Instead

It is the last day of November and thus of NaNoWriMo. I have 8,000 words to go, and if I buckled down right now and did not stop until five minutes before midnight, I probably could meet the quota.

I used to feel guilty about everything, particularly quitting (no–actually, particularly everything), and so, because I felt surprisingly not guilty about quitting now, with the end so closely in view, I started to feel guilty about not feeling guilty, and so I took a very unscientific poll over on Facebook to see if I could gauge if what I was, well, not feeling was legitimate or something. The responses were pretty evenly divided right down the middle, but, not that I’m rating my friends or anything, I suddenly felt much stronger kinship with the ones who said, “Don’t sweat it–there are more important things.”

I had to pick my Paul up from the doctor’s earlier this afternoon (yeah, he’s fine), and told him about all this. First he said, “You’re so close. Just do it.”

I stole this from Farmville on Facebook and am not sure how to correctly credit it.

A lot like it, actually.

Then he said, “What do you get if you do it?”

“A little badge to put on my blog?” I said.

“Oh,” said Paul. “So . . . it’s kind like FarmVille.”

After I stopped laughing, I decided that instead of writing another 8,000 words, I am:

1. dialoguing with my latest seminary about classes and loans and coming to the delighted realisation that unless something crazy happens like my getting diagnosed with cancer again, I should be able to pay off my classes each year.

2. laughing at my husband’s inappropriate medical humour.

3. working up a new pitch for Favored One.

4. getting reacquainted with this blog.

5. going out to eat with my Paul and some delightfully curmudgeony Now-Church folks. (We like curmudgeons. It’s what we aspire to.)

Day of Greatness and Whinging

Photo by Jennwith2ns 2009

Narnia? Yeah, I’ve been there.

I learned today from Englewood Review of Books that this day marks the birth of–get ready for it–Louisa May Alcott, Madeleine L’Engle and CS Lewis!

What?!

I know.

The day should’ve started out with lamp posts or time travel or something. And actually, when my alarm went off at 6.30 this morning, my first sight, as I rolled over to shut off my alarming iPhone on the window sill, was of a greenish moon still glowing in a pale grey sky and shining a pathway of light on the ice that is starting to glaze the pond. So . . . that probably counts. But I mean it should start like that every year.

So this is probably a good day–the birth of three writers as well as whom I can never hope to scribe (see?)–to break my November mostly-silence and update you on the progress of my NaNoWriMo novel. I use the term progress loosely. Also the word novel. I have about 12,000 more words to go to meet the 50,000-word minimum, and it turns out I can churn out words pretty quickly if I have to, so even though I only have a day and a half left to churn, I’m pretty sure I’ll make it.

Whether or not the words I’m churning have much relation to each other, let alone are compelling or even interesting, is something else entirely. As I mentioned last time, which was almost a month ago now, I don’t do stream-of-consciousness writing well over extended periods of time or extended amounts of words. I always (by which I mean, the last time I did this, and this time, too) lose hold of the story like some crochet pattern I’m not advanced enough to really read yet, until it ceases to be a story and is just a sort of tortured verbal purging–which doesn’t actually even purge anything, because all I’m doing is trying to reach a word quota.

For a little while there was some plot progression, and after that unraveled, there was character development, but now I’ve decided I want to entirely overhaul the plot and the characters, but I haven’t got time to start from scratch. Which means that what I’m doing now cannot really be described as writing at all. I’m not even sure that the words can be described as words.

Sometime during the third week or so, one of the local NaNo organisers (whom I’ve actually met this time, thanks to the write-ins) sent out an email to motivate us for the final push. In her missive, she gave us “tips” on how to expand our word-count. She suggested writing extra scenes, spelling out numbers, not deleting mistakes, writing out contractions. I have not only been doing all of these things, but I have been dividing up my compound words (and some multisyllabic non-compound words that just seem–well, too long to be a word, especially in a book where everybody is suddenly speaking with Dick-and-Jane-type precision and lack of imagination, eg., “No, I have not done that,” said Veronica, instead of, “No, I haven’t,” said Veronica), leaving out hyphens, and other such shenanigans. If I mistype a word, I leave it there and retype it until my fingers stop spazzing out and actually type the right thing.

Apparently none of this stuff is cheating? One NaNo participant intimated to me that she might even insert some writing she had done for college, which technically had nothing to do with her novel, but which had been written during the confines of November and was keeping her from actually having the time to work on such a frivolous thing as a novel. I am pretty sure that is cheating, but I hereby declare that, as soon as I have finished writing this post, it, along with my other November posts, all of which are about NaNoWriMo and this novel, are getting copied and pasted onto my “manuscript.” And yes. I’m going to go into them and edit all the contractions, hyphenated and compound words. Because frankly that seems less time-wasteful than what has been passing for “writing” around here lately. Also, the NaNo word counter incrementally subtracts words from your total anyway, so if Microsoft Word is telling you you’ve written 38,200, the NaNo “validator” will tell you you’ve only written 37,756 or something like that. It’s enough to make any writer gnash her teeth and . . . be a little dishonest, I guess. But I’m confessing it to you, The Readership. (Look! A compound word! More or less.) And if I’m confessing it to you, that makes it not-cheating, right? (Nod your heads.)

I find, as I write this, I’m feeling rather bitter about NaNoWriMo and I can’t decide if it’s because I’m stuck in a bad narrative I can’t actually edit, or if it’s because I secretly feel disillusioned that the above kinds of fudging are more or less acceptable in the endeavour, and though that doesn’t mean I have to capitulate, I won’t actually finish if I don’t. Or if it’s because I know I can write and I’m angry that I have a computer file of over 120+ pages which don’t say anything interesting.

I have just over one more day to finish, and I can–at least via the above-confessed cheat tactics–and there’s a part of me that feels like if I don’t, then those useless words will really have been wasted, as well as my silence on this blog and my write-ins at the book shop and my parents’ house. But there’s also a part of me that feels like I don’t care. I’ll write this story someday, in my own time, and then it may still not be fabulous, but it may at least be a story. In the meantime, I’ll leave the rest of the evening to the memory of three people who actually could tell a story–and hope some of the spirit (or Spirit) that inspired them rubs off or something.

An appropriate inscription for the book I have actually written

And So It Begins . . .

It is, it turns out, much easier to listen to podcasts of This American Life and trim Oscar’s eyebrows so he can see (which, I should add, is not easy), and then post a link to your guest post when it finally goes live, than it is to write the first word of a NaNoWriMo novel.

See? Here’s the link:

At this here website