Far from Home

I’m doing better in terms of words that can be counted (18,627 as of tonight), but I am well aware that I’ll have to cut a great many at the end. That’s to be expected, I know, but I’m not sure how helpful this process will be to me except in sheer pages. The question remains: what if the pages are no good? That’s to address later.

I moved around a lot today.

This morning a cafe on Broadway. I found a seat in the back room, put my writing playlist on repeat, and got out a chunk of words. When that stopped working I moved to the notebook. When I got tired of how slowly I scribble when my ideas run so much faster I returned to typing. Then I moved to my usual weekend writing spot and confused myself thoroughly by Google Maps. I think I need to go upstate to refresh my picture of things—plus, I’d get to visit my brother.

I’m in the midst of these memories, digging deep into my past to find the people and places I’ve known, even briefly, to build this story that will certainly not be finished by the end of the month. You see, I’ve been having problems with my manuscripts. Fear of writing too close to home breeds this backlash, in which I move so far in the opposite direction I don’t even recognize myself anymore. But when I don’t allow myself to write about the things I know, it comes out too artificial. I wish I could have accepted this two years ago; it would have saved me a lot of agony, but what can you do. So here I am, making worthy attempts to write this novel and I’ve found myself at a deep chasm, literally, the scene involves a deep chasm, and I can’t for the life of me remember what the place is called or how to get there or why I was so insistent to set this scene there but all I know is my narrator is there now, deep night, and I have to end this chapter. Don’t worry—she does not fall in.

This weekend E and I had a magic talk about plot. I was telling him a memory of something that happened when I was 16 or 17 and zap! there was furious sketching on the story board and an animated discussion and I don’t think he realizes what a story genius he is. He should teach classes.

My intentions can be so much grander than what’s in me. I want to write a big story. A giant story that’s important to the world. But I can’t seem to get myself there. This story is not that story. Am I a small writer?

Which brings me back to the manuscript. I got stuck so I physically moved myself again, to a restaurant filled with students. I found a corner. I reached the daily 1,667 and beyond. But I have not yet said anything of significance. I have no sentences I am proud of, not a one.

This is why this NaNoWriMo thing is so different from my usual progress. Normally I’d wait for the sentence to be proud of before moving on. I’d wait for as long as it takes. I know I would have abandoned this project by now, had I been doing it my usual way. But will there be anything worth keeping at the end? Since I’m not allowing myself to look back, I don’t yet know.

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4 responses to “Far from Home”

  1. This is a really nice description of the Nano volume process versus the normal “waiting for a sentence to be proud of” process. I am usually an excruciatingly slow writer. It took me a full year to write my one published short story. But cranking it out like this just seems to free up the free association process. I figure it will shake loose some ideas for better, shorter pieces to be used later. It certainly does not feel like a waste of time or effort even if nothing ends up usable. It’s a free writing process I’ve never engaged in before. I get so stuck and blocked.


  2. It’s interesting to see someone with an established pattern and process saying this. I’ve been balking at NaNo, but since I’m using it to get back on the horse, I feel ooky drawing any hard conclusions.
    Suffice it to say: this is not the horse I will be riding after December 1st. Too much of a high-stepper. I need something with more stability. 🙂

    Alright, that’s terrible. I’m sorry this is so weird for you, but it is just an experiment. And it’s already successful because it’s thrown you seeds, no?

    I wish you and E were available for consult. I could really use that service! What’s the hourly rate?


  3. See, that novel wasn’t dead after all. Just tired or very, very quiet, calming itself, breathing deeply and silently. Perhaps it just had a secret for you.

    Go get em!! You are almost halfway there!


  4. That’s a lot of words! It’s hard to turn off the voice that says they all suck, isn’t it? All I know is that your descriptions of doing this writing are inspiring — I love knowing that you’re going from place to place in New York City and writing all those words.


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