1707 words. Unedited, of course.
I write more than 1,667 words a day nearly every day, no question. Yet when it comes to making things up entirely out of my head for NaNoWriMo, I find it a challenge. I can chat or talk jibberish for hours, especially with someone equally capable of it. But a story, that I make up? That has to be "invented," and I find that when I pressure myself to do so, I draw blanks.
If I tell one of my kids to write a story, I can provide an example, made up on the spot, on just about any subject I've heard of. Extemporaneously, I am often awesome. So what's the deal here, where I struggle all month-long to put together a story? It is a struggle, but it's fun, so I don't worry about it too much. I make a list of topics to cover, and go for it. I do find, though, that as much as I counsel others against it, I tend to think of my words as precious jewels dripping from my fingers, and expect them all to be worthy of hangers-on. That's just silly, and it locks up your brain instead of opening it.
I paint pictures on canvas and with poetry, in careful measured phrasing, embracing informal balance and coaxing it into being. Telling a story gets to be something else entirely, if I can just let go and let it happen.
Today my youngest son is under the weather a bit. He's napping over there on the couch, and I was sitting next to him for a long time, then realized he needed to stretch out more, so I've moved to my little green "easy chair," in front of the cold, cold bow window. Physical memory is very strong for me, and as I plugged in the computer, I was taken back to the Saturday two or three weeks ago when I sat in this chair for nearly the entire day, watching Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin on YouTube. I could feel the air as my son brought in my plants since that was the weekend we were told frost was coming. I remembered some of the exchanges I had with a couple of Twitter friends. All this may seem ordinary, and it is, except for me it is also sensory. I felt the memory, rather than just recalled it. It was fantastic, that day, on this day, a few minutes ago.
This is a handy trait, by the way, when driving to a location I have been to only once before, or a long time before. I just feel my way there even if I don't remember the names of the streets or whatever. Mostly, though, it just means I'm slightly out-of-focus when it comes to reckoning the passage of time. I live partially in a state of kairos, if you know anything about that.
Some NaNoWriMo participants like to talk about how many words they can write in an hour, and do go on to produce "novels" of paramount length by the end of the month. They put signatures at the bottom of their forum posts which detail each year's bountiful effort, like thus:
2005: Big Deal About Dragons - 34k words, :-(
2006: Something Else Indeed (About Dragons) - 57k words SCORE!!!!
2007: And Then Dragons, As It Were: 119k words =)
2008: A Long Thing About Futuristic Dragons: 270k whoo!!!
2009: Beyond Here Be More About Dragons: ????
And I'm exhausted just looking at it. Plus? Whatever. You are no longer on the same page as the rest of us. Move along, then.
I just wrote 600 words.
Would you like to know about my actual 2009 NaNoWriMo effort? First you should know that I know I'll get to 50k, though probably just barely as usual. This year, though, I will not count it a complete success unless it is something that can be regarded as having a beginning, a middle, and an ending. Sure, it'll still be nearly entirely character-driven. No one will die in it, no gigantic crisis will occur; that's not how I roll, baby. But some things will happen, and, like, go from one point to this other point. At least, that is the idea.
I'm either using Steve from my half-book about the twins, Violet and Lily Palm, or someone a lot like him with some of Jack from last year added to the mix. He's fairly new to Sea View, my town, and is trying to learn about the residents for an anthropology project. He attends one of the mayor's weekly meetings at the donut shop and learns they're raising money for a statue of the town founder, Andrew Dexter. Not everyone thinks well of Dexter, and everyone in town has a story about him, so Steve sets out to learn the truth about him, learns some funny secrets along the way, and ends up falling in love with the town.
I love my town called Sea View. It's a conglomeration of the New Jersey shore towns of Rumson, Sea Bright, Long Branch, Fair Haven, and Red Bank. Plus a silly twist thrown in. It's most like Fair Haven, but with liberal Red Bank people, rich Rumson estates, Long Branch hipsters and food, and the Sea Bright (and Rumson) location. Here's the general area: East of 35. I loved it there and would go back. But if I ever get to move to somewhere that feels just right for me, I'll need to have mild, Santa Barbara, California type of weather.
In my town and in my stories there are always a couple of old men who sit around and be funny, a couple of gay people; usually one who has loved or is/has been loved by a non-gay person, at least one dog, argumentative artists, a little drinking, a lot of reminiscing, and someone who is into some form of "alternative spirituality." Oh, and donuts and music and some bad weather. This is New Jersey; those are basic elements. And Sea View is so real to me, I get a little disappointed it's not quite actually over there, just some bits of it spread around that small area.
I think it's probably also heavily influenced by the locations I read about while going through this mad "cozy mystery" phase over the past couple of years with authors such as M.C. Beaton, Nancy Atherton, and Joan Hess. But as much as I love reading mysteries, I'm not very keen on trying to write one. What I most like about those stories is the people and the settings. The plots are secondary, though they are often very interesting or clever. If I ever write a book that is worthy of publication consideration, plot will definitely be my weak point. But I'm working on it a little, this go-round.
I'd like less plot in my own life, actually. There's been quite enough by now, I think, and the rest of it should just be baked goods, gardening, and conversation. Don't you agree?
What should the next 500 words be about?
I like living in New Jersey, though as I said, I prefer the other side of the state. These people and their attitudes are informed by both Revolutionary history and 20th century immigration patterns, by wet weather, the sea, New York, Philadelphia, and the bigness of a tiny state no one understands unless they've spent real time here, and not just on the Turnpike or at a beach during the summer season. It's beautiful and wild, natural and artificial, like most other U.S. states I've visited. But it's all mushed up together in a teeny space; mountains, beaches, marshes and forests, overcrowded cities, wealthy suburbs, and farm country, no space between any of it. And every region is different, but you can get good pizza in all of them. Real pizza, not the kind you usually eat wherever you live that's not here!
I've lived in three other states and they all have attributes to recommend them, but I felt I belonged here the first time I saw the sea. Now I believe I just belong at the sea, but I'm closer than I ever was before the age of 35, so that's something, at least. Only you wouldn't think an hour is so far away? It really is, somehow. I hardly ever see it anymore, and I feel like it's a necessary and missing component to my life. It was always missing before, all those 35 years, but it hurts more now after getting to embrace it close to me for awhile.
In previous years I always set out to share my NaNo words with friends, but realized that I'd start writing for them, which is not a good thing to do, and then it was harder to share, concerned about receiving judgment and even worse, suggestions. I haven't decided whether to share it this year or not, but if I do, I'll go no-holds barred, and share every word, not just choice segments. The Full Monty. I still won't want judgment or suggestions, though, after all, it's a "30 day novel." First of all, of course it's going to be kind of awful, and second, if you want to judge, you can just go write one yourself and judge that! No, really, how about it? Just click on my icon up there to get started. It's a hoot.
Do people say "hoot" where you're from? Probably not.
It's time to start something for dinner. I have a sick kid, a kind-of sick kid, another out for the evening with his dad, and two picky teen girls who think they have paying jobs and so why should they help with the dishes? If it hadn't been sick kid's dish day, I'd mind going into the kitchen less. But I have to be the substitute, since almost-sick kid would be the usual one. And then decide what sort of food is worth the bother for the circumstance. Even though I had a bourbon drink last night, I might have a martini. Some nights it's nice to do that, and might perk up my mood for the task, make me feel all sprightly and Modern Kitchenish instead of sort of chilly and drudgy.