You should not brag about the great sex you had last night. No bragging about how much money you make or whether or not you are the smartest person in the room. You don’t want to go through life looking like the child that got way too much praise during potty training!
On the other hand it is acceptable to brag about your grand-kids, your new living room couch or published works. I do not have any of those things, but today I have bragging rights anyway because I completed the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 5o thousand words in just 30 days.
For the past month while this poor blog lay fallow, visited mostly by spammers, who are now “following this blog,” I sat every single morning and wrote down approximately 1,666 words, creating a novel, my first…a couple of excerpts can be found in the November archives under the heading of “The Angel Twin.”
The long-format has been too daunting for me to consider in the past. How do you sustain a voice for 150 pages? And what is the story that you want to tell? I did not know the answer to either of those questions when I began on November 1, but I will tell you this–the way that you learn to write in long format is the same way that you learn to write in any format, you just get your yaya in the chair every day and write. And on the days that your story is flat and your imagination has left for Cleveland, you write anyway.
While I didn’t create the great American novel, I did create new muscle. I am proud that I took the challenge and made it to the finish line. As far as what I wanted to say–well, I made it up as I went along, just like I do my life. I started with a premise and went from there. Now I wonder what I might be able to do with an outline!
Thus ends the month’s saga of NaNoWriMo, a process that I recommend to any writer looking to stretch their talents and gain new strength and confidence.
I promised myself a day off before I revisit what I’ve written to see what is actually there. In the meantime, I am dreaming about possibilities, all the while blessing my faithful little laptop and feeling pretty darn good about myself!
Note from the author: Excerpts from the story, “The Angel Twin” are not installments given in particular order of the story. They are just little tastes here and there that allow me share something about what is my first pass at the novel format. I’m happy to report that I have crossed the half-way point to 50K words in 30 days and though I have no idea as to the quality of the work I am churning out, there is something to be said for just plowing through on a daily deadline and word-count! It certainly develops new writing muscle Thanks for the support and good will. NaNoWriMo is a pain. It’s a ridiculous endeavour, and it’s still fun! Here’s a little tidbit, introducing a new characterfrom The Angel Twin. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it:
Richard Rosen sat at his desk with a glass of water and lemon. He had stopped drinking six years ago because it made him meaner than he already was. He had also stopped doing the premium Columbian coke that he used to brag about to the clients and colleagues with whom he shared the white powder. And after his second divorce, he had sworn off of any relationship longer than a two-day stint with hot looking twenty-two year olds. In short, Richard was an ill-tempered, minimally misogynistic ass hole that was riding through life dressed in power suits and intimidation skills. Handsome beyond what any 50-year-old should be, it wasn’t enough to sugar coat his dark personality.
Late at night, alone in his office pouring over big-money divorce cases from the rich and famous who treated marriage like an accessory that was exchanged and tossed around– wives and husbands that became undesirable– last year’s fashion. Richard hooked them up with public relations experts who spun the unsavory tales of profligate laisons into media spin about “remaining friends” and “still caring deeply for one another…” this was Richard’s world and it had colored him cranky at best, and evil at worst.
Richard Rosen was your guy if you wanted to save your assets from the young trophy wife that you had impulsively married on a weekend binge of sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. Richard Rosen knew all of the PR people who could paint the story in your favor and make you look like less of a dick. Richard was ruthless and mean and didn’t buy sad stories, but remained focused on the financial bottom line and for that, there were many who loved him. Not that they would ever show up for him in any real way, but they did keep the referrals coming.
Alone in his office, Richard could not stop thinking about Sami King. He had taken Martin Fedderman’s case as a favor to an old friend. There was some, but not a lot of money involved and Martin had wanted to fairly split the assets accumulated in the year he was married. He had wanted to add a bit more to help Sami get on her feet and have a chance. Richard had tried to tell him that people don’t change and that Sami would be back to her wild and crazy ways sooner than later. Martin was just throwing away his money he had told him.
Still, there was something about the Sami King story that had touched him, though he could not name it. And he found himself going against his better judgment to concoct a plot and a conspiracy that would get the young woman into rehab. He had eventually stopped giving Martin his opinion and just listened to what Martin wanted. He had gone through the perfunctory paperwork to move the divorce forward, along with paperwork that assured Sami’s health insurance and car insurance would pay from some of the fiasco, thus lessening Martin’s financial burden. It was all awkward and distasteful to him, but he kept going. And today he had finally met her—Sami King.
Sami did not see herself the way that other people did. Richard saw her accurately. Sami was a tall, lean woman with a ballerina body. She glided into a room with legs that seemed to go up to her neck. He had noticed her hands. They were soft and delicate, with long fingers that could have been an artist’s inspiration. She had an angel face. In spite of the hard living, her face was sweet, slightly round and framed by flowing dark brown hair. Sami’s green piercing eyes were a combination of sexy and soulful and compelled the viewer to look hard and fall in. That’s how Richard had felt when he met her, like he was going to fall in.
The thoughts and feelings that he had about Sami King were a surprise to him. He had some odd sense of wanting to protect her; wanting to hold her. He took a swig of the lemon water on his desk and realized that he wished it were scotch. Scotch to help him through the uncomfortable feelings, the unfamiliar feelings of a man who was smitten. “I would never ask her out,” he muttered aloud. “She is nothing but bad news. It would be unethical of me to date her.” Yet he could not get Ms. Bad News Sami out of his head and in an unexplained small way, she had already burrowed into his heart. “Fuck this,” he said and he stood up, placed a stack files and papers into his brief case and decided to go home.
Richard Rosen was the kind of bad choice that Sami had made a dozen times. The difference was that Richard had been clean and sober for six years. He was a focused and ruthless attorney who had been wildly successful. There was enough money in his accounts to retire at any time and he sometimes dreamed about a life that was quiet, something away from the negative pall of walking entitled and demanding clients through divorce for the sake of profit.
Sometimes Richard Rosen would sit on the patio of his beautiful home in Coldwater Canyon and watch the squirrels scurrying around the branches of the big eucalyptus trees. The furry little creatures brought him an unbeckoned joy. Mr. Rosen was a paradox of a man who had long ago lost himself to the trappings of power and success, but was captured and entertained by the small furry creatures dancing in his trees.
The rush of taking on the challenge of writing 50 thousand words in 30 days has grown weak, or maybe I should say week as in the beginning of week two. All the experts, the writers who have done this challenge more than once and made it to the finish line, or not will tell you that week two is a bear. Of course, when I read those cautionary tales, I was certain that they were not addressing me, because I was too busy enjoying the high of telling all my friends, at least the ones that would listen, that I was going to take on this challenge and make it to the finish. Then I would humbly add, that I was sure I would learn a lot. Oh cringe!
Week one was nothing short of committed, inspired and focused. Week two has been kicking my little yaya sideways with a leathery old boot that magically talks to me. It says:
1. You are flying by the seat of your pants, here.
2. You do not know what you want to say.
3. This is crap
4. What was I thinking?!
I am also assured by the experts, that if I can hang in there with week two, week three holds all kinds of new promises and joys. Cranking out 1,700 words at a time is not the least bit daunting. Cranking out 1,700 words per day in order to keep up and have all of those words be part of the same story relates to item number four: What was I thinking!!!!!
I am happy though. I spent most of the day in my pajamas, thinking about my characters, writing and knowing that I wasn’t writing my greatest stuff but I was going to stick with it any way, and who knew I could write this much? For anyone who is a perfectionist (you can all put your hands down now) all of your perfectionist issues arise on the NaNoWriMo and slap your face multiple times. Meanwhile, you still attempt to give yourself permission to do what Natalie Goldberg told you to give yourself permission to do on the original rule list of “Writing Down the Bones,” and that is to write the worst junk in the world.
Even though week two of the NaNoWriMo is similar to what I believe Dante was describing about hell’s inner circles, I am still glad I took on the challenge and am still going strong, albeit slightly bruised.
Note: This is another excerpt from the NaNoWriMo Challenge. I don’t post continuous excerpts and only plan on doing a few. Keep in mind that the story is being told from the angel twin’s point of view. Wish me luck as I enter into week two of the challenge, a place that I’ve heard can unwind the best of writers. Here you go:
A seven-year-old Sami sat in the darkened movie theater with a father that she didn’t know very well. Her parents had divorced three years ago and she had seen her dad once in that time. The lights dimmed and a picture of a sunrise filled the screen. The voice over said “in the beginning was the word, and the word was God…” Sami’s father leaned over and whispered in her ear: “promise me you will never believe that.” Stuck for a response, she weakly replied “Okay, I won’t.” The words were engraved in a long line of criticisms, disapproval, and above all, invisible edicts that underscored the expectation of how she was supposed to be in the world.
That summer, her mother had sent her across the country to be with him. Sami had not seen her father in two years, which was a very long time when you are only seven. He had picked her up at the airport and driven her to his small apartment in Alexandria, where they ate canned ravioli and watched Paladin on the grainy black and white television. Her father still had the bunk beds that had been her brothers, back when her parents were married, and it was here that she would sleep in what was to be her room this summer.
The next day, her father’s girlfriend, Virginia arrived to spend two weeks. Virginia was a nice woman, slightly plump with short red hair who brushed and braided Sami’s hair and could be heard moaning in the night in the closed-door room that was her fathers. Virginia wore low-cut tops that pushed her boobs together and created a line. Sami wanted to know what “that line” was and Virginia explained that it was called cleavage. Sami later tried to create her own cleavage with a crayon, but it didn’t look the same.
Virginia stayed the two weeks and did kind and useful things that a mother would do. Her father also stayed at home for two weeks, having taken vacation time from his job in Washington DC. They made a good little unit for that time, visiting Mt. Vernon and the Washington Monument; walking through the Smithsonian. They picnicked on the banks of the Potomac and ate pistachio ice cream at Howard Johnson.
Then Virginia, packed her bags and went home and her father went back to work. Seven-year-old Sami was left to her own devices with a $5.00 bill for breakfast each morning, and the knowledge of how to get to the swimming pool in the apartment complex. She made herself a bologna sandwich and wrapped it up in wax paper, putting it into a little bag that she carried to the pool. She swam all day long, with nothing else to do, her only friends being those that she met at the pool. She waited for her father at the bus stop in the evenings and they walked back to the apartment together for TV Dinners and an evening of television or reading. On weekends, he sometimes went to the pool with her or planned an outing in the area.
The movies had been such an outing. An epic film about Ben Hur, and an unexpected direction about the state of her beliefs. At seven, Sami wasn’t really too sure what to believe. Her mother was a non-practicing Catholic who still kept statues of the Virgin Mary around the house. Her grandmother feared for her “immortal soul” and could be heard chastising her mother for not baptizing Sami. There were plenty of beliefs to go around—one that said don’t believe anything, and a bunch that said if you don’t, something bad is going to happen to you.
Sami had gone to church with her grandmother. Trips to the bins of scarves at Woolworth’s, downtown, allowed Sami to choose a scarf to wear to the Sunday service. She liked the candles and the incense, the ceremony of the man in the fancy robes, and the light that slid in through the stained glass windows and wrapped itself in colors around your feet. Though she didn’t understand the words, she was lulled into peacefulness by their rocking, song like sound. Better though, than the hours in this building, were the hours in her grandmother’s garden, a garden filled with statues of saints and angels, nestled among snap peas and tomato plants. It was here that she sat with her grandmother on the cool ground, sun on her neck, pinching back leaves like her grandmother had shown her. She had sweet and warm memories of pulling weeds, while her grandmother fingered a rosary with one hand and place removed the green beans from the vine with the other. Sami believed in God when she was here, could feel it, in fact.
“Promise me you will never believe that” and the response that Sami gave in her weak “okay” was a lie. Sami knew there was something greater, something better that lived in the sky and the clouds and protected her grandmother in the garden, made the vegetables grow and kissed her neck with sunshine.
Even though Sami had flown across the country to spend the summer with her father, he was as absent in those hot and humid months as he was in the rest of her life. But it was the incident at the pool with a new friend, that made Sami realize once and forever that he would never really be around when she needed him, that faith in the garden God would better serve her.
Sami had met a friend, Cathy who came to the pool everyday–a friend whose mother worked in the city and was not around during the long summer days, either. Cathy was also seven and lived in the same complex, near by. Each day the girls would meet and swim, making up games and stories to entertain themselves. After a day of swimming and sunning, the two were walking the side of the road back to Cathy’s apartment when a pick-up truck slowed down and a man leaned over to talk to Cathy. “Oh hi,” Cathy had responded to his greeting. “That’s my baby sitters brother, Eric” Cathy said proudly.
Eric asked if the girls wanted a ride and my feathers went up and on high alert. Cathy climbed into the cab, and then Sami. The truck moved toward Cathy’s building, while I hovered. Sami was looking straight ahead when she got a hard elbow in her side. Cathy was nudging her and pointing a Eric’s john willy, which was now fully exposed and in his hand. Seeing that the girls had noticed, he asked “Do you want to go to the woods where there is a river.” Sami, started yelling “stop the truck, stop the truck” as she was pulling at the handle of the door. “Stop the truck.” Now Eric was laughing, but he did stop the truck and Sami grabbed Cathy’s hand, pulling her out the door. The two little girls ran as fast as they could to Cathy’s building where they made it inside and slammed the door, locking the dead-bolt at the top. They were laughing a nervous little laugh when they heard him knock and ask to be let in. That’s when Cathy began to cry, and Sami did what her mother had taught her and that was to pick up the phone and tell the operator what had happened. The operator stayed on the phone with the girls until the police came.
Parents were called and Cathy’s mother came home first, concerned and comforting. Then Sami’s father showed up and he was pissed. But he wasn’t pissed at Eric the perv, he was pissed at Sami and Sami didn’t understand why. Later that night as Sami lay in the bunk bed, she heard her father talking to her mother on the phone. “She is just a willful child with an over-active imagination. I don’t believe that any of that ever happened and she is certainly in no danger, she just got hysterical.” At her mother’s demand, Sami returned home early and finished the summer at home. Her mother had found a day camp for Sami and Sami was not left alone to fend for herself for the rest of the season. They never talked about what had happened, but her mother hugged her a lot more.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God—Step 3. Sami reviewed her life, playing out scenes like the one with her father over and over in her head and on this day as she sat in her favorite place outside, she felt the sun on her neck and thought, “this is how I understand God. God is the kiss of the sun on my neck; God is in the vegetable garden; God is in the life that is held by those trees.” For the first time in a long time, Sami felt a kind of peace that the seven-year-old Sami had known. There was something in the quiet of her heart that she had been afraid to face. She had kept it at bay with drugs and drink for most of her adult life, and now what she once thought was the dread was holding her in peace as she cried.
After six weeks of unwinding my business and four weeks of packing up used to be my office, I stand upon the precipice of a big “what’s next?” The packing and the unwind were a good distraction from taking any action. You see, I don’t really know what I want to do next. I am someone who has rushed at life for most of my life, so this whole idea of allowing life to unfold and reveal is a bit outside my comfort zone. In spite of my “seize the day,” or in some cases “strangle the day” attitudes, life is unfolding, coming to me, and illuminating a path toward Chapter 3.
I stood at the kitchen window this morning, cradling my cup of hot tea in cold, grateful hands. Thick frost coated the lawn and a group of children bundled up like little Michelin men trudged to the bus stop, accompanied by parents and dogs. I never tire of this morning parade of vibrancy and promise. I headed upstairs to my “office” and realized that life has settled down enough for me to do what I love best in the mornings: read and write. Not exactly your “extreme sports,” but exciting nonetheless.
A day ago I committed to participate in NaNoWriMo–something I learned about from one of the blogs that I read. NaNoWriMo happens every November for 30 days. It stands for National Novel Writing Month. It’s a challenge whose rule are to simply write 50,000 words in the month of December. The prize is that you finish that task. It’s big and it’s bold and I am excited to participate. I will post some excerpts on my blog as I go along. The goal is to learn more about being a person, more about being a writer and more about just how much you can do if you push yourself. Right up the alley of an individual who does not do well with ambiguity. This writing challenge unfolded and presented itself at a time when I was thinking I wanted/needed the magic of a deadline. If you want to learn more, you can visit http://nanowrimo.org
If you read my blog, I hope you will cheer me on to finish. It means risking writing bad stuff, because 1,600 plus words a day is daunting, but I want to be in it for the long haul and I appreciate the support.