Done with NaNoWriMo, but…

nano 2006 winner small

Well, I did it. I made it to 50,000 words with a day to spare.

I did it a lot sooner than I planned, thanks to my hubby. Yesterday, during Daniel’s nap, I had written about 1500 words, so I figured the night session would be sufficient to put me over the edge. I had just settled in after dinner to watch an Azumanga Daioh DVD when hubby came down.

“What are you doing?”

“Watching this DVD.”

“How many words have you written today?”

“Around 1500.”

“No, I mean overall.”

I frowned. “How the heck should I know? I don’t really take an overall count until I’m finished for the night.”

“Well, go up and see.”

Grumbling, I trudged upstairs and woke up the laptop. “Lessee…I’ve have about…49,800 words so far…”

“So…that means you only have about 200 words left to write before you hit 50,000.”

“Yeah, I guess I do.”

“So, what are you waiting for? Get writing!”

I stared at him. “But, it’s not even Daniel’s bedtime yet. I can’t write now…it’s too soon!”

My hubby grabbed the little boy as he was dashing past. “I’ll put him to bed. You just start writing.”

“But…but…but…” Now I was getting annoyed. All I wanted to do was relax for a little bit. I didn’t want to write…even if I did have 200 words left. Geez, couldn’t he let me be in peace for a half an hour?

But then my hubby decided to do a cheer to spur me to write:

Go, go writer.
Write that word.
If you don’t make it,
you’re a turd.

My hubbie, ladies and gentlemen. Nice to see that being around high schoolers hasn’t affected him much. But really, after I picked myself off the ground from laughing, I did sit down and wrote those 200 words, plus a little bit extra. I guess in goading me, my hubby showed me the main reason the founders of NaNoWriMo stress that you write a new novel instead of continuing a previous one. I don’t have that overwhelming feeling of doom that nags, “Gotta finish this novel…gotta finish it NOW!” I know Willow isn’t going to be finished when I hit 50,000. So I don’t have that push to write madly to beat a deadline. I’m pretty much coasted through all of November with that mentality. Hitting 50,000 wasn’t as big a deal as I thought it would be.

Technically, I could stop working on Willow if I wanted. But wait a sec…hold on. Let me flip through the archives real quick. When I decided to do this, my goal wasn’t to write 50,000…my goal was to focus on Willow for the entire month. And folks, the month ain’t up yet. I still got one more day.

So I’m not going to celebrate just yet. I’m going to do what I’ve been doing for the past 29 days–focus on Willow, seeing how many chapters I can finish. Right now, I’m on chapter 36. If I can finish it by tonight, then I’ll break out the champagne and streamers and whatever else people do when they finish NaNoWriMo…

I need to get back to writing. 🙂

Pulling into the NaNoWriMo Home Stretch

All right.

Three more days, 15 hours left to write. I’ve written 43,324 words so far. I still got a sore throat, Daniel’s been wearing the same clothes for three days now, and the house is a wreck. Well, more of a wreck than usual.

But this is it. Let’s see how quickly I can break 50,000. The Cafe will be closed for a couple of days while I’ll put all my efforts into this. If you still wish for your daily dish, may I suggest some leftovers?Catch up on some tasty bits you may have missed? The archive section is on your left towards the bottom.

See you in a couple of days.

Thanksgiving Snapshots

9:35am Daniel patting my face. “Get up, Mommy!” I grumble when I realize that I’ve overslept, but man, it sure felt good to sleep in. I don’t do that much anymore, even if I’m a stay at home mom.

11:05am Just as WXRT starts playing their annual Thanksgiving song, “Alice’s Restaurant” on the radio, I start pulling out ingredients for something I’ve never done before–making my Grandma’s cornbread stuffing. Seeing that she doesn’t have a recipe written down, I can only guess at vague amounts. But it’s such a bright, sunny day, and the sun is streaming into my kitchen. I chop green pepper, onion and celery, and saute them in a skillet. As the onions turn translucent, I can’t help but feel excited, that I’m venturing down a path that my mom, my grandmother, my great-grandmother, etc, have done Thanksgiving Day Pasts.

12:05pm I don’t think I have enough cornbread, and my sage has turned flavorless. Well, that sucks.

1:30pm Half an hour late already, we pile into the car.

“Wait…do we have anything for Daniel to play with?”

“Um…I don’t think so.”

I head back into the house to get Daniel’s Thomas the Train engine. Well, I may have goofed up on the stuffing, but the house sure smells like Grandma’s cooking.

1:45pm We pass what used to be a used car dealership lot. The cars are gone now, and the tiny house that served as its office has an ambiguous sign and darkened windows that makes one think that it’s now an adult porn and toy shop. It’s hard to imagine, because the house is pretty tiny–where would one keep stuff like that?–but today, I noticed that its everpresent neon sign ‘Open’ is lit up brightly. That causes me to wonder: who would visit such a shop on Thanksgiving Day? Why would the owners have it open? Not that I’m going to find out, but still…

2:15pm The landscape is brown, brown, brown. All the leaves have gone away, leaving a dismal landscape. At least the grass is still green. Daniel giggles in the car seat when I tickle his toes.

2:30pm We reach Jon’s relatives house. Lots of hugs, lots of kisses. I put the overcooked stuffing down back in the oven to warm up, but Jon’s aunt says it looks good. All the teenage girls coo over Daniel, then take him under their wing. I don’t see him much, but since he’s having so much fun with them, I decide, hey, let them have their fun with him.

3:00pm Dinner. The stuffing’s not that bad after all…My hubbie is now telling a new set of relatives about his job. They still find a way to rag on his goatee, though.

5:00pm The women want to take a walk around the neighborhood. I decide to go with to get some fresh air. The woman who made the mashed potatoes keeps apologizing to me profusely–she had cut her fingers slicing the potatoes, and stuck several bandages on them. She didn’t notice one falling in…and I was the one who found it. Lucky me.

5:20pm The sky has darkened considerably outside. There’s a tiny sliver of moon hanging in the west, like a thin fingernail. The women chatter, very happy indeed to get out the hot house and all the debating men. We take a walking path that goes behind the neighborhood’s houses. Every other house seems to be lit up from inside, and I can see various parties taking place–sweatered people sitting at dining room tables, jostling about in a kitchen, waving their arms madly while children sit in front of a video game. There’s only one house where the lights aren’t as bright–one lone person sitting on a couch in front of the TV. I can’t tell if he’s alone or simply decided to bow out of the festivities taking place somewhere else in the house…

7:00pm Several people left for home, so now it’s down to a few families. An uncle leans back and says, “So, is the war justified?” He gets several pillows thrown at him, along with cries of “Oh, not this again!”

8:15pm One of the girls has brought down her pet boa constrictor. I now realize why Daniel’s been going up there all this time. This snake is pretty small by snake standards…only 6 feet from head to tail. Despite my squeamishness at seeing this snake draped around the girl’s shoulder’s, I have to touch it. Its skin is cool and leathery. Later, it slowly winds its way towards me, and I let it cross my hand and creep up my arm and shoulder, where it inspects my hair, tiny replicas of itself, its tongue flicking out thoughtfully. It then moves off my shoulder to crawl along the top of the sofa. I feel the muscles bunching under its skin. In my Willow book, the evil character is in the form of a snake. The Temple worker whom he’ll eventually take over is a Voice for snakes. How can something with no arms and legs inspire such terror in people–and yet, how can it be so disturbingly seductive? I’ll have to capture that in the book somehow…

9:30pm Daniel’s finally yawning. My hubbie’s antagonized his uncles long enough. We load up the car and head home. I switch from the traffic report to hear some music, and the first thing that pops up is Vince Guaraldi’s Instrumental “Christmas Time is Here”. Normally, I’d get upset on hearing Christmas music so soon, but I leave it. After today, I’m in the mood for it, and besides, it’s Charlie Brown. How can you not turn from such happiness?

Still chugging along…

It’s been quiet at the cafe. The leaves are gone from most of the trees, leaving their stark bare branches to hold up the sky, which has been a smeary gray as late. In the cafe itself, most of the tables are empty. Clientele is low, except for the guy with the goatee reading the tech manual in the corner–he’ll never leave. The waitress yawns, but keeps refilling his cup with decaf coffee for lack of anything else to do. Looks like it’s getting to be Thanksgiving time.

I’m doing pretty good. Most of the flu symptoms are gone except for a lingering sore throat and a voice that’s better placed on those ‘call 976-Debbie’ late night ads. Definitely not the type of voice to read Goodnight Moon. Daniel seems to take his Mommy’s hoarse voice in stride. This has also taught me well about disciplining him. Now, instead of raising my voice to yell, I get this real intense whisper right up in his face. “What. Are. You. Doing?!”. If the behavior escalates, it’s dumping him in his crib for five minutes. I still can’t believe how a time-out suddenly makes him cooperate. We all need time-outs in life.

I’m still chugging along with Willow. I’m aiming for 40,000+ words this week. I’m quite surprised how I’m zooming through all these chapters. Not bad for someone who didn’t plot this part of the book out. It’s easy to do so knowing that what I’m putting down now is really only a foundation to build on–when I go back over it next year, I get to decide what stays and what goes. It will be very interesting to see how this develops.

Okay, enough musing. I got another 3000 words to write today (hopefully). I have cornbread and chicken stock to make, then later tonight I have to start on macaroni and cheese. Tomorrow, I’m going to make my grandmother’s cornbread stuffing for the first time ever. November seems to be a month of risktaking.

Flu shots? We don’t need no stinking–Ouch!…Aw man….THUNK!

This week, I made it to 30,000 words. But barely. Juuuust barely.

Stupid flu shot.

I know these things are pretty controversial. What’s the point of getting a flu shot when the virus keeps mutating to the point that it’s possible that you can catch an even worse variation of the flu, rendering the shot you painfully got useless? But wouldn’t it be nice to be covered just in case you come across the same version of flu you got vaccinated with, and all your family is falling down spewing, and you just laugh, “Ha! Ha! Ha! I’ve been vaccinated, you poor losers! Who needs another Pepto Bismal dosage?”

Well, okay, I wasn’t thinking about that at all when I went to get the shot on Wednesday. My hubby’s job was having a health fair, so we thought it would be good to get some up to date shots, check on our cholesterol and what not. Hey, it’s covered under our insurance. What the heck. I’m pretty sure if I had any side effects, they’ll be pretty slight. So I went and got the shot.

Things were going pretty well until midday. I was running chores with Daniel when suddenly I got that woozy feeling. You know, when you’re standing in place and the whole world decides to tilt 45 degrees to the left. That’s not good, I thought and decided to go home for the day, where I spent the rest of the day vegging on the couch. Bummer considering that I had a nice recipe for spicy lamb soup I had wanted to try.

But it’s okay, I thought in a naive, sickness addled way. Tomorrow I’ll be better. This shouldn’t last long. And on Thursday, I even rose early to write a bit, thinking that I was fine.

Oh, how foolishly wrong I was. I went to get Daniel from his crib, and I could barely lift him, I was aching all over. I turned the heat in the house up, and kept shaking with the chills. I tried to do some housework, but had to lie down every couple of minutes. When I realized it was noon and I was still in my pajamas, I had to concede. These weren’t side effects. This was the freaking flu!

Before Daniel was born, getting sick was like getting a mini-vacation. Sure, I felt awful, but I got a chance to lie around at home with a box of tissues, sleeping all day and watching TV. My favorite was watching kiddie programs, like Calliou and Dragon Tales, pretending that I had a child and that this would be the stuff he or she watched. It was a nice way to escape the office.

But now I’m a stay at home mom. And you know what? Two year olds don’t care if you’re sick or not. They still expect you to play and make their breakfast and change their diaper (wait, what am I saying? Daniel doesn’t care about that at all…) and basically keep to the normal schedule of things. They don’t understand the words, “Mommy’s sick.” Nope. They will jump on you and slap your face to wake you up, and if you don’t respond, they do it again. Harder. There is no escape. None.

Thursday was a very abnormal day for Daniel. All Mommy did is lay on the sofa, groaning. He did get a good deal in that he watched a lot of Elmo, Thomas, HiggleyTown Heros and Teletubbies. He even got to watch stuff that Mommy normally wouldn’t let him watch, like Between the Lions and Bob the Builder. Whatever guilt Mommy felt for letting him watch so much TV was currently dumped in the toilet, along with her lunch. She didn’t yell at him when he played with the family room blinds, or got into the tissue box and pulled tissues; she just stared at him through her Nyquil-induced haze. He was a little upset when she dumped him in his crib a little earlier than usual, though, without the normal taking the nap routine, but he got over it soon enough. At least, I think he got over it. Good thing that Daddy came home early, because Mommy was knocked out for the count that day.

Needless to say, I did not write.

I’m doing a lot better now. I still got a nasty cough, and my throat feels like chewed meat, but the aches and pains are gone and the ground feels solid beneath my feet again. That’s good, because at this very moment, Daniel is coming up the stairs, saying, “Mommy? Mommy! Wharyu doin?” He’s also been extremely loving, wanting to crawl into my lap and giving me hugs every minute. I think, in his own way, he’s trying to say that he really missed me and he’s glad I’m doing better.

I do know one thing. If I ever decide to get another flu shot, I’m going to do it on a Friday so if I get sick, at least it will be over a weekend, when hubby is home. That’s right. I going to plan in advance the next time I get sick. Hey babe, are you doing anything the second weekend of November next year? No? Good. I’m going to schedule my next flu shot for that time…

All in all it’s just another brick in the Wall–Halfway Point of NaNoWriMo…

Ugh…my mind is turning to mush. I’m definitely hitting the wall now. Too much willow is turning my brain to ooze. Today, I sat down to write Willow and all I typed out was mush. I’ve been concentrating on it for too long. I want to do something else. Bleh….

Yesterday was the 15th of November. I’ve written 25,811 words on Willow so far this month. That’s roughly 5-1/2 chapters I’ve written. We’re at the halfway point, folks.

This is just like running a marathon. First moment, you’re running and you think, this isn’t bad. Then you start jogging and get a little tired, but you find your stride and rhythm and think, hey, I can do this. This is easy. Then you start getting cocky. I can do this alllll day. Look at me! Look at me! Then you foolishly, foolishly start to sprint. You get a good speed going and it’s great. You’re top of the world, Ma!

And then the wall falls. Right on your head. Boom.

All this freewriting, all this creativity, is churning my brains into bits of mental stew. I’ve think I’ve pulled a charley horse somewhere in my writing muscle is seriously cramping up. You know how bad this is? I just poured some tea into an empty cup. Took a sip out of it. Then turned and saw another steaming cup of tea sitting on my left. My laptop is now flanked by two steaming cups of tea.


This, then, would be the absolutely downside of NaNoWriMo. You can’t let your mind rest. You gotta keep focusing, focusing on doing the same thing. But my creativity doesn’t like work like that. I like to write something, then let it rest for a couple of days, let it percolate, if you will. Then I can revisit it again with fresh eyes and a fresh mind.

I didn’t mind working on Willow once a day, because I always had something else to work on too at the same time–a short story, essay, poetry, and that would be usually editing, which exercises a different creative muscle than just flat-out freewriting. But so far, the only thing I’ve been doing now is freewriting Willow, and it’s beginning to take its toll. If it wasn’t for writing this blog, my head probably would’ve exploded by now.

I can hear the essay I was working on in October calling out to me. “LaShawn…why haven’t you touched me? I need editing! These passive verbs aren’t going to go away on their own. Worrrrrk on meeeeee….worrrrk on meeeeee….” Yep. You know you’re working hard when you start hallucinating about your essay begging in a whiny voice. Maybe it’s time to stop writing this and to work on Willow again.

Sprinting through the Willows without stopping to smell the rewrites…

Last Thursday in the afternoon, I had just finished writing another chapter of Willow. Usually, I time it so that I end a chapter around the end of naptime. Then I get up and go get Daniel, who has been awake and calling for “Mommy!” for ten minutes (and when she doesn’t show up, he invokes, “Elmo!” or “Thomas!”)

But to my surprise, Daniel was still in nap-nap land, which meant I had some precious time left to myself. Oh…what’s a stay-at-home mother to do? Should I finish folding the laundry? Get a head start on dinner? Read a chapter of my book? Or even, (gasp), take a brief, wholesome nap?!?!

Or, I thought…why don’t I write some more on Willow? Start working on a new chapter?

It’s an unprecedented thought for me. When I write a chapter, I usually write up to what I think is a good stopping point, then stop until the next time I start writing. It never occurred to me to just keep going on, to write as much as I can without caring if I stop at a decent point. So I tried it. I started a new chapter.

I think the word count I did for that day was around 3500 words. More than enough to put my weekly total in the 20,000+ zone. It’s pretty cool to see my word count shoot up by leaps and bounds.

However, there is a dark side to all this writing willy-nilly.

Today, after quite an eventful weekend, I woke up and started working on Willow. Halfway through a chapter, I suddenly figured out a plot point that will tie up the section I’m working on. I now had a way to get my characters from point A to point C, by traveling through D instead of B. It was a brilliant mindstorm, and all I needed to do was rewrite the last chapter I wrote to reflect changes that will bring my current chapter up to speed…

But I can’t rewrite that chapter, can I? Not only does it change my word count for NaNoWriMo, but even if I did, it’s not really new stuff I’ll be writing, is it? As far as NaNoWriMo is concerned, I’m done with that chapter. Which is cool. I understand.

One of the drawbacks of being a writer is getting the story down without jumping back to do rewrites. It bogs a writer down because when you rewrite, you’re not in freespirited creative writing mode–you’re in harsh, critical editor mode, and you’re weighing every word, balancing every sentence, testing how it feel, what it sounds like. I think that’s why it took me so long to start writing on Willow again. When I first pulled it out, true, I had forgotten most of the story. But I also saw that I’ve pretty much written crap, and the editor in me wanted to refine that. I don’t regret rewriting the first part of the book–it helped me get a better handle on the story as a whole; but now that I’m back in the freespirited, write-whatever-I-want-so-long-as-I-get-it-down mode, I don’t want to slow down for editor mode. At least not this month.

I think there are times, though, when a chapter rewrite is absolutely, positively necessary, mainly if a major plot point has changed. I think today is a good example of that. If this was any other month, I would have gone ahead and done the rewrite. But this is NaNoWriMo. So, in the spirit of the month, what I’ll do is write a couple of paragraphs or two that has the stuff I want to change in the previous chapter, then I’ll put it in my notes to revisit at a later date. Then, I start the next chapter off as if I’ve implemented those changes.

In fact…I think I’ll add those two paragraphs to my word count. After all, technically…it’s still Willow writing. 🙂