Tuesday, November 1, 2011

NaNoWriMo 2011: Day 1

This is my second year of NaNoWriMo, and one of the things I've found to be a challenge is finding the time to actually sit and get the words typed out.  Then again, when isn't this an issue for me (or for most other people, for that matter)?  With two young children in the house, it's kind of hard to find any significant stretches of time where I can get in my zone and focus on my writing without being interrupted by sibling rivalries or requests for milk.  This is a real struggle for me because I tend to be in my own little world when I'm really engrossed in my writing, so having to come out of it is jolting, rather like being jarred out of a deep sleep.

At any rate, I was composing in my head in the shower this morning (I know, I know--that shower thing again!), and I was pretty much raring to go.  I like writing moments like these, where I know exactly what I want to say.  Unfortunately, they often happen at times when I'm not planted in front of my screen, fingers poised over the keyboard.  The risk in this situation is always that I'll forget about the awesome plot twist I devised, or that perfect phrase will slip from my mind.  Some people are smart and have a handy little notebook at the ready where they can jot stuff like this down.  Me, I'm not that smart.

Actually, I think what it boils down to is that I'm just not usually organized about my writing, which is weird since I alphabetize everything in my house (DVDs, books, spices on my spice rack--I kid you not).  Instead, my writing tends to explode out of my brain with very little planning, which is why I am often to be found clutching my head and agonizing over how I'm possibly going to be able to edit this messy piece of work that I love so much.  It's similar to those moments in motherhood when my child is smeared head to toe with a popsicle or the like, and I'm trying to decide which body part to wipe first without running the risk of a sticky mess ending up everywhere: it's overwhelming when you stand back and look at it, and sometimes you're tempted to ignore it, drink a latte, and call it a day.

I took a haphazard approach to NaNoWriMo last year and, while it proved to me that I can, in fact, crank out 50,000 words in a mere 30 days, it also resulted in a manuscript that was jumbled, that made no sense, and that wasn't usable in any way.  This year, I decided I would be more methodical in my approach, and so I fired up my trusty OneNote and went to town creating tabs for characters, tabs for the setting, and tabs for pretty much everything else you can imagine.  I was going to be organized!

I'm happy to say that it's so far, so good with this approach.  I hit word number 1,667 and kept right on going because I wanted to finish the first chapter.  Instead of my mind wandering, as it sometimes did when I was writing last year, I was focused.  I knew where the story was going, knew what my characters were supposed to be like and, therefore, knew what was supposed to happen next.  I have to say, I liked this.  Now all I need to do is stop worrying about whether or not anyone will like the novel--as if that will ever happen.  Are all writers a bundle of insecurity like me, I wonder?

And so, in the interest of really putting myself out there, each day I will post an excerpt from my day's work.  This novel is my attempt at YA dystopian/speculative fiction.  I'm providing a completely raw glimpse of what I'm writing, as I'm not allowing myself anything more than the most minor of edits as I write.  I will write first, edit later.  So, without further ado, have a look at a snippet from my Day 1 writing:


Whatever you do, do not throw up.  Whatever you do, do not throw up.  Whatever you do... the words played over and over in her head, like some sort of less-than-comforting mantra.  Taking a deep breath in an attempt to steady her nerves—and stave off her nausea—Dara clasped her trembling hands in front of her, closed her eyes, and took several more breaths.
“Hey,” a gentle voice said.  She opened her eyes to look at Jonathan, who clasped her hand and gave her a reassuring smile.  “Don’t do this to yourself.  You’ve got this in the bag and you know it.  What’s there to worry about?”
 “Oh, nothing.  There’s nothing at all to worry about,” she said sarcastically.  “I mean, I could only screw this up and destroy my chances, but I’m sure there’s no need to worry about that!”
“Come on, Dara, don’t be ridiculous.  There’s no way you’re going to screw this up.  You could practically do this in your sleep and you know it.”  His voice was steady and his gaze warm as he squeezed her hand.
 Closing her eyes once more, she allowed the calm, smooth tone of his voice to help wash away some of her anxiety.  “It’s just...”
“I know.  It seems like a lot of pressure.  But, really, haven’t you been doing this same thing every day of your life, with the same people observing you?”
She opened her eyes and looked up at him.  “I have, but this time just seems different somehow.  I mean...This time it’s...”  At a loss, she threw her hands up in frustration.
“It’s just nerves, is what you’re trying to tell me.”  Leaning down, he planted a quick, warm kiss on her cheek.  “Don’t look at it as one point in time, because it isn’t.  If you hadn’t proven yourself over and over already, you wouldn’t even be here in the first place.  So, really, this is just the next step in a path you’re already traveling.”
 She couldn’t stop the smile from spreading over her face.  This was a big part of why she loved him, this ability he had of helping her put things into perspective.
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“As always,” he teased, squeezing her hand once more.
“But aren’t you at all nervous?” she asked, peering up into his face.
His eyes turned serious, and he brushed a lock of wavy chestnut hair out of them.  “Well, of course I am.  But I also believe what I said, that we’ve been working toward this for a long time.  It’s nothing new, just another chance to prove ourselves to Magnum, to prove to them the worth of their investment.”
“Maybe that’s what’s bothering me.  I want more than anything to prove that all the time, all the money they invested in me didn’t go to waste.”
 “And you will,” he said, and the quiet, unshakeable confidence in his voice went a long way toward soothing her nerves.