Miles From Fenway

November 11, 2005, 5:04 pm
Filed under: writing

So I have mentioned before that I am participating in National Novel Writing Month. I thought this was going to be a great way for me to get back into writing fiction. To just throw caution to the wind and sit down and WRITE. This blog has functioned as a perfect way for me to get back into the habit of writing every day and to at least keep my writing skills from getting all fuzzy and cobwebbed, but I felt like it was time to get back up on the horse.

It’s not going as well as I would have hoped.

I’ve just got to write. I know my characters. I know my plot. I know what issues I am trying to explore through those characters and that plot. I just can’t get it OUT.

It’s possible that I’ve chosen too tough a situation for my characters, and that the focus of my story is too far out of my realm of knowledge. I’m a 25 year old New Yorker. Trying to write a 70-something, early-stages-of-Alzheimer’s-suffering, unhappy Rhode Islander is impossibly frustrating. There is simply no way I am going to be able to write 50,000 words in 20 days. That’s like, 2,500 words a day!

Most everything I’ve written thus far has been detailed outlines, and in-depth character studies. The character studies came after diving into the work itself and realizing that the dialogue just did not sound believable. I couldn’t find their voices. So I got to know them a bit. I wrote from their perspectives. I let them tell me stories about their lives. I let them develop.

But more important than that word count is the fact that now that I know these characters so well, I really care about them. I feel like I am letting them down by not getting their stories out. Yeah, Tess is an ornery pain in the ass but she has her reasons. Her husband’s desertion of her thirty years past still feels as fresh as the day it happened. And her strained relationship with her daughter because of that desertion has only heightened her withdrawal into herself. But lately it’s been more than that. She’s forgetting things. More importantly she’s forgetting things because she can’t concentrate on them. She’ll be in the middle of conversations and she won’t be able to remember the word for the simplest things. And as she’s searching for the word she’ll just go completely blank, and look up at her conversant as if she’s woken up from a long sleep. This would happen to her as a girl but usually she was just daydreaming. This is a completely different sensation and it’s one that is scaring and irritating her.

She’s found herself sticking to familiar situations, strict schedules, places she knows well. She’s taken to asking people to repeat things, only louder, please. Which is only a trick to mask the fact that she can’t remember what they said just moments before. She’s gone into hiding. From her family (what little there is left still speaking to her) from her friends, from her doctors. Verity is the only one whom she sees every day and she is seemingly oblivious to the subtle signs of aging that Tess is trying so desperately to hide.

And Verity has her own reasons for being so oblivious. In addition to her friend being such a brilliant actress, Tess has enveloped herself in a self-absorbed bubble. In her late sixties she has finally found herself able to focus on her own happiness. Not the happiness of her husband, who was twenty years her senior and passed away when the boys were still children. Not the safety of her kids, who she raised on her own while working as a nurse, who have all gone on to start their own families, not her patients, who had come to rely on her to be the only smile they saw as they lay suffering from a myriad of ailments. She’s completely free to be self-indulgent and she is loving every second of it.

The only reasons she keeps to any sort of schedule is because Tess insists on it. But she loves her time with Tess, loves trying to break down her tough, bitter exterior. Plus she absolutely loves the six block walk to the bakery that they take every day, extra early, in order to miss the morning rush. It gives her a chance to gaze into those big windows of the brownstones that line the streets and stare at the Mahogany walls and wall-to-ceiling built in bookcases. To create lives for the people who live inside those brownstones. To imagine herself in those lives.

It’s amazing how attached you can become to characters you create. They’re not real people, they’re not going to be mad at me if I toss them into the breeze, but I feel like there’s so much there, and that others should get the opportunity to meet them too.

I just need to get it all down on paper.

It’s going to be a long 20 days.


15 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I’m already interested. I think you just need to keep doing what you’re doing and it will happen. Maybe not in the next 20 days, but it will happen. I’ll gladly keep on you about this too :-).

How’s everything else?

Comment by Esther

I am interested, too! I so admire you.

Comment by Meegan

Great writing should not have a time limit on it. I get the point of the thing you’re participating in and I think it’s good that it has you writing again, but don’t force it. Let it evolve and move in its own direction and at its own pace. It sounds like you have developed it to the point where your ideas have their own life, so why try to rush anything for the sake of this nanowrimo thing? Let it evolve and grow and you will be far more satisfied with the end result than you will be if you’re doing it like a piece of homework – just trying to get it done in time.

Comment by WelshSoxFan

what about working the character studies into the final product? Each gets their own little part of the sotry and then they come together at the end? instead of it jsut being from the point of view of the 70 year old it’s a little bit of all of them?

good luck!

Comment by Chief Slacker

god, i heard about this novel writing thing – you are a brave woman. knowing that i’m not the type of writer that can bang out a “shitty first draft” and refine later, i knew that this wasn’t for me 🙂

good luck!

Comment by kate.d.

Before you try talking your self out of this little Literary adventure, ask yourself, “how long did it take me to write this post and how many words did it contain?” On the word count, 852 words. If you are as prepared as you say you are, then I think you can knock off a rough draft in no time at all. Once you get started, just follow your script, and keep the coffee pot brewing.

Good luck!

Comment by Long Iron

cool blog

Comment by Pseudo-intellectual lunatic

Holy crap, you are good. i am totally hooked. now i have to know what happens!!!

Comment by lizy

You got me! Very nice. You are a natural!

Comment by Mike

I’m trying it too FINY. I’ve got 4500 words. Not good. Are you going to hit any of the meetups?

Comment by --

Write it from The Heart. I’m, at present, writing an online parody of TV Sports Coverage.

Good Luck With The Novel.

Comment by Michael Leggett

My wife did it last year, its a lot of work. Best of luck!!

Comment by Darren

Left you a recommendation, for Great Writer’s Software, FiNY.

Write that Great Novel!

Comment by Michael Leggett

Nisus Writer Express is my Favorite-real Mac Users, don’t Embrace MS Word.

Comment by Michael Leggett

C’mon now, I’m living vicariously through you since I bailed on it before it even started. Take a deep breath and write…

No one said you couldn’t include those detailed outlines and character sketches as part of your 50,000 words. Just start writing scenes. Then maybe put it aside for a year and NEXT year (or next month, or at some point in the future) you can rearrange and craft everything into something that resembles a novel.

You still got time to get a good foundation down…the best time to write, I have found, is when you don;t feel like doing it.

Comment by Cope

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