It’s December and my list of things to do is longer than my arm:
– prepare and pack for trip to Cinque Terre on Wednesday with 9 students in grades 8 and 9
– create a new School Profile, write letters of recommendation, create transcripts and complete applications for 18 college-bound seniors
– help a group of struggling grade 9 students NOT flunk out of school
– do much-neglected laundry
– wash dishes (every plate in our apartment is stacked in two neat piles in the kitchen)
– decorate apartment for Christmas (okay… I just did that one)
The truth is that none of it matters. Oh, it’s making me crazy-anxious and irritable all right but, as always, it will get done.
Our Barcelona routine (such as it is) was disrupted during the month of November when I threw caution to the wind (along with some of my other good habits such as high regard for the cleanliness of our dishes and apartment)and decided to pursue the INSANE goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. Less than a month, actually, as I didn’t learn about the NaNo WriMo (National Novel Writing Month) competition until a week into the month. (I have made it clear that I blame this entire crazy endeavor on April).
And I did it! I AM a NaNo WriMo winner… I reached 50,058 words on November 27th. I copied my manuscript into what the site calls its “Word Validator” and the little blue line on my profile turned purple and it now says WINNER!
It was, I must admit, somewhat easier than I thought it would be (without actually being easy) given that I leave the house for school at 7:05 a.m. and am rarely home before 7:00 p.m. As I started the competition late, I needed to produce 2,000 words (not spectacular words, mind you… just regular words) a day in order to hit 50,000 words by November 30th. My routine was to take a wee break after I got home from school/tutoring and then to write for two solid hours. I wrote on my laptop. In bed. It did occur to me, from time to time, that perhaps serious novelists don’t write in bed. No matter. D. made, or fetched, dinner which makes those weeks pretty much the same as normal. On the weekends, we would see a double bill at our favourite cinema by the sea and then I would write, write, write. Sundays were my big catch up day; on the final Sunday, I wrote more than 8,000 words. Close to the end, I was really suffering from a lack of sleep but I knew that I would get it done. 50,000 words. The round little train that could. Choo choo.
And DP believed that I could do it. He was wildly supportive, and has been established, he did my share of all non-school tasks for three weeks. (Novelists must have very understanding or very FRUSTRATED partners). Then, when I WON, he took me to see “The Bee Movie” (at my request) and treated me for a fabulous Italian meal at “Il Corsero Nero” which translates to “The Pirate Nero”. Huzzah!
One day, close to the end of November, while I was still headed towards 50,000, I covered one of DPs classes for him. He had told the kids about how many words I had written and, as they are in grade 7, they were very impressed. The had tons of questions (a classic filibuster tactic for the substitute teacher) and one student asked what the story was about. I hadn’t discussed my story with anyone but DP so I had to take a moment to think about the question. I explained that it was a story about a woman with a nice life – a life that seemed okay from the outside – but she wasn’t really happy. When her father died and left her the family’s farm, she moved home and that act changed everything. She changed. The girl leaned towards me and asked, “Are you happy?” Great question, right? “Yes. I am pretty happy.” She let it go at that.
My story is about a woman whose father dies and leaves her the family farm. She gives up her city life and moves back to the country where she begins learning about living a rural life — all of the things she was taught but did not learn as a young woman itching to grow up and move closer to the bright lights. That’s it in a nutshell. It includes recipes and the plight of a local library and some romance. A wholesome story. Really!
I’m not quite finished; I still need to write the ending. Perhaps the verb “record” is a more accurate description of what is most likely to happen. The thing is that although I have an ending in mind, I’ve discovered that my characters (especially the main character) are willful and do not always play by the rules established in my chapter outline. These characters clearly have plans of their own, like rebellious high school students but, you know, um… fictional. I have heard writers make this very claim and thought “What malarkey!”… but it turns out to be absolutely true. My characters very rarely say or do things that are inconsistent with their personalities, no matter how cute or clever the line I have in mind, or how nicely the proposed action might wrap up a scene. Stubborn stubborn stubborn!
After (the characters and) I finish the ending, I will go back and write some scenes for which I need to do a bit more research; my parents have been my primary sources of information on this project. This stage will take another month of after-school writing from the time I begin.
Then comes the damned editing. My bitchy suit-wearing tight-bunned inner-editor has been locked in the closet with our little blue vacuum cleaner for a month now. If you were to look at my story and/or my apartment, it would be apparent that neither the editor nor the vacuum cleaner was able to escape on their own. When a first draft is complete, I will ask DP to be my first reader. God bless the first reader.
A friend at school asked, “Then what?” I didn’t understand what he meant. Then he explained that a friend of his, back in the U.S., had written a novel which she self-published but it wasn’t very good. Ah! As a Pisces, I come by my idealism naturally… of course, I intend to publish it. Perhaps it won’t be the best thing I ever write. Maybe it won’t get published until after my brilliant second novel is published. Who knows? But I believe that if you are going to take on something this BIG, put this much of your life into it, you need to be both serious and optimistic.
I wrote 50,000 words in November. Writer performs happy dance here!