All month long, I’ve been keeping a calendar. Each day, I mark the number of words written and the running total. I color it green if I’ve exceeded the daily goal (1,667 words) and pink if I have not. I get a gold star whenever I have a green day.
I look at that calendar now and see the results: 56,204 words reached on Day 30. I look back to Day 1 and see 965. It’s kind of incredible to imagine what ideas, whimsy, surprises spun out in the 55,239 words in between. And that is the part of the process that is most satisfying to me: the surprises. I think I’m writing a little scene about two friends on a walk and it turns into a meditation on women’s fashion, a character goes into a bagel store and encounters a first-generation man of vague middle-eastern descent who has ambitions to higher things, a business meeting ends with a fire alarm, characters force their way onto the page from where I do not know. Who is Senora, why is her name misspelled, is she some sort of astronomy buff to have named her twins Deneb and Altair? None of these things existed at word 965, they weren’t even in my imagination. But now they are on the page.
So I feel gratitude for the creative endeavor, quiet pride at having spun a yarn out the full distance yet again, and curiousity to return to my work in a few month’s time to find what my psyche has shared, unbeknownst to me.
Thanks reader(s) for following my 30 days of writing adventure. I feel seen and that matters to me a great deal.
Have you ever been in a motor boat coming into a harbor?
The engine is at full throttle and you are cutting through the chop–no, pounding through it–but as you come in past that first buoy, you cut back on the engine because you have reached the wake free zone. The boat slows, bow tips back down toward the water, and your wake catches up to you, washing under the stern as you slosh to a slow crawl.
That’s kind of where I am right now. I’ve been cranking out words at full throttle. Over 2000 words each of the last 12 days, save Thanksgiving. I’m well past 50,000 words, have submitted my novel for validation, and been declared a winner. But there is still one day to go. I’m not at the dock yet. I have not completed the plot. I do have the last scene already sketched. It’s kind of sweet and perfect for everything that has happened thus far. Now I just have to drift the novel slowly forward to those final words.
The No Wake zone has arrived.
. . . pushing . . .
Yes, that was it, the 50,000th word. Sarah, our protagonist, is having a fashion crisis at the Noah’s Bagels (of course there are bagels in this novel, it’s my book after all). She’s contemplating if it’s possible to kick someone in the balls while wearing a power suit.
Please discuss while I keep writing. Still two more days to bring the plot line to completion, even if only in a rough sketch. Wish me luck!
Output. Lots of output. Words the pour out. Outlines that collapse. Outright lies masquerading as truth (within the context of fiction). Putting myself out on paper each day. Out of ideas. Out of nowhere. Outlandish plot points. Out of my mind. Outer truth, inner reality. Out on a limb. Out after dark. Out all alone.
I am close now. 796 words away from the finish line. Many more words away from the finished plot finish line (I’m guessing that’s closer to 60K) but that’s OK. Each day–before, during, or after I write NaNo–I sit down and write this blog. It’s a personal commitment because I want to track how it is all feeling in the moment. The blog posts are like little travelogue snapshots–fuzzy at times, oddly framed perhaps, but nice souvenirs to have.
But like a traveler, I want to share the pictures from my trip (oh, we all fear the deadly dull evening that promises to be, don’t we?). A blog is supposed to be a forum, a soapbox, a way to speak to the world. It’s wildly public, or can be, if anyone is listening. So I’m curious. Are you out there (like the Gucci knockoff spammers who comment every day)?
Leave a comment. I’d love to know if all this out is being taken in.
50,000 words is just one, maybe two, days away.
It has come so much easier this time. I’m not sure why, but I am grateful. Perhaps last time it was because 50,000 words was unimaginable. Could I write that much? I never had. Let’s find out. It was arduous, like wading through waist deep waters thick with blood suckers. But I crawled up on the shore completely elated! This time it took less courage. I new what that far shore felt like, what suffering must happen in-between here and there. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been part of ordinary life (and I fear that the writing reflects that ordinariness too, but that is for another day).
However, I am grateful to be reminded that each time we do the unimaginable, our realm of possibilities expands. What once beyond our wildest dreams is now doable. This magic transformation happens, each and every time we take that risk, almost without fail.
So what is unimaginable to me now that I hope to make be totally doable one day soon? Where is the next frontier ready for the steady application of courage? Where is it for you?
I know my answer.
Ocean Beach - Day 25 of NaNoWriMo
What is interesting (and slightly embarassing) about my writing is how much of my own psyche seeks to express itself through my characters. I find this especially true when it comes to writing dialogue. Sometimes I steal words from the real world around me but more often than not I let my imagination drop into my characters and, like a cheesy seance, I let them speak through me. No doubt it’s just me speaking through me, but perhaps it is a part of me to which I normally would not have access.
Does that make writing fiction a form of journaling? Therapy? Self-discovery? I suppose so. But then most artistic or creative endeavors are attempts to bring into reality, into form, something that only exists in the imagination.
Good thing I get to edit before y’all get to see it.
First off, happy thanksgiving.
I was comatose after all yesterday’s eating and wrote neither a blog post nor a word of NaNoWriMo novel. It’s OK, I’m still on track thanks to some high volume writing over the previous 5 days. Just shy of 40,000 right now.
Because my plot has been feeling flat, my characters dull, their lives mundane, I’ve adopted a new strategy: writing by storyline rather than chronology. The idea is to follow one idea through to completion. For example, follow poor Sarah and her love life. The upside is that I’ll atleast have one plot line that reaches a conclusion. The downside is that the writing won’t be informed by all the crazy things happening in the other plot lines. Those interconnections are often the richest part of the writing. They are the places where I find the most delight since I never would have guessed that the tuna sandwich in scene A would be critical to resolving her love life in scene B or the finding the murderer in scene C.
In other words, I am not convinced this is the best approach but I know no other way of getting some sort of completed story arc. It’s either this or write another 50,000 slow-paced words, to come to truly understand my characters, and to help reveal where their fates will ultimately lead.
Meanwhile, I share this emergency double-delivery of Waxie’s outside my office. It’s an popular item in cubicle life and an item that already appears in my story. It’s also a reminder that my life could definitely be worse.
This is the hardest part for me: plot.
In my first novel, I basically had one plot line throughout. A murder mystery to be solved by one primary character. Everything fed into that journey. In this one, I upped the ante. I have a murder mystery, a character who will solve it but only because she’s trying to figure out financial shenanigans that (maybe) led to the murder, a subplot of romance and eroticism, a subplot of dogs and queer culture, a subplot of feminism and power. I think this may be a bit too much.
So far, I feel like I’ve been laying down bricks. Not perfect bricks, but pretty functional, squarish, dense things. The problem is that the wall I’m building doesn’t seem to be getting any higher. Maybe it’s because my wall (my plot) is far too wide.
One helpful suggestion the NaNoWriMo folks have made for situations like this is to just jump ahead. Write a scene where the character has already resolved their father issues and jumped into bed with a new hunky guy. Write a scene where the character has solved the riddle of the complicated financial transaction and stands, printouts in hand, saying “Eureka!”. Write the scene where she kicks some serious feminist butt.
Cobble together something that looks like a roof and walls, that looks like the whole of a house, even if you have to go back and fill in bricks later.
This is better than a low, wide wall that separates nothing from nothing.