As of 10:00 p.m. on 11/30 I have 50,016 words.
First, yay! I wrote as many words as I was supposed to for the purposes of NaNoWriMo. Now...
The book isnít done - the last 5,000 words are really more like notes - for the sake of expediency I shifted to third person narrative and focused on getting the plot worked out from beginning to end.
This is actually a good thing - the notes usually expand to three or four times their original length when I get them in finished form, which means that rather than 50,000 words (which is, letís face it, really more like a souped-up novella) Iíll have - well, itís not about word count anymore.
Now itís about staying motivated....
Excerpt (from when I was still writing in complete sentences):
I call David and explain that I wonít back in town until next week.
"Would you please feed my cat?" I say.
"You donít have a cat," he says.
"Then could you water the houseplants?"
"I could, but it wonít do any good. They all died of neglect," he says. "You neglected them."
"Oh. I hadnít noticed."
"That," he intones, "is the very essence of neglect."
"Then could you do me a favor?"
"What does her majesty desire?"
"Throw out the houseplants before I get back. Iím sure to notice them now, and it will just be too depressing."
"Will do, YRH."
As of 3:00 a.m. on 11/30 I have 43,351 words.
Morale: 21 hours, 7,000 words - the all-nighter continues. And who knew I'd ever be grateful to the noisy neighbors upstairs for keeping me awake all night?
From the top step I find what Iím looking for: it may have started as a debate, but now itís an argument, and itís well on its way to becoming a very promising shouting match.
I drill my way through the crowd, and make it to within a few feet of the potential combatants. Politics Ė if there ever were any Ė are long gone. By the time I arrive, itís all about name calling.
In this corner: a young guy built like a football player, wearing the school colors. His blue eyes and platinum eyebrows stand out against his red face and anger spit is hanging from the corner of his mouth, but his arms are dangling a little loosely for my taste. His potential opponent: a skinny bearded guy in frayed cords and a knitted poncho Ė his fists are already balled up, and a vein bulges prominently at his temple.
School Colors has the bulk, but Poncho looks more eager to kick someoneís ass. My moneyís on Poncho. Itís all about heart.
Which foils my hastily constucted plan: I was expecting to come up behind the guy less likely to take the first swing, trip into his back, and push him forward in an apparent show of aggression at the guy whose been itching to throw a punch all along.
But unless heís already off balance, Iím not going to be able to budge School Colors.
Okay, Plan B. Iíve got to think of Plan B, and Iíve got to do it quickly before tempers die down and the moment is lost. And if this breaks up, it wonít be long before the entire crowd is gently encouraged to disperse.
Three of the campus police are already on their way over. School Colors notices their approach, and decides to wrap things up. He lifts his arms in a final gesture of bring it on, but he doesnít hold it long enough for Poncho to cross the line, probably deliberately. I was right Ė the kid lacks heart.
As he puts his arms down, he lifts his right foot, about to turn away. I take the opening, and Ė not even bothering to disguise it as a trip Ė throw myself squarely into his back. He takes a few stumbling steps forward, and Poncho, already wound up tight, springs to meet him, fists flying. School Colors must play defense, because at last he looks like he knows what heís doing.
Our section of the crowd erupts in chaos, and the campus police just start grabbing anyone who seems to be involved in the altercation. One of them pushes by me to get to the person behind me, some kid wearing black clothes and an unflattering buzz cut. I push back, and the young officer changes his target.
The kid in black stares at me, his mouth hanging open. I wonder how much he saw; the look in his eye suggests he caught the whole thing.
I give him a wink as Iím pulled out of the crowd.
As of 3:00 p.m. on 11/29 I have 39,072 words.
Morale: I have 33 hours to write 11,000 words. No time for morale!
"Iím going to refer you to a colleague of mine. I think you would benefit from several sessions with her."
"Youíre sending me to another therapist? You know, I really think this could exacerbate my abandonment issues."
"You donít have abandonment issues. See, look." He flips back several pages in his notebook. Even across the room I can read the block letters: NO ABANDONMENT ISSUES.
"But my Ė "
He cuts me off by tapping the notebook emphatically.
"How can I not have abandonment issues? Iím an orphan, damn it!"
"But you are a remarkably hostile adult orphan, not a cute child orphan like Tiny Tim."
"Tiny Tim wasnít an orphan."
"Are you sure?"
"Then who am I thinking of?"
"It should be Oliver Twist, but knowing you itís probably Little Orphan Annie."
"Yes, Little Orphan Annie. Thank you. My point is that you canít embrace that archetype."
"But just last week you told me to be more plucky."
"Thatís ridiculous Ė youíre much too old to be plucky."
"Thatís exactly what I said."
As of an undisclosed time on what is technically the morning of 11/26 I have 33,354 words.
Morale: Good, for reasons I'm too tired to elaborate on, except to say that I worked out a major plot kink, and it fixed several structural problems and set up lots o' new material.
"So my new therapist says Iím hostile." I sit back and wait for reassurances to the contrary.
"Oh, yeah," says David.
"Totally," says Vanessa.
"Youíve got to be one of the most hostile people Iíve ever met," says the guy next to Vanessa, who Iím pretty sure I havenít even been introduced to yet.
"You are Queen Hostilia of Hostilevania."
"Marshal Hostito of Hostileslavia."
"Hostilla the Hun."
"Mayor of Hostile la Vista, California."
"Mother Theresa, if she were like, really really hostile, and Calcutta was Bengali for ĎHostiletowní."
"Would you people shut the hell up?"
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/24 I have 29,739 words. But after this post I am going back to work and will drag the word count over 30,000.
Improved. The NaNoWriMo pep talk for Week Four (which at this time isn't up on their site yet) actually got me moving again, like a Romanian gymnastics coach shouting, "You can do it!!!" over and over (I swear, that's much funnier in a Romanian accent, so if you didn't read it that way the first time, go back and give it another try).
(Okay, now try, "Nadya never cried over broken ankle, American sweetheart sissy girl! Now get up! You can do it!!")
Also, I realized how completely humiliating it would be to not finish.
Here's a long excerpt, in honor of D, who also helped get me charged up again. E was a big help, too, but he's been a pain in the ass about how I keep forgetting to close the HTML blockquote tags at the end of my excerpts, so I'm only dedicating the tags to him.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, the excerpt:
When I arrive at the shelter on Saturday there are more volunteers than usual, and theyíve brought enough paint and painting supplies to give most of the rooms a fresh coat. The place is in chaos, and there really isnít anything else to do but help them, so I grab a roll of masking tape and start preparing window frames.
The volunteers are clustered together, elbow to elbow with their paint rollers on the other side of the room. One of them breaks away from the pack Ė either sheís realized that there are too many of them on one wall, or she sees an opportunity to satisfy her curiosity. Either way, she picks up a roll of masking tape and comes over to help me.
Iíve seen her volunteering at the shelter on weekdays, a prim and careful ash blonde who is aging delicately if not quite gracefully. Something about her thin, pastel-wrapped limbs makes me want to spike the mysterious contents of her omnipresent travel mug with calcium supplements.
I don't know much about her, except that sheís aware I work at the shelter to complete court-ordered community service. Sheís aware of this not because Iím wearing orange overalls or an electronic ankle bracelet, but because that kind of information just gets around.
At first we work silently, but I can tell it wonít last Ė sheís the type who canít resist striking up a conversation. The only surprise will be in how she does it.
"DUI?" she says, managing to seem sympathetic and disapproving at the same time. I have to give her credit for complexity and directness, if not imagination.
Iím sorely tempted to make up an outrageous story, possibly involving the theft of prize-winning bull semen, but Iím forced to acknowledge that the real story is pretty outrageous, and I settle for telling her that.
"You just hit him with a glass, bam, right in the ear?" Her eyes are wide, and eager for gory details in a way that seems unbecoming in a volunteer.
"Yes. Bam, right in the ear."
"And they arrested you!"
"Yep. And here I am."
"But he was harassing you!"
"Yes, but he wasnít endangering me. Apparently thereís a substantial difference."
"Well I donít think thereís much difference." She leans in conspiratorially. "It sounds to me like he had it coming, calling you the Ďcí word like that."
I shrug my shoulders. Her admiration is making me uncomfortable, and the idea that admiration could make me uncomfortable is discomfiting in itself.
She goes burbling on, riled by the injustice of it all. "I think the real crime is how men think they can treat women so disrespectfully. I think a lot of them could use a lesson like you taught that young man. I bet heíll think twice before he calls another woman the Ďcí word, or even the Ďbí word."
"Well, I hope so, but Iím not sure a few stitches will keep him from being an Ďaí word."
She blinks twice before letting out a stream of giggles.
"Oh, youíre terrible!" she laughs, and makes a flattering show of regaining her composure. "So," she says, back in conspiracy mode, "How many hours of community service did you get?"
"Thatís not bad. I mean, if they were going to punish you for it at all, two hundred hours of community service isnít that bad."
"No, it isnít. And this place is doing very good work."
"Yes, it certainly is. I like volunteering here. Iíve been volunteering here six hours a week, for, oh, three months now. Thatís, whatÖ"
"Seventy-two hours," I say.
"Seventy-two hours," she echoes.
We lapse into silence, painting opposite sides of the window frame. I can tell by her reflection in the glass, and particularly the set of her mouth, that sheís enjoying her daydream.
I really should make sure she knows that if she does take it upon herself to teach someone a lesson, her seventy-two hours of volunteering probably wonít count as time served.
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/23 I have 28,417 words.
I went out to play on Friday night, and then spent the rest of the weekend holed up my apartment, writing, sleeping, and combating what I think was food poisoning.
With more than a third of the way to go and only one week remaining I am, uh...well, I'm not quitting.
She doesnít answer; sheís too busy glancing nervously at the package, probably remembering what I gave Owen last Christmas.
"The Iliad?" she said in disbelief when he held it up for everyone to see.
Cynthia kept staring at me with something akin to horror, as if Iíd just given Owen a Tickle Me Rattlesnake.
"Itís a new translation, heíll love it." I tell her with more confidence than I actually feel.
"So heíll love it next year." She arches her eyebrows. "Kidding, Iím kidding. Heíll grow into it eventually."
Owen, meanwhile, was carefully turning the pages of his new book. Cynthia noticed that he'd actually cracked the cover, and leapt to take it from him, calling out to me over her shoulder, "Dear God, itís not illustrated, is it?!"
"Of course not," I assured her with not entirely mock indignation. "What kind of lousy judgment do you think I have?"
So The Iliad sits high on Owenís bookshelf, far away from my more successful attempts at gift-giving, like Winnie-the-Pooh. "When he can reach it, he can read it," Cynthia declared at the time of shelving.
November 19, 2003Apologies to All Owens
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/18 I have 22,863 words. That was a just-at-quota 5,000ish Friday-Sunday, 2,000ish on Monday, and under a 1,000 today.
Not yet overcome with despair.
Excerpt:I am a terrible aunt to Owen. I count my first failure from the day he was born, when I couldn't talk his parents out of giving him that name.November 14, 2003Win-Win
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/13 I have 15,127 words.
I have a good feeling about this weekend. This is the weekend I'm going to catch up. Really.
Tonight my excellent neighbors J & W fed me again, and then they went to hear Cracker while I stayed at their place, keeping Porter (the one in the middle) company and cranking out my pages. I worked about an hour longer than I would have at home, and they even brought me back a present that will come in especially handy if giant Philistines ever try to squash my tent.
"I knew a man who worked there, a big, Stanley Kowalski motherfucker. Skin that smelled like Old Spice. Kisses that tasted like vodka and Marlboros. Got his vitamins by occasionally pouring tomato juice into his beer."
"I know that guy."
"Yeah, he gets around."November 13, 2003Must...Not...Panic...
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/12 I have 13,985 words.
Ack ack ack. Worked late at the office today, tired as all git out, splitting headache, can't make myself stay up any later, worried I'll fall to the next germ sneezed my way.
But I've got this rationalized: I'm getting a flu shot tomorrow, and then I will be fearless! Caffeine and stubbornness will do the rest.
Excerpt:David has started to follow the rise and fall of popular restaurants, dragging us out to the hippest new places. He makes a game out of trying to determine how long theyíll last.
"Oooh Ė Bambiís mother is an entrťe!" he exclaims, and reads aloud from the menu. "Seared medallion of venison accompanied by roasted fennel root and blah blah blah."
It actually says "blah blah blah" - thatís how hip this restaurant is.
David immediately picks up the tone at each place we visit, responding to fear with pity, and to condescension with even greater condescension. He can be seen nodding sympathetically with the chef in the kitchen, or heard making rude comments within earshot of an especially pompous maitre dí.
"Do you smell that, coming from the kitchen?" he says. "Thatís the smell of death."
"It smells like sun-dried tomato coulis."
"Exactly. Nobody does sun-dried tomatoes anymore."
"Maybe theyíre retro."
"Doomed," he declares. "This place is doomed."
"But I thought the - "
The maitre dí winces in spite of himself.November 12, 2003Paranoia
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/11 I have 13,108 words.
Pretty much the same as last year, only I'm a bit further behind, and also more bitter about having to skip social activities. On the plus side, I've got more material and plot twists ahead of me than I did before, so I'm not worried about running short on content.
The excerpt:I hit Snooze on the alarm clock over and over again; strictly speaking Iím not snoozing, but "Reconcile Yourself to the Hopeless Necessity of Getting out of Bed" wonít fit on the button.
I swing open the door of the medicine cabinet right as I walk in the bathroom, in part to get to the eye drops as soon as possible, but also to turn its mirrored surface away. The bottle of Visine is empty, which I discover only when I shoot air into my eye like some kind of ineffective home glaucoma test. This is not how I want to start my day.
Buy One, Get One Free comes to my rescue, as thereís a second bottle lurking behind the first. I tear the cellophane off the box, break the safety seal on the box, take out the bottle, break the safety seal on the bottleís cap and still - still - I put a drop on the back of my hand and wait to see if I detect a burning sensation before venturing to put the next drops in my eyes.
Paranoia: the gift that keeps on giving. Or is this just what it means to be a child of the Eighties?
November 10, 2003Squirming
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/09 I have 10,097 words.
Still ahead of last year, still behind quota, still not freaking out. I'll freak out if I'm not caught up by the end of the day on Tuesday.
Excerpt of the Day:Everything around conspires to remind me I'm an interloper, starting with the chair I'm sitting in. The cushion pines for another ass, and tries to expel mine by stubbornly refusing to give up the lumps and ridges that spell out "Sharlene Was Here." Nothing I can do will convince it otherwise, not all the sqirming in the world.November 07, 2003Conservation of Energy
As of 11:19 p.m. on 11/06 I have 6,480 words.
Tired, tired, tired, quitting early, want to be asleep by midnight.
Excerpt of the Day:The interview questions range from "Have you ever been convicted of crime?" to "How little can we get away with paying you?" to "If you could be any kind of fungus, what would you be?" (good answer: penicillin; bad answer: psychotropic mushroom).November 06, 2003Hurts So Good
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/05 I have 5,432 words.
Good - I'm ahead of last year, and I'm not running low on material.
But my big triumph of the evening was resisting a very tempting invitation to see Alien at Cinerama. Why does all the good stuff happen in November, dammit?
Excerpt of the Day:This is the third date. We are still exchanging personal history trading cards. So far heís given up Few People Really Get Me, Right Now Iím Working at Dadís Firm But I Still Keep a Studio, and I Wouldnít Call My Mother Domineering, Exactly. Iím already beginning to lose interest in collecting them all.
I put Working Class Background on the table next to my previous offering (Bookish Fat Kid); he hands me Hardships Associated with Having Wealthy Parents. I try to be empathetic, but after a while I just don't have the imagination for it and channel my flagging energy into trying to appear empathetic.
"Itís like a constant struggle to feel independent. I mean, I even took student loans for school, so my parents would have less influence over my major."
This, at last, piques my interest, and I suppress the urge to ask the question that comes naturally to anyone indentured to Sallie Mae.
He notices my interest, and turns coy. "Come on, I know you want to know. Ask me."
"Itís awfully personal, donít you think?"
"Tell me yours, and Iíll tell you mine."
It's an intriguing proposition, but Iím not sure Iím ready for that much intimacy with a man Iíve just decided not to have sex with.November 05, 2003Forging Ahead
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/04 I have 4,271 words.
Even better. I'm still behind quota, but ahead of my count at this time last year. Keeping up with last year is proving to be a much more powerful motivator than some hypothetical quota. I forced myself to come up with a few more paragraphs tonight, just because I was so damn close to topping the previous count.
Excerpt of the Day:
Drew Smith lives at my address, and I pay for the voice mail account on the other end of her phone number, but beyond that we have little else in common.
I send her to UCLA for a bachelorís in Economics, because the school has name recognition and a student body large enough to make admission more than plausible. Price Waterhouse Coopers hires her immediately after graduation, where she spends a couple of years in the audit division before moving into consulting.
As a final touch I give her an MBA, and it's like switching an F to a B on a report card.
I craft her resume carefully, with the loving attention one devotes to art created for its own sake. I re-read every line obsessively, knowing that if all goes as planned, Iím the only audience my masterwork will ever have.
I print it out on thick, creamy paper anyway.November 04, 200399 Parts Inspiration, 1 Part Sweet Vermouth
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/03 I have 3,291 words.
Much improved. The beguiling company of J & W (& J & P) - who generously offered to save me the trouble of making dinner - kept me away from the keyboard until around 9:00 p.m., but when I got there I had many swell ideas and the words just flew. This must have something to do with J's recipe for vegetarian lasagna, and W's recipe for Manhattans.
I'm still behind quota, but I'm feeling better about my ability to make it up soon...or at least get caught up to where I was this time last year.
Excerpt of the Day:The corporation I temp for started its life as the American Box Company, a daring young upstart among the manufacturers of storage-oriented paper products. AmBoxCo quickly began to outshine its rivals, including the Amalgamated Box Corporation, a staid, temperate organization that had been making boxes since World War I. AmBoxCorp had the stronger valuation and steadier earnings, but AmBoxCo had a website, and a vision. Or rather, a Vision.
"The Internet Economy will be fueled by cardboard boxes," announced the CEO of AmBoxCo, and when the company went public, investors saw his point. Those ten-pound bags of kitty litter people were ordering online would obviously need to be put in something sturdy.
The influx of capital allowed AmBoxCo to acquire AmBoxCorp, whose corporate culture was quickly obliterated in a tide of branding and synergy. First to go was AmBoxCorpís logo, a traditional horizontal arrangement of the letters A, B, and C. AmBoxCo logo featured the same letters in a vertical design, on a slight diagonal toward the right.
"Itís a logo that says weíre hurtling toward the future," the CEO declared in a press release.
He also made the point that "AmBoxCo" was more streamlined than "AmBoxCorp", having jettisoned two unnecessary letters.
"Thatís a 22% increase in efficiency," he assured stockholders.
A few months and a few acquisitions later, the company was renamed Daedalus, Inc., because - according to rumor - the CEO thought it sounded "cool." They spent $500,000 acquiring all applicable domain names, and the logo was changed to a winged D.
"Itís a logo that says weíre hurtling toward the sun," I tell Kelly with exaggerated cheeriness. She rolls her eyes and mumbles something about leaving early to get her legs waxed.November 03, 2003Here We Go Again
As of 11:59 p.m. on 11/02 I have 2,075 words.
I didn't come out of the chute as strongly as I did last year, and in fact I spent a fair amount of time procrastinating, staring at a blank screen, and psyching myself out.
But I did finish the prologue, and get a few new plot points worked out. I also got a lot of rest, so Iím not going into the week tired.
Excerpt of the Day:
Oh God. Another young one. I start carving her up, keeping only the juicy bits and the most interesting gristle to take back to Berta: the "Everybody Looks Good in a Leather Jacket, Donít They?" leather jacket, the hoop earrings so aggressive theyíre actually wearing her, and the fleshy, palpable ambition that brought her here.
She begs me to take her seriously. I canít, of course - I used to be her. "I like your earrings," I say, just to see if I can make her reach up and touch them. She does, and thanks me.