I wrote a little over 2200 words last night, catching up and going slightly over the 18 day mark for NaNoWriMo2015. Taking a break was a very good idea, allowing me to consider where my characters were, where I need to go with them and how to work in elements of the overarching themes I’m working on.
I’ve noticed that I have a lot more patience this time around in terms of letting this be a draft. For a finished work, I’ll want more detail, more richness, probably better and more interesting word choices. For now, though, I’m happy to keep the story moving and linking up with the necessary plot points. I think that’s progress.
Progress toward what? Toward my transition from being exclusively a short story writer to being a novelist. I’ve been struggling with the challenge of planning and sustaining a story arc over novel-length word totals, being so comfortable with the short story range.
I’ve also started with a much more planned out story arch this time and I think that’s helping a lot. That and a realistic goal for the month: not a complete novel with all the bells and whistles and fleshed-out details, but a solid draft that connects the plot points, builds the structure of the story arch and gets me from the start to the end. I don’t get too hung up on the contradictions and conflicts I’m introducing along the way because I can catch them later.
In practical terms, that means sometimes I’m just throwing words down that I know I’ll change later. If my character is moving from point T to point U during a particular piece of writing, I can sketch that out in bare terms and fill in the details that come to me in that moment. I’m not stressed about producing finished product every night. I am confident I can work toward a finished product during my next rounds of writing and editing.
Another lesson learned is that taking breaks is a good thing. It doesn’t mean I’m failing. It means I am recharging. And so much of the work of a writer is in our heads, sometimes we need to let the material build up and sort itself out before we sit down to write it. Plus, there are support activities like research, planning, reading/experiencing (intake) and daydreaming, and they take time and are valuable and necessary. I think an optimal writing schedule for me would be 3 days on and 1 day for other activities. I’m going to see if I can make that work for me after NaNoWriMo.
Because some of you like to see what I’m writing, here’s a little of the unedited output from last night:
As the 21st century rolled forward, humans on a whole became increasingly isolated, and at the same time, connected, through technology. They could simultaneously hold contradictory realities in their minds: The people around them were strangers – the person who delivered packages to their doors, the people standing in line with them to get coffee, the next door neighbor lady who tended her flower garden in defiance of the drought. People they met online were real: the customer service rep who helped them shop for birthday gifts, the friends and lovers they’d met online and who were the recipients of said birthday gifts. Even web celebrities were more real than the people living in houses nearby. The online people shared their most intimate thoughts, they could sit and watch videos of each other. You could have sexual relationships online.
With that in mind, is it easier to understand that there were people who stridently and in violent terms defended online friends who were being forcibly relocated but couldn’t be bothered to attend a rally across town for people being moved from their own county? Is it easier to see how the government, at the bidding of their corporate investors, could so easily pick apart communities until the remaining residents were rounded up into preserves without a fight?
Not that there wasn’t any fight anywhere, it’s just that the majority followed government directives without much question, especially if they were convinced they were actually getting a pretty good deal based on the alternatives. The corporate investors were happy, their stockholders were happy, the politicians who could still live in comfort were happy.
The only people who weren’t happy were those who had been made to move to inhospitable places as a result of the sheer dumb luck of living in the wrong place at the wrong time and very often, with the wrong skin color.
The old man guarding the store spit on the dirty pavement between them.
“This is still America, you assholes! This is my store and these are my goods and you can trade for them or I’m gonna start putting you down.” he snarled. “What do I have to lose?”
“You gonna shoot us? Just like that, because we’re hungry?” The first guy asked, with a mocking tone.
The sound of breaking glass caused everyone to look around and in that instant, the man in the blue bandana move forward quickly, pushing the older man against the front wall of the store. The old man was thin, but not frail and managed to twist away. Fred watched from behind the cover of a stand of bushes that had once been a neatly trimmed hedge.
The man from the store lifted his shotgun and aimed it at the bigger man. He said something and the other man made a move for the doorway, which was open and unguarded now. The white haired man followed him with the barrel of the rifle and may have been intent on shooting. Fred would never know – no one would – because he suddenly fall down as the sound of a gun firing echoed through the hollow surrounded the store. The people in the crowd looked around, surprised, unsure who had fired the shot. The big man stood in the doorway, looking at the old man, pool of blood forming around his head. He looked out on the crowd.
“What the fuck? There was no need to kill him!” he shouted.
“Fuck you, Eric, he was going to shoot you, he was ready to shoot any of us.” A woman who had been standing to the far side of the crowd from Fred stepped toward the store front. “And it wouldn’t have mattered if he shot to kill or just wound, out here it’s all the same. So you’re welcome, asshole.”
She tucked a handgun into the waistband of her pants. “Alright people, let’s resupply and get the hell out of here. She brushed past Eric, and on into the store. The others followed, and Eric moved aside as they did. He stood looking at the old man and then walked over to where he lay on the ground. He crossed himself and took off his bandana and shook it out. Kneeling next to the body, he placed the bandana over the man’s face and crossed himself again.
He joined the others in the store. Fred listened to them, exclaiming and shouting, laughing and whooping. His stomach growled, reminding him that his backpack was empty. He waited until they’d gone, passing his hiding place as he held his breath and prayed to a god he didn’t believe in.
Eating felt good, he smiled as he walked back out and then his face fell his stomach lurched. Of course, the old man was still lying there, still dead. He guessed that there was no one else around, no one from the area had come to investigate the gunshot. Fred thoughtfully chewed on his apple and then took the backpack off his shoulders. He placed it to one side and then went back into the store. There was a small hardware section in the back. He emerged with a shovel and looked around. The store was surrounded by pavement. He walked to the backside, and up to where the beauty bark of the landscape gave way to sparse grass and some trees.
Quite a while later, Fred set aside the shovel and stood quietly over the grave. He’d never buried someone, not directly. This was nothing like the funerals he’d gone to before. Those had been sanitized experiences, carefully managed rituals meant to guide the living around death. Fred had dragged the man around the store and up the landscaped berm to the hole he’d dug. The body was much heavier than he’d imagined and he’d had to stop more than once. It felt disrespectful to just pull him across the dirty ground like that, and his pants had come half off so Fred had stopped once to hike them up. At one point, a boot had come off and he struggled to put it back on before continuing. Without thinking, he’d glanced up and saw the trail of blood and gore he was leaving. The man’s eyes were open and he’d looked into them out of reflex. That had made His stomach had heaved and once he’d recovered, with a shaking hand, he’d pulled the eyelids over them.
Before pushing the body into the ground, he’d stopped to catch his breath and say a few words.
“I’ve never done this myself, sir, so I hope you’ll forgive me. I don’t know your name, I guess I could look for it in your store but I hope you’ll understand if I don’t. I watched you die and didn’t do anything to stop it, probably couldn’t have, but I feel sorry about that anyway.
You did what you believed was right, and I admire you for that. It shouldn’t have cost you your life, but that seems to be the way of things these days. People die more often and more easily now. I wish I could pass word to your people. I guess if I ever meet someone from here, I can let them know.”
Fred pushed the body in as gently as he could and winced at the way it thudded at the bottom. He held his breath until there was about a foot of soil over the man and then filled the grave as quickly as he could.
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