Those who can, as they say, do, and those who can’t, teach. Or, in my case, those who can’t, imagine they can and then they write a novel about it.
I’m talking about not being able to complete the Trail yet because Marian’s ankle is still mending. I’m feeling frustrated and it’s making me look for creative ways to deal with that. So last month, I decided to write a novel about the Trail. Yup, a novel. First novel I ever wrote.
Let me tell you a little more. I was taking part in NaNoWriMo, something I’d heard about it for the first time last year. The deal was, write a 50,000 word novel, in thirty days. How exciting, I thought. Just the challenge for someone like me. Too bad I was still working at the time and that it was already mid-November, but wait till next year. Then I’d be retired and that’s when I’d really sit down and pound it all out.
I had visions of sitting at my computer with my fingers flying, the words pouring through the keys onto my LED screen. Characters would reveal themselves to me full blown, plot twists and dilemmas appearing from nowhere and carrying me forward. I read NaNoWriMo forums and found there were lots of pantsers, people who wrote by the seat of their pants as opposed to those who outlined every chapter in advance as they advised in Novel Writing for Dummies. In my head I was eleven years old again, all the girls in my class filling scribbler after scribbler with adventurous tales of heroines that looked a lot like Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew.
Then came the invitation to spend a week in Princeton. What to do? Well, no matter, the laptop could come along. And the first week, well, the word count started slowly and got behind quickly, but there would be time to catch up, right? Week two I did a little better, and I got to 10,000 words. I was starting to see that 50,000 was an awful lot. And where was I going to take my protagonist? Who was she really? She was beginning to sound a little boring, how was she going to carry me for 40,000 more words? What was her backstory? Had I even figured that out? I was starting to feel stuck. And the motif that was supposed to carry my story along, hiking the Bruce Trail as metaphor for internal journey and spiritual change, it was taking some more doing than I’d anticipated. I couldn’t keep describing every hike they went on ad nauseum, with trail heads and hills and fatigue.
Keep going anyway, the pep talk emails from NaNoWriMo said. Sit down and type and something will come. It’s always hard work and always impossible and yet that’s how novels get written every day and all the time. Jump ahead in your story to a place where you know what the action will be and come back later and fill in the missing pieces then. The advice kept coming and it was timely. How did they know exactly what I would be needing, I thought.
10 days to go and I was only at 25,000. Oh well, I said. I’m not going to make it, but it’s a lot more than I’ve ever done and I’m proud. Maybe, just maybe, I can reach 40,000. I sat down and typed some more. And then, on Thursday with 3 days to go, the day’s NaNoWriMo email said we’re all at different places, some of us do 2,000 words every day, some write once a week for 6 hour stretches and some, it said, do 15,000 word sprints. Could I? my inner voice whispered. Could I?
By Friday night I’d churned out enough words to be in striking distance of 40,000 and then the doorbell rang, my brother dropped in from Sudbury and the laptop had to be shut down. Saturday morning I was back at my writing table with my laptop open, cup of tea by my side. I texted three of my BFF’s: 40,000 words and counting. Deadline is midnight tonight. Can I hear some cheering? And I started to type. I wrote and I wrote, and I texted at 1,000 word intervals. Bam! they wrote back, and, You can do this! You’re picking up speed! There were 2,000 words to go when my family called me for supper. I ate and headed right back upstairs to type some more.
It was 8:48 pm when I wrote the last words: “Now let’s get going, shall we?” I had 50,217 words, 121 pages.
Is it a great novel? Not by any means. But there’s some stuff in there that makes me think I want to work at it some more in the new year, make it better, fix it. I think that’s called editing. magdalena