Day 4: A Piece of Cake?
Contributor
Andrea Collier, our NaNoWriMo correspondent hits the 5,000 word mark and reveals her first 500 words.
Day 4: Hey SheWriters and SheWriMos! Three days at 1,700 words each day. It hasn’t been stressful at all. Because I am a journalist who has to push output for paying assignments for magazines and websites, I am used to hammering out 3,000 words of some kind every day. So technically I may be a slacker. Why then, if I am used to cranking out the output am I doing only the bare minimum to get to 50,000 words? Is it that I am mulling over every word? No. It’s because I am still doing my 3,000 words on top of this. I have assignments. I did a guest blogpost for television journalist, Rene Syler’s Good Enough Mother blog. I did two posts for a health care blog, and I did an essay for a magazine, two proposals and five queries for more magazine work. So who’s the slacker? This week, SheWriter Tayari Jones, explained why this exercise in crazy was not for her. And under ordinary circumstances, it isn’t for me. This is not going to be how I write books the rest of my life. I’m not even going to keep this up after November. Why not? Because I am creating liquid nitrogen, not an award winning novel. I am dancing the literary Zumba. NaNoWriMo, my dear SheWriMos is like throwing paint on a canvas to the beat of a Black Eyed Peas song. I am not silly enough to think that this is going to be my ticket to the best seller list. But it is my way to stop saying, “one of these days I will make time for this non paying, non needed, non necessary piece of fiction.” It is a few hours every day that I can learn a little more about these characters that I thought would be good to hang out with for 30 days. And let me tell you I hate one of them and I think he’s going to get put on skis and be pushed out of my novel by the weekend. Does my novel make any sense? Only to me. Would you love it? You wouldn’t even be able to understand it. But at 5,100 words, I have gone a little further than I would have without it. And I am having fun. This is freeing. I am telling the critic to sit in the corner and suck her thumb. What doesn’t make sense today will make sense in December when I take the raw clay of NaNoWriMo and turn it into a real and cohesive story. Biggest mistake of the week SO FAR? Getting a frozen Teddy Bear Chill with three shots of espresso at 6 p.m. Bad. Best thing I did? Breathe? No, curse at the page. Great release. Nothing like it. Scrivener worked great. Of course I didn’t do anything fancy but I got my words in there without accidentally deleting it. I will be more adventurous next week. Tonight I go to a NaNoWriMo party. Will bring back video. Here is my first little sample of raw clay. No critique necessary unless you are an editor and want to buy my novel based on this. I’m just sayin! What a fitting end to my life. I shimmied myself out to the edge of the diving board, with a big bottle of champagne in hand. It was like sitting on top of the world. Peaceful and calm, and new. We’ve had this pool for 10 years, but I’ve never been in it. I’ve never even been this close to it, because I’m afraid of water. But today, with this big bottle of champagne in my hand, and my legs straddled on either side of the board, I’m not afraid of anything. It’s just me, a big chilled bottle of Cristal, and Luther Vandross, singing every sad love song that he has ever made, pouring out his soul into the speakers at the pool. I’m amazed at how blue and peaceful the water seems. I’m happy sitting here wailing with Luther. Lots of broken hearts, climbing stairs, till you come back to me. God, wallowing in grief is so seductive. Why have I wasted my life trying to accomplish all this stuff, when getting drunk on the diving board of a pool that you are ordinarily afraid of is so satisfying. I could have skipped right over the marriage, the kids, the hard times, the good times and moved straight to this. Because here it is, and its not bad. Oh yeah, and because I have hit rock bottom and it can’t get any worse than this. There is no anticipation of the other Manolo falling, as it has fallen hard, fallen fast. The worst thing that can happen to me now is I could just fall in the pool and drown. Would that be so bad? Not today it wouldn’t. I start to wonder how long I can actually stay out here. Does it break the mood when you have to go to the bathroom? What would my fans think if they could see me now. The queen of advice taken down by a man, like everyone else. My head hurts because I am doing too much thinking, so I move for more drinking and singing. Then I hear my mother, Margie, come out on the patio and she’s not alone. “She’s been drinking champagne all day,” she says, and points me out like I’m an act in the circus freak show. “Drunk as a skunk.” My mother is sometimes, not often, a woman of few words. I turn around and see her, two of her, a little blurry and out of focus, but there she is. I see the outlines of my friends, Tweet and Roxanne, too. They don’t seem to know they are interrupting a very intimate moment between Luther and I. “Go home,” I say. “I just want to be alone.” So there you have it. Here's today's question: FOR ALL YOU NOVELISTS IN TRAINING: How hard has it been to just let go of control of the characters and allow them to tell you what to do? Andrea King Collier is a Lansing, Michigan based freelance writer and author of Still With Me...A Daughter's Journey of Love and Loss (Simon and Schuster) and Black Woman's Guide to Black Men's Health. RELATED: Click here SheWriMos">SheWriMos to follow the experiences of other She Writers immersed in the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge--30 days, 50,000 words. NaNoWriMo group "NaNoWriMo? It's Not for Everyone" by Tayari Jones

Photo: Maggie Hoffman

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Comments
  • Fi Phillips Revising

    Well done on the wordage and great 500 words - I enjoyed reading it - want more. I'm on Day 5 and have broken the 10,000 word barrier at 10,244. That's the best I've ever done on NaNoWriMo so I'm quite proud of myself. Today's wordage was about two of my characters, one that I've had in my head for a long time and am very fond of, the other relatively new to me and a bit of a pain, rather whiny and self indulgent. The first rubs the second up the wrong way so I enjoyed writing a chapter about this budding friendship (if reluctant on the part of my second character). I can feel the rhythm of their voices so I give them free rein to create the dialogue.

  • Cary JS Lopez

    Awesome first 500 words...definitely has all the qualities of a good "hook"! Don't let the downers of NaNo get to you - sometimes, there is a lot of raw power in the moments when we let ourselves go.

    I've always scoffed when I've heard novelists claim, "My characters caught me by surprise!". I mean, haven't these "people" been living in your head, driving you crazy for months now? Are there REALLY any secrets they have left that you don't know? But I honestly have to admit, as this is my first NaNo, that my characters have very much caught me by surprise. This story is going in directions I never could have foretold. That may be the copious amounts of red wine talking, but I have to say that I'm now a believer in the power of my characters and their independence.

    I can't say it's been a piece of cake - I don't have as much practice in writing every day as you do, Andrea! - but it has definitely been an adventure so far...one that I would highly recommend!

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    Migrating comments from earlier today (this post originally appeared on a different page -- a technicality over here; thanks for bearing with us as we straighten things out!:

    Comment by Nicole Easterwood 1 hour ago
    I'm already at almost 13,000 words and still going strong! It is a piece of cake, but there is a problem- now I want cake! I think we all deserve a piece. :)

    Comment by Chris B 3 hours ago
    I enjoyed your post and excerpt, Andrea. In the excerpt you conveyed a lot about your character and drew me in. I'd like to read more.

    And, I just had to check out Scrivener. I haven't looked at their product yet, but I like their logo. ;-)

    Comment by Carleen 5 hours ago
    Go on with your bad self!

    Comment by Kim Koning 7 hours ago
    Great post Andrea! And I really enjoyed the excerpt! I wanted to read more!