming Nano.

No more plumbing the depths of my murder mystery; no more searching after that curious character with the magical umbrella who has just moved into my attic (attic? second floor apartment? house next door?); no more delving deep through dictionaries dark to discover delicious delicacies of dialect …

Basil (as you can plainly see) has been quite ignored, poor fellow, for some time; not that being left to his own devices deters him from any possible quirk or fancy, such as rummaging about in the library and pulling books from the shelves and dropping them onto the floor and creating such a mess it’s a wonder I don’t have bookeaters. Bookeaters? Bookmites? Pests, of one sort or another. Rather rodent-y, I suppose, with long snouts and sharp claws and ugly yellow teeth.

Stories shelved, characters subdued, plots untangled and left to dry in the ever-chilling October wind, I take up my nifty Nanoist to nano like the Nanowrimer I was born to be.

Two days.

Three

Three days until Nanowrimo. Three days of security and irresponsibility. Three days of possibility, potential, and procrastination. 

I’m gonna die. 

Not only have I neglected to sufficiently plot the story for this year’s Nanowrimo, I have, in fact, neglected to plot at all. I have a dubious array of vagueish characters, including a reluctant heroine, a not-so-heroic hero, and an abstract concept for villain. The setting is the present (I guess) and the location is small-town America (sort of), but beyond that, I really don’t have a clue.

I have, in fact, a vageuish vague of vagueness. 

Despite the negations and desperate lack, however, I am determined to make this a Nano to remember. No abstractions will suffice, no reluctance will inhibit, no vagueness will define the story of this  November. 

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare your pencils. Let the plotting commence! 

NANOWRIMO!

It’s coming to a November near you! Yes, near enough to smell, and it smells like burning oak leaves, and hot tea, and frosted windshields, and pumpkin-scented everything, and ball-point pen ink, and brand new journals, and bouquets of sharpened pencils … yes, I’m that excited. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more excited about a NaNo before … I’ve only done it a few years now, but each time it’s been a thrill and a challenge and a marvelous feat and a superpower and a dance. And if you haven’t done it before, DO IT! Sign up, log in, and WRITE! 

Patience

We live in a world of instant gratification. With writing, as with many other wonderful exciting confusing frustrating frabjous things, we cannot expect to produce War and Peace overnight, or even within a year, or perhaps a decade. We cannot expect to produce it as our first attempt at a novel, or our last. We cannot expect to produce it ever, in fact. Tolstoy rather beat us to the quick.

Dash it all, I can hardly produce a readable blog post, without consuming an excessive amount of cheese. And chocolate. And cheese.

As an unwilling though undeniable product of the late twentieth century, I expect results. Fast. Now. Yesterday! I expect quantity rather than quality, efficiency rather than eloquence. I wrote 50K words in 30 days; doesn’t that count as a “book”? (What is a “book”?) Why can’t I put it on the market now and make it a best-seller? Isn’t that effort enough? What do you mean, editing? But I want it NOW.

Basil just sits in his corner and guffaws. Sigh.

Point being, patience. Building a vocabulary takes patience. Building a mental library takes patience. Building a repertoire of references takes patience. The pleasure of forming an intricate sentence is consumed by the focus and attention necessary for its content. Or something.

Rudyard Kipling encourages us to “Wait and not be tired by waiting.”

T. S. Eliot takes it a step further:

“I said to my soul, be still and wait without hope, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love, for love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, but the faith and the love are all in the waiting. Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

Thank you, Blue, for the sermon. May I go back to bed now?

~

For the record, one of the recommended tags for this post is “Shopping.” I take that as a sign. Retail therapy, anyone?

Project

No melodrama today, promise. Though I can’t speak for tomorrow.

Today, I’m going to tell you a little about my current writing project. Well, to say “current project” indicates a singleness of projects, a lack of multiplicity. Not so for this girl. I’ve been working on multiple projects since I began writing. Well … perhaps that’s hyperbolic. I began writing in first grade, where I wrote a series of one-page stories (illustrated, of course) in a wide-ruled journal with a black Labrador on the front cover. I wasn’t talking about “writing projects” back then.

But these days, I’m usually working on more than one project at any given time. Readers can read multiple books at a time; what limits a writer? Nothing but the space between the ears. So I mentally multi-task and hop from 1930s England to today’s Midwest to futuristic Neptune, and back again; whatever tickles my fancy, I take on as my adventure for the day, the week, the month, however long it lasts. I kill off heroes and adopt orphans and blow up planets and rewrite history with as much aplomb as Lady Frankie shows in literally gatecrashing the Nicholsons. All in the security of my adorably Wonderland-like cardboard-box-sized bedroom, with windows facing nowhere and piles of books I keep meaning to read languishing around on the floor.

The project I’m focusing on, though, is something I wrote during NaNoWriMo* last year. It started off as a social satire, focusing on one particular family and their fascinatingly disgusting social snobbery (towards each other, as well as towards “outsiders”), but, in my mad rush to reach 50K, I bleeped over the biting verbal swordplay and, instead, spewed Melville-fatiguing descriptions of people and places and things. Whatever it takes to hit the word count, right? Come 30 November, I hit the word count (O joy, O rapture!), but what then? All through the bleak 5-month midwestern winter, what to do with a potentially-brilliant someday-best-seller (yes, mothers like to make their children sound better than they really are)? Ah, you guessed it. You’ve been through this before, too, haven’t you? So, current step towards published-authorship: editing.

Wow.

Confession #1: I like editing. I mean, I actually, legitimately, enjoy the process of tearing a piece apart, correcting grammar, changing commas to semi-colons, replacing “who” with “whom” (or vice-versa, for overly-enthusiastic yet not-quite-accurate writers), turning a sentence upside down in an effort to shake out unnecessary adverbs and misplaced modifiers. Problem: I like editing other people’s writing. You know, newspaper articles and online forum comments and poorly-printed cheap copies of favorite books. When it comes to my own writing, editing proves difficult, to say the least. Pulling teeth sounds like fun, compared to this. Let’s try amputation. Or performing open heart surgery on yourself, for example. You see, it all makes sense in my head. When I write a character’s line, I write it in the voice of that character. I can hear the character’s insinuating snarl or awestruck monotone. Trying to put that into words is like painting a sunset in black and white. It’s just hard.

But do let me tell you about my book. — I must warn you, I talk about my stories like mothers talk about their children. Not that my preciouses poop and vomit and cry all night, but they do rather preoccupy my thinkage (I love real live children, too, just not their runny noses. If my children’s noses run, it’s in ink, so I don’t have to invest in tissues). So, as I take up this darling little manuscript and flip through the pages and try to distance myself,  the task is to distance myself from those little lines and phrases I particularly enjoyed writing, and read with an objective eye. Daunting is the word. But in editing, in “killing off the little darlings,” I realize the potential strength of the lines left, the tautness of structure, the firmness of plot. During writing, I knew more or less who my characters were, what was going to happen to them, where the story would go. It flowed; it spewed; it ran and swirled in psychedelic colors.

Now, in pruning and structuring, the story has gone where I could never have imagined. It’s gone dark; it’s gone deep. What was once a playful social commentary is taking on distinct markings of a full-blown drama. Reading through some scenes, I think to myself, “Woah, is this my story? Did I write this? Do I know what is going on here?” I have had suggestions from friends (and one excellent editor!) about plot twists and settings and character development, but even as I adopt some ideas and discard others, the story continues to shape itself. Just as some characters walk into existence on their own two feet, some plots seem to run their own courses. It’s fascinating. I have no idea if it works like that for other writers … it has only begun doing this to me for the past couple of years, so I hope that’s a sign my writing is improving! Thoughts? Give us a shout-out: How do you write? Can you control your plots and characters? Or do you merely unleash the Hydra and watch it grow?

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* If you’re a writer and you don’t know NaNo, you need to know NaNo NOW: nanowrimo.org. GO. Write. Win 50K!