In an attempt to get both inspired and organized for this year’s NaNo, I’ve downloaded a demo version of WriteWay. I think it’s going to be great for organizing a novel and keeping track of characters, if I ever manage to get as far as that. Unfortunately, inspiration is rather lacking at the moment.
I’m still chewing on that scene that I mentioned in my last post, trying to suss out what would happen next, why, and to whom. Ideas about the back story and MC are beginning to solidify into something interesting and vaguely horrifying. If this particular story finds its way to the page, I think it might be of the ‘it-was-a-dark-and-stormy-night’ variety. Well, what do you know? The only scene that’s been fully formed is about a dark and stormy night. At least something appears to be going in the right direction.
Less than three weeks remain until this year’s NaNoWriMo kick-off. I’ve spent a little time over there updating my profile, changing my picture, and dusting off the cobwebs. I’ve explained again to all of my non-writers in my life that I will not be available for the month of November. The family has been advised that, yes indeed, I will again be making a sandwich out of Thanksgiving dinner so that I can keep a hand free for writing. Since I tend to eat terribly during NaNo, I’ve planned ahead this year and am stocking the freezer with homemade foods that actually have more nutritional content than my writing notebooks (although probably not as much fiber!). The tea cabinet is already stocked full of Earl Grey, lavender, and chamomile. The notebooks are laid aside with a pile of pens on top. In short, I’m taking a page from the Boy Scouts and being prepared this year.
Just one wee little thing is missing. I still don’t know what I’m going to write. In a dream world, I’d already have a detailed outline written, characters sketches created, and at least one chapter fully formed in my brain. Instead, I have this:
Yes, that is one big blank and that’s exactly what I have a the moment. In a burst of forced enthusiasm, I dug up the outline and notes for a previous year’s NaNo that never actually came to fruition, a little gem was to be titled Saligia, Inc. For those of you who don’t have heads full of weird and obscure trivia, Saligia is a mnemonic device used to remember the Latin names of the seven deadly sins. I’ll leave the meat and bones of the novel to your imagination for now, as I’m still not convinced that the novel is this year’s novel.
My enthusiasm for that story was usurped by two small pages of writing that I found tucked in among my notes. It’s a first draft of the beginning of a scene in which the narrator is watching an approaching storm. It’s a scene without a story, without a novel, without even a complete sentence at the end. In spite of its brevity, I was entranced and sucked into the scene, which usually only happens when I read the work of others. To turn it into a NaNo novel would be- what’s the word I’m looking for? Interesting? Challenging? Wait, I know – Really Bloody Difficult. It’s one scene, for goodness’ sake, and an incomplete one at that. Yet, the narrator hasn’t stopped talking in my head since I picked up those pages. There’s nothing quite like having your characters go rogue and deciding that they are going to tell you their stories, whether you like it or not. Unfortunately, sticking my fingers in my ears and chanting “Lalalala” has not worked so far. I may have a novel to write after all.
25 Days and counting…
When fall arrives, my thoughts turn to falling leaves, Halloween, and of course, National Novel Writing Month. November has become a month of shared writing madness, best explained by the Venn diagram to the left. If you’ve never heard of it, I can boil it down to you this way: write one novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November. That’s all – just write until your fingers bleed for the sheer
pleasure joy madness of it.
This year marks NaNo #6 for me. There’s only one small roadblock standing between myself and a sixth win: I have no idea what I’m going to write. There are fragmented ideas floating through my head, but none of them are lending themselves to a novel-length work. Pulling out my notebook of possible story ideas hasn’t helped this year. Nothing is quite appealing to me the way NaNo ideas typically do. The muse is apparently away at the spa or skiing in the Swiss Alps.
I am a writer without ideas. I am a writer without a plot. I am a writer without a single character in my head at the moment. I am a writer who has 25 days to come up with an idea interesting enough to keep my full attention for another 30 days after that. I am a writer who is living in a literary black hole where no ideas can escape.
Oh well, there’s always tomorrow. Maybe the muse will be back by then.
July was such great month to get the creative juices flowing. And then there was August…
August, in which my muse decided to take a month’s vacation somewhere tropical without inviting me along for the ride. August, in which the sum total of my writing amounted to scribbling to-do lists in between trying to get everything done. August, in which my household moved, leaving me without a computer for several days and without my shelf of writing notebooks even longer.
August was not a good month for writing, neither was the beginning of September. The muse, newly back from her month long hiatus, was too busy talking about the fabulous Brazilian she’d met and showing off her tan to be of any help with writing projects. That bitch. However, she seems to have settled back into our normal routine of taunting me with just the merest hints of ideas before running away in laughter.
Ah, it’s good to have things back to normal.
From Sentinel (2009 NaNo Novel, unfinished):
Savannah Citizen’s Journal – April 10th, 1962
Roses for Emmaline
Long Standing Tradition Continues After Re-interment
–Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah Spring flowers are in full bloom and the cemetery has taken on an air of solemn optimism with the return of spring. In one of the oldest family plots in Bonaventure, a single red rose graces a well worn tombstone bearing the name Emmaline Harper, a symbol of an undying love that has spanned more than two hundred years.
Last fall, the Harper family patriarch, Jefferson Davis Harper, made the difficult decision to move the earthly remains of several of his ancestors from Colonial Park Cemetery to the Harper family plot at Bonaventure. At the time of the re-interment, Harper cited increasing vandalism and general disrepair of Colonial Park as the reason for moving the burials.
Among those whose coffins were moved was that of Emmaline Harper. The original headstone at Colonial Park read “Emmaline Harper, consort of (name removed), died 1752. Mother of Emma and Jamison.” The name of Emmaline’s husband had been removed in a time before living memory according to the Harper family historian, Nelly Harper-Wells. “Emmaline’s father was unhappy with her choice of husband. The husband had funded the memorial to her, but her father had someone later chisel off all traces of the husband’s name. According to family legend, her father did it himself. Unfortunately, the name of Emmaline’s husband has been lost from family memory”.
The grave Emmaline became the source of a family mystery not long after her death. Three times per year, a single rose appears on her grave, place by unseen hand. According to Harper-Mills, a red rose appears each year on the anniversary of her death. Another appears every year on the fifth of November.
“No one knows the significance of November fifth and nothing I’ve found in the family’s papers would suggest a reason for this date’s importance. We do know that a white rose appears on her grave on the anniversaries of her children’s births. It’s quite touching, but the origin of this tradition is a mystery to the family.”
The mystery of the roses did not end with Emmaline’s re-interment at Bonaventure. Last Tuesday, which marked the anniversary of her daughter’s death, a single white rose was found on her new headstone, as it has been for as long as Harper family history can recall.
“We have a journal from Emmaline’s granddaughter which refers to the phenomenon happening in the early part of the 1800’s. It’s a bittersweet tradition that speaks volumes about the woman being honored. While there are no notable accomplishments by Emmaline, she remains the subject of a loving tribute nearly two centuries after her death. Will any of be so loved and remembered?” Harper-Mills asked as she placed fresh lilies on the grave. Indeed, it would seem that even time cannot diminish the memory of love.
From A Haunted History: Maggie Bailey Mystery #1 (2011 NaNoWriMo novel, an unfinished work in progress):
“That would be just fine, Dr. Bailey. Thank you for your time this morning. Please consider it… and the hour that you’ll spending questioning your decision… billable hours. I look forward to seeing you on Tuesday.”
“Said the fox to the chicken,” I muttered after hanging up the phone. There was no way around it. I’d caved quickly in the face of financial gain. Never mind that I could do with the extra cash, that I was without a vehicle, and after paying moving expenses and the bills for the month, my bank account had dwindled far more rapidly than I was comfortable with.
In spite of the firmest of intentions, I would be face to face with James Sinclair in less than forty-eight hours. I didn’t relish the thought, but I also knew that if I failed to show, Sinclair was the type of man who would hunt me down elsewhere. As little appeal as the meeting held, the thought of him showing up at my doorstep or office was even less appetizing. Of course, I rationalized, I could meet with him, have a nice lunch on his dollar, and then tell him to jump off the nearest bridge. Preferably while wearing concrete shoes. Or I could just take the money, deal with Sinclair for the necessary time, and once again, get him out of my life.
Thanks for reading,
Dear Writer’s Block,
It’s not you, it’s me. First, let me say that the time we’ve spent together has been amazing. You swept me off my feet, away from my writing desk, and filled my days and nights with pleasant diversions. I’d forgotten what it was like to sit mindlessly in front of the television or to putter around the house without so much as a thought to putting pen to paper. I am grateful to you for the times that you reminded me that there is a life outside of my own head and encouraged me to live it.
Even though ours has been a mostly amicable relationship, there have been some darker moments that marred it. You took me to a place that I could have never gone to on my own- a place where the voices of my characters were silenced and plot lines simply disappeared as if they never existed. When my characters tried to voice their concerns, you silenced them abruptly, sending them packing as quick as you could. If a story began to weave itself in my head, you threw up walls and blocks that even an escape artist could not have managed.
It’s not you, Writer’s Block. I know that you are who you are and aren’t capable of changing it. I need my characters and my plots, no matter how dismissive you are of their value. I need to know that they’ll be there when I wake up in the morning and that I can tuck them into bed at the end of the night. I need to be able to feed and nurture my ideas until they become something more than mere thoughts drifting through my head. I need to be supported, not thwarted, when little problems arise.
I need you to leave and take with you the friends you’ve invited into my life. Lethargy, Apathy, and Procrastination all need to go find homes elsewhere. Go please, knowing that I don’t hold this against you. You opened my eyes to what I truly want in my life. Unfortunately, it simply isn’t you.
(Credit for the writing prompt that sparked this entry goes to writersdigest.com I was searching for a series of writing prompts to help break the ongoing case of writer’s block. This was the one that got my attention.).
There’s a fabulous myth that magpies, a member of the bird family Corvidae, collect odd bits of shiny objects. In China, a magpie is considered a sign of good fortune and foretells of the arrival of guests. When I went in search of a title for a new weekly blog segment featuring brief and shiny snippets of my works, the magpie’s mythology won me over. So, welcome guest to Magpie Mondays.
Magpie Mondays will feature a short excerpt from something that I’ve written- finished pieces, works in progress, blog posts from elsewhere, bits of my grocery list, or whatever else piques my interest that day. Feedback is welcome and encouraged. If you like something or find it interesting, please let me know. If you find it boring, yawn and then let me know. If a piece makes you want to gouge out your eyes, first put down any sharp objects, then, and only then, let me know.
From Odinsdatter (2010 NaNoWriMo novel, an unfinished work in progress):
“Storm’s coming. Gonna be a bad one. Yes, yes, it’s going to be a bad one this time.”
Valerie Lebeau turned a bright blue eye toward the clear sky in search of a sign of impending rain. No clouds marred the azure field overhead nor did the distant western horizon show a hint of anything other than continued good weather. A glance out over the sea showed that the waves were calm, placidly lapping on the shore as if too relaxed to make more effort. A slight breeze stirred the palm trees but nothing in it suggested anything ominous meteorological turns. In spite of the obvious lack of evidence, Valerie felt loathe to contradict her elderly neighbor, feeling a combination of respect for the community elder and a healthy fear of being smacked in the shin with the woman’s cane.
“Could be,” she demurred politely, trying to keep any hint of sarcasm from her voice. She knew that any hint of condescension would not only be heard, but long remembered. “Still,” she sighed, “I think that we should be able to finish our shopping before any bad weather actually arrives, don’t you?”
Thanks for visiting,
Somewhere in my many notebooks of memorable quotes and notes, I have scribbled a witticism that states the only writers who are truly failures are those who fail to write. Ahem.. guilty as charged, your honor. Shall I begin my sentence* now or after penning a thousand times “I will not claim to be writer unless I can show my work”?
This weird and wonderful thing known as life has swallowed much of my writing time lately, but I’ve made a promise to myself and the universe that I will set aside time for this thing that I love to do. Just call me Rusty while I get back up to speed again. I promise that you’ll be rewarded with lots of annoying writing exercises, odd bits of
doggerel high quality verse, and perhaps another novel if I can find my editing hat amongst the unfinished manuscripts.
Thanks, as always, for your patience with my hit-and-miss posts. Until next time, hope you’re enjoying this long, hot summer.
*Bad pun most definitely intended.