As I mentioned at the start of November, I participated in NaNoWriMo this year. And as you can see by the shiny icon sitting over there on the left, I consider myself a winner.
I say I “considered” myself a winner because, in the most technical sense of the word, I did not “win” NaNoWriMo. To win, you must write at least 50,000 words in the month of November. To meet this qualification, I planned on setting aside The Novel that I’m constantly working on and instead write something new from scratch. I got a couple of days into it and realized that it was a bad idea. Not my story idea — I like it and am shelving it for development in the future — but the idea that I could work on something else while I’m still so caught up in writing this story.
So I switched back to the story I’ve been working on and, quite technically, cheated. I only wrote 30,000 brand new words in the month of November. But I considered, reorganized, and, more often than not, deleted and rewrote, the first 20,000-some-odd words. What’s more, I ended up with a more complete version of The Novel than has existed to date. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end (although some scenes in the middle are obviously just placeholders: [X goes to Y, Z is lonely]), which is way more than it had at the end of October.
If you’re a long-time reader of this blog, you may recall that in November 2010, I wrote a piece called Why You SHOULD Write That Novel in response to a particularly infuriating Salon article basically telling
unpublished not-yet-published authors to shut up about their “narcissistic” writing projects and engage in the “selfless” act of reading. (Honestly, I’m getting a little fired up remembering that.)
This year’s NaNo “cheat” just serves as a reminder to me why NaNo is so important: it establishes a commitment to producing something. I can tell you what happens in my story; I could go on for days about the characters and their likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams. The hard part is actually getting the words down on the page. NaNo provides a deadline by which you must force the words — as many as possible — out of your head and into the world. Only once you’ve completed that step can you begin revising your work and, ultimately, allow others to “selflessly” read it.
A non-exclusive list of things that are unfair about having strep throat over Thanksgiving:
☆ Not feeling well enough to visit with my family during Thanksgiving dinner
☆ Spending a disproportionate amount of time sleeping
☆ Being too sick to leave the house to do anything fun with my family
☆ Not getting to see one of my best friends and her kid
☆ Not even being able to laugh because it hurt too much to open my mouth
A few things that were not horrible about being sick while at home:
☆ The delicious green chai tea my mom made for me
☆ Not feeling guilty about bingeing on both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files
☆ Having my mom to drive me to Prompt Care to get an antibiotic (because, if left to my own devices, I would just try to treat it with NyQuil and positive thoughts — neither which had proved to be very effective thus far)
I don’t know about you, but I have a long day of planes, trains, and automobiles in front of me. My worst travel fear (of the non-catastrophic variety) is being bored. You know those people on planes who can stare at the seat back in front of them the whole flight, or just flip through Sky Mall? I am definitely not one of those people. I need something to distract myself from the agoraphobic/claustrophobic nightmare of being enclosed in rapidly moving object with lots of strangers.
Accordingly, a list of the things I’ve stuffed into my purse to make the day’s travel more bearable:
☆ My Kindle, loaded with a library copy of Sisterland, which I’ve just started. I’m a huge Curtis Sittenfeld fan – Prep is one of the those books that affected the way I look at the world, and I could read American Wife over and over (and have).
☆ Magazines. Sometimes I want a break from a book, and I’d rather flip through a magazine instead. I’ve been toting around a hard copy of Origin that I keep meaning to read, and I’ve been reading a copy of A Public Space on my iPhone.
☆ Spotify. I tend to fall into music ruts, so I made a playlist on Spotify of current music and saved it to my iPhone. Such action is almost certainly pointless, as I will undoubtedly revert to my saved Lana del Ray (Born to Die/Paradise) or My Chemical Romance (Conventional Weapons 1-5) playlists.
☆ The red moleskine in which I’m plotting my NaNoWriMo novel. Yeah, I could finish my word count faster if I was typing, but I find handwriting to open my creative channels in a way that typing doesn’t. (Maybe I can’t think as fast as I can type? That’s a scary thought.) Also, I am certain to have seatmates during tomorrow’s various travels, and I get paranoid about people reading over my shoulder as I type. You never know when I’m going to come up with some brilliant jewel worth stealing.
☆ The little black moleskine in which I capture everything other fleeting idea that passes through my head.
Anything I’m missing? What do you need to make travel more bearable?
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I am squarely inside this book’s target audience: I live in New York, I consider myself a creative soul, and I love huge, meandering fiction spanning years of the character’s lives (plot optional).
But The Interestings really didn’t do it for me. My main complaint was that the author violated the “show, don’t tell” principle of storytelling at the times it was most crucial. The most notable example (and the one that bothered me throughout the story) was that the unlikely friendship forged between Jules and Ash was reduced to a few lines telling us that they soon spent all their time together.
*** SPOILERS AHEAD ***
I’m not someone who believes that a main character needs to be likeable (one of my favorite main characters, Lee Fiora from Prep can be pretty unlikeable), but Jules Jacobson was unlikeable to the point of distraction. She was so shallow, so selfish, and so obsessed with her past that I couldn’t understand the other characters’ motivations where she was involved. Why did Ash choose her to become best friends? Why did the Wolf family let her in on their quite serious secret? What did Dennis see in her? Why did Ethan carry a torch for her?
I dreaded the ending because I was sure that Jules and Ethan were endgame, and that just made me insane. Instead, the ending was almost worse: Jules gets the opportunity to shut down Ethan yet again, this time when he’s a successful man, rather than an unattractive teenager, and then Ethan is ushered off stage left by the big C, so Jules can never again be tormented by his existence.
Now I’ve almost talked myself into only giving The Interestings one star, but, in all fairness, there were parts of the story (sometimes even entire chapters) that I enjoyed.
It’s November, which means it’s time for NaNoWriMo: the month where writers buckle down and grind out at least 50,000 words for their novels.
Sound insane? Maybe a little.
I participated in 2009 and managed to crank out a first draft of an idea I’d been kicking around for at least a decade but had never committed to paper. I have yet to take a stab at a second draft of that novel, but just getting that particular idea on paper was a relief.
I’m working on a new piece this year (no, not the one I’ve been working on forever and a day — I think I need a bit of distance from that one for a while), and I have every intention of finishing it. Send me positive, productive vibes!
☆ Why you SHOULD write that novel
Watching the sun set (and the moon rise) from the top of Mount Cadillac in Acadia National Park ranks pretty highly on my list of awe-inspiring sights. You know how your iPhone does pretty dismal job of photographing sunsets? Okay, now imagine these in real life:
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It’s amazing how a new haircut can make you feel like a new person.
Exhibit A. My hair was so unmanageable, I was wearing it in a ponytail all the time, and it still looked weird. It was too long and shapeless. I mean, look at my face. I’m clearly not pleased. Am I displeased with the G train? Or my hair?