I have a long to-do list for the day, so I don’t have time to write a proper entry. And since Saturday is supposed to be my blog-sabbath, I shouldn’t be blogging at all. But I haven’t said much recently about my NaNoWriMo novel, so here’s a quick update on where things stand.
As of right now, I’m about 15,400 words behind where I “should” be. When I initially charted my target word-counts for the month, I’d envisioned having 29,400 words written by today, November 20; right now, I have just over 14,000 words. This means that I’ll be write, write, writing over Thanksgiving in a valiant attempt to catch-up and ultimately reach my 50,000 word goal by November 30.
That’s 36,000 words in ten days…3,600 words a day. Looking at the numbers makes my head spin: is it possible for me to crank out that many words in the next ten days on top of life’s other obligations?
Officially, I don’t know whether this is possible: actually, the thought of writing a novel in a month never sounded possible. But there’s something about impossibility that is wildly attractive to me: when someone tells me I can’t possibly do something, that makes me all the more motivated to prove them wrong. So is it possible to write 36,000 words in 10 days? Probably not…but I plan to do it anyway.
Word-counts notwithstanding, the good news on the NaNo writing front is my novel is starting to take on a life of its own. I’d sometimes heard authors talk about characters “appearing” in their fiction as if a ghost simply walked through the door and then materialized under their pen. And I’d also heard published novelists talk about how characters seem to move and act out of their own volition, doing things their authors never intended them to do.
I have a character who’s starting to behave in this way. She materialized out of the blue, a nameless, disheveled woman who walked into a drugstore while I was writing about someone else. I didn’t know what she was doing there, but I let my pen uncover the story: the nameless woman walked into the cosmetics aisle and started looking for makeup. When the store clerk, the character I had intended to write about, walked up to the woman to ask if she needed help, the woman took off her sunglasses to reveal a black eye she needed makeup to cover. In a scene that spontaneously materialized under my pen, the store clerk helped the nameless woman make-up her face so she could take her belongings, leave her abusive boyfriend, and move back with her parents, unashamed. When the nameless woman walked out of the drugstore, I truly hoped she was walking into a new life, a fresh start.
This morning I woke up and realized fiction isn’t that easy. Although I like this character and want the best for her, this morning I realized in a flash where her story is heading. Her abusive boyfriend isn’t the type who’s going to let her walk out of his life. This morning I wrote about this boyfriend and his motivations. Although I haven’t yet discovered why she would want to be with him, I realized his intentions for her: it’s all about power and control. He’s not going to let her leave. He’s a violent, angry man, and he’s going to insist on taking what he believes is his deserved due.
When I first started writing random stories about various characters who all live in a fictional town not unlike Keene, I didn’t intend for their lives to interweave. But somehow, the story has taken a life of its own. For some reason–my personal political leanings, perhaps, or the larger mood of the nation–several of the characters I’ve brainstormed are somehow connected to a women’s clinic like this one. For some reason, my character’s story is starting to fall in line with something I read yesterday, and that can mean only one thing. I’ve created this character only to kill her off. In the warped justice of fiction, at least one character has to die in the name of “realism.”
When I got my first glimmer of inspiration regarding this project, I envisioned writing a novel-length collection of stories like James Joyce’s Dubliners or Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio. In the meantime, I’m sensing that my novel is closer in kind to Gloria Naylor’s The Women of Brewster Place. The story of a group of women who live on run-down, dead-end street, Naylor’s novel features one wrenching chapter where one of the characters is gang-raped and left for dead in an alley. That isn’t the direction I wanted to take my novel: I didn’t intend for there to be a political much less feminist undertone to the story. And yet, the novel and its characters are taking on a life of their own, and I’m not sure this spontaneous growth is something I can claim or control.