Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm Done!

At 2:06 pm today, Frieda’s Chair came into the world. Sure, she’s ugly—12 fingers, 11 toes, and a really frightening head of hair—but I think we can work with that. I’m seeing faux-hawk, thinking we’ll emphasize rather than understate. But she exists! And I’m in love.

56,356 words ago, she was just a rough idea. I thought I knew what the gestation process would be like but, really, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It’s been a mirror, a joy ride, a terrifying free fall. But she’s alive and kicking and I’m happy as a clam.

The Ten things I learned through NaNoWriMo:
  1. I can’t spell worth shit (still) but luckily MSWord can.
  2. Breathing out (creation) is as important as breathing in (observation)—can’t do one without the other—and the moments of transition from one to the other are terrifying and magical.
  3. Trust your characters to guide the way. Trying to force them to go where I wanted them to go lead to temper tantrums (theirs) and writer’s block (mine).
  4. The world is magical if you take the time to look, full of weird, wonderful synchronicity.
  5. A first draft is not the same as the finished product, but you can’t have the latter unless you’re willing to make room for the former.
  6. It’s much easier to take wild adventures with a little bit of support.
  7. Perfectionism really is the enemy.
  8. Sitting and typing for hours will seriously shorten your psoas.
  9. Letting the story unfold on it’s own consistently creates something better than what I’d originally imagined.
  10. Play really is a path to power. Laughter is healing. Ridiculous goals can inspire. Imperfection is rich.

So I’m officially a 2008 NaNoWriMo Winner and I couldn’t have done it without you. Deep thanks to everyone who emailed, Facebooked, became a “supporter” on the blog, posted comments, asked about my word count, or just sent out the love through the ether. I couldn’t have done it without you! I mean that.


I have the closing scene in mind. I know who did it. The characters have learned everything they must know. But I can't feel how to flow from there to the finish.

A little panic, I think, about ending. Sort of like breathing out and then holding your breath: it's that little moment of hesitation before breathing in and knowing that you'll be OK. Weird.

Tomorrow is the last day so I have no choice but to make it happen. It's not going to be pretty.

But isn't that what editing is for?

Friday, November 28, 2008

OMG 50K!!!


I’m not quite done yet but I’ve reached that goal that was completely unimaginable 28 days ago!!! See how my word counter thing off to the right has changed? Pretty cool, eh. So now I’m tying up loose ends in the story and dancing around my apartment.

I’m probably insufferable right now but I’m just so darn PROUD OF MYSELF!!

Who knew I had it in me. :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Kinky Boots

Tantalizingly close: 49,154. 
And so I take a pause, a thanksgiving, before stepping across that threshold.

Today I sat on a bluff in the Marin Headlands looking out over the ocean. The high fog had pulled back from the coast but was still overhead, blocking the direct rays of the sun. And yet, there it was, the invisible sun bouncing off the lagoon a thousand feet below me, reflecting brilliantly right up into my face.

For my evening's entertainment, two disparate sources converge. Michael Meade talking about the desiccation of fantasy and the healing power of imagination. Kinky Boots, a based-on-real-life movie about a family-run shoe factory that saves itself by making fetish footwear for drag queens. 

What do all these and NaNoWriMo have in common? The courage to start when you can't know the finish, trusting in true sources of inspiration (embodied, mythic) even when they are hidden, and searching beneath the surface for that fragile thread that binds us.

Oh, I know I'm waxing all philosophical. My impulse is to entertain instead. But I'm just feeling so grateful. And full of thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I finally know why the murder victim died but whodunit is still up for grabs (although the field has definitely been narrowed).

Reporters live by the five W's: who, what, when, where, and why.

What, when, and where: all back at word 9747.
Why: At word 47,664 it starts to fall into place.
Who (as in whodunit): Somewhere near to 50,000, give or take 2,000.

When I first started writing, I was afraid to think about who did it for fear that the writing would be too stilted if I already knew the destination. Then I came up with three plausible motives and just let them act like the little lights along the aisle in an airplane, hoping they would illuminate my path in case of emergency. Now the who (and how) are emerging out of the same creative fog that has powered this whole thing. And it makes more sense than anything I could have imagined back at word 1.

That is the biggest lesson I've gotten from this process: trusting the timing and pace of intuition. Not only is it richer than what I might force into being, but it's easier too!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Brick Walls

For the first time, I am at a loss for words. (Well, clearly not completely since I'm typing and your reading, so the words have come from somewhere). But the end of the novel is in sight now. I'm definitely coasting towards the finish. And to tell you the truth, it makes me incredibly nervous. 

Perhaps it's the memory from my childhood, how when coasting downhill on my bike I slammed headfirst into a brick wall. Granted, closing my eyes wasn't the best idea. But ever since, I've been a little anxious about relaxing into an experience. 

So here I am, on the NaNoWriMo downhill . . . and it's been such a sweet ride. I've learned, and fretted, and pushed through, and stirred up stuff that I never could have imagined being part of the richness of writing what may very well be a very bad mystery novel (or a very good first draft). But I've also indulged myself in moments of hope and pleasure and even very tiny ones of trust in myself as an artist. It's been a ride like I never could have imagined. I don't want it to end. Even more, I don't want it to end on an unforgiving brick wall. So I need to remember the hard-earned lesson from way back then (the one learned after the face full of scabs--the envy of all my classmates--healed). That with eyes open, you can steer clear of the wall, and then ride back to the top and do it all over again!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Spontaneous Knotting

You know how you reach into your purse, your backpack, your pocket and pull out your earbuds for you iPhone or iPod or whatever iDevice you have. You reach in and pull them and and somehow, in the dark all by themselves, they've pulled a Houdini and tied themselves into knots. There's a phrase for this: spontaneous knotting.

My plot lines are beginning to do a similar trick. Overlapping, intertwining, confusing me to no end. While I'm busy visiting with one character, others are over in the corner introducing themselves and forming alliances. They've eyed each other from across the room, bought each other drinks, and made small talk. Now when I try and write my parallel plots lines, things are all tangled up. So much for linearity. And so much for my ability to keep track.

I'm just going to have to stick the darn things in my ears just like they are, all funky and weird and tangled. With just 6 days, 0 hours, and 36 minutes to go, there's no time to waste. So here's to spontaneous knotting in plot lines! This ought to be good. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Magic Happens

Kind of a long post today, on 40K day, because the overlap between fantasy and reality continues to amaze me.

This morning, I could not get started. I sat down to write and had no idea where to go. My characters just stood there, arms crossed, staring back at me. I got up, washed dishes, called home, sat down again. Still nothing. The plot flat as a post-mortem EKG. Things outside the novel didn’t help either. Events of the week had left me stirred up and unhappy with my own company. We were all in need of a change of venue.

I headed out to a coffee shop. First thing, I see one of my characters, the one with the Great Dane and the little mutt, halfway down the block. Thing is, he and his dogs are not one of my based-on-real-person characters. I thought he was pure fiction but there he is. Perhaps this is an encouraging sign from the muse.

At Maxfield’s, I grab a coffee, plop myself down, and plug in the headphones. I am determined not to get up until I reach 40K. I poke at my characters, elbow them in the ribs, place banana peels in their paths, try my own angst onto theirs to see if there’s a fit. Somehow, somewhere, something sparks. Words start to flow, dialogue emerges out of nowhere, truths began to be told. And I push past 40K!

Walking home, I amuse myself by pretending—atleast for this month—that I am a ‘novelist’ and thinking that actually, it’s kind of a lonely of way to make a living.

I round the corner by my house. Coming towards me: a skinny, grey-bearded homeless guy is pushing a shopping cart full-to-overflowing. We nod at each other. “You’ve got a lot of colorful stuff there.” I say in passing, impressed by his bounty. Twenty yards later, “Hey lady!” I turn and look back. He’s walking towards me, holding out a fancy mylar balloon with streamers and stars and the words “Happy Birthday” across the middle. “I’ve got two of these, maybe you know someone who’s having a birthday today.” I thank him and smiling, turn away thinking that’s me: today, I’m giving birth . . . to a novel, to a self, to possibilities.

I can’t help but wonder. Was he real? Would I have seen him had I not spent the morning writing fiction? Perhaps fantasy, rather than being an escape from reality, nurtures it. Perhaps creativity makes magic happen for real. It did today.