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NaNoWriMo: Days 9, 10, 11, 12

NaNo Day #9

OK, it’s Friday. And I really and truly did have to go out on errands first thing to see if the local dry cleaner over by the post office on Killingsworth, could get J.’s shirts done by Saturday as he needs them for his trip to DC next week. And, never one to do only one thing while I’m out and about, (especially these days of trying not to drive too much) I also headed up to Acme Mirror on Alberta to get a piece of glass cut and installed in the carved teak frame I got at The Monkey and the Rat a few weeks back. They’re closed on Saturdays which is why that minor project has taken so long. And then I headed out on my adventure to find Joes, formerly G.I. Joes, a sporting goods/outdoor mega-store, to buy another pedometer as mine has gone MIA. All that took about an hour. Then, upon returning, I had a message to call Sharon, the editor of the poetry anthology about bridges that my poem will be appearing in. So I did that. Then, finally, after a few pieces of vegie/cheese corn bread for inspiration, I turned to the novel words.

Earlier this morning, I reviewed some of the pitfalls often experienced in Week #2 of NaNoWriMo in No Plot, No Problem earlier this morning, I had already (tentatively) decided that I might not pick up where I left off yesterday because I was so bored with it and that, to energize myself and continue with the writing, and I might need a character coup. As Chris Baty describes it, a character coup is when you are bored with all your main characters and decided to abandon them or maybe even literally kill them off and let a stranger, quirkier minor character take the lead instead. Which is what I did.

I opened up a file with notes from way back when—a very sketchy freewrite of Irene leaving a bar and going to a cemetery—and started to type. I let Lance Franklin into the scene and now I’m thinking I may just turn the whole damn shapeless sweater mess into the serial murder comedy J. wanted me to write from the beginning, the one about a guy who is killing off everyone who had higher GPAs than him in the high school class so he can be #1 at the next reunion. The good news is I cranked out about half of the daily quote just rambling on about this and that. I may see if, post-lunch, I get a second wind and feel like further fleshing Lance out.

Not to jump the gun—because this NaNo is about the process not the product, let’s not forget—but I have pretty much (already) come to the conclusion that I really do not like working on a novel, that it isn’t my strong suit when it comes to writing. I seem to quickly lose my interest and desire to figure out the whole ball of wax that is creating believeable characters you want to learn more about, have do things, get into difficult situations in which they are forced to make decisions, etc. etc. J. thinks it is because what I’ve been writing is too autobiographical; he may be right. He also says it’s because I can never (have never been able to) envision a story’s ending. All of this is part of why I turned to poetry in the first place two years ago when working on the Gordon book. Shorter projects, ones where you can get a sense of completion, where the sound, word, phrase, line, stanza, syntax, and music are paramount not whether Lance would leave the Mountain Inn, go to the cemetery and stick a knife into Irene. I’m not saying there aren’t characters in poetry or story lines. Just that something different works for me when I’m working with the words that will become a poem.

Still, I’m going to keep going. My word count inched ever so slightly above 20,000 words today. That, in and of itself, says something I guess. That I am good at touch typing? That I know how to use the word count feature on MS Word?

NaNo Day #10

Saturday. Sun’s out. I see smoke from a chimney up the block so maybe that means it’s cold. It’s J.’s last day home before he goes an American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in DC all next week. There’s a big sale over at the outdoor store formerly known as G.I.Joe’s. We have library books and dry cleaning to retrieve, raking to do, a walk, and an afternoon reconnaissance of the Wordstock Book Fair down at the convention center so I won’t feel so overwhelmed going there alone for my poetry workshop at 4 pm on Sunday.

Who in their right mind would want to stay indoors and write?

After much PMS-induced carping and pewling in my journal pages, I moved on to the words. Today was mostly a cut-and-paste, stream-of-consciousness session. Nothing artful or crafted that’s for sure. I started with an old file of scatterbrained notes, added some narrative to get a character moving from the kitchen to the back porch, then using a “found text”—a very brief story written by C. back in 4th or 5th grade, moving into juxtaposing Irene’s self-indulgent, mixed-up psychic state with some news reports from Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, 1500 words later, I’ve sewn one more square in the patchwork crazy quilt that is my (likely unreadable, uninteresting) NaNoWriMo novel, that’s for sure. I would almost prefer shapeless sweater; at least it’s an item of clothing you might be able to wear. I think that’s probably the best I’m going to be able to do at least for this hormonally-challenged NaNo Week #2. Ramble on, to quote an old Led Zeppelin song.

Meanwhile, here’s something serendipitous and crazy: the theme of Fred Piscop’s November bonus crossword (for those of us who subscribe to the the New York Times puzzle online) is National Novel Writing Month. Guess the event is on the dominant culture radar screen now!

NaNo Day #11

Sunday morning and I got a late start with the NaNo pages because of this and that. I wish I felt more interested in my project. But even if I were working with different material, and a completely different cast of characters and plot line, I don’t think I’d be getting into this. I think writing a novel—at least a traditional-style, linear narrative—just isn’t for me. I’ve known this for a while and it’s a large part of the reason I switched over to memoir and poetry study a few years back. But this experience of showing up to confront the novel demons every day for a month is bringing my insight about the kind of writer I am home.

I suppose I am continuing to do NaNo in spite of this realization partly to prove to myself I can begin and complete, that I can make it to some kind of “ending” because I never did that with my grad school novel-in-progress. But what I have to remember about that project is that, indeed, I went back at least twice and thoughtfully analyzed why that project fizzled out above and beyond the fact that the story itself was boring to me and the process of writing a novel un-fun. Maybe now, once I’ve made it through NaNoWriMo, I can finally put that experience to rest. And move on.

What I also have to remember is that whatever writing I stitch together as part of this NaNo process won’t be for naught. While the NaNo pages might not hold together as a credible novel that anyone in her right mind would ever want to read, the pages can and will be seeds for other writing including poetry. Witness what happened with my poem, Sara’s Eyes. It pretty much grew out of my free writing about Irene and her obsession with an Afghan woman in a New York Times photograph. This was the scene I added to the NaNo novel’s word count yesterday as I work to deepen Irene’s character. I’m sure there will be other passages that I’ll return to and mine for other creative work.

NaNo Day #12

Today’s NaNo themes have been chapter titles and recycling. Since the structure of my novel is, for now, a crazy patchwork quilt, it makes little sense to finalize what section will end up being where. This story is jumping around in time and in and out of the minds of several of the characters, hence the 3rd person omniscient point of view. I have chunked the 88 or so pages into three parts and then tentatively numbered and named the sections (of wildly varying length and completeness, I might add) that I’ve plunked into each of those.

I have had that song by Lesley Gore—it’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want to, you would cry too if it happened to you—in my head for days only I keep changing the lyrics to suit my situation at the moment. [By the way, what is it in that that last line?] My version for today goes something like this: they’re my words and I’ll use if I want to, use if I want to, use if I want to. You’d use them, too, if they were written by you. So that’s what I’ve done with a bit of editing, tweaking, additional writing, and deleting. Of course, I doubt I have another 22,000 words in the coffers to add to this crazy-ass project so I’m sure I’ll be back on the chain gang slogging away in the matter of a day or two. But for now, I’ve decided to do this.

And just because inquiring minds do want to know what it really is and because the Internet and google make everything literally at our fingertips in this sea of information that, one day, may drown us all, here you go:

IT’S MY PARTY Lesley Gore

Nobody knows where my Johnny has gone
Judy left the same time
Why was he holding her hand
When he’s supposed to be mine

It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

Playin’ my records, keep dancin’ all night
Leave me alone for a while
‘Till Johnny’s dancin’ with me
I’ve got no reason to smile

It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

------ LEAD BREAK ------

Judy and Johnny just walked through the door
Like a queen with her king
Oh what a birthday surprise
Judy’s wearin’ his ring

It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to
Cry if I want to, cry if I want to
You would cry too if it happened to you

You know, this Golden Oldie just might be more relevant to some of the story lines in my novel, Personal Effects, that I could have suspected from the fragment that I kept singing to myself. Maybe I should think about changing the title?


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