For years I've wanted to participate in NanoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month, but I was afraid to commit to it. Writing an entire novel (50K+ words) in just one month seemed impossible. Most of my novels are longer - much longer than that. Closer to 85-120K words, but they take me at least nine months to write. I decided to try it though, since I am unemployed, have just one little tot running around, and with three other novels under my belt, thought I was qualified to give it a try.
It blew my mind. I had no idea that writing a novel so quickly would be so good for my writing process. I found myself working every spare minute, the looming deadline pushing me to find time. I wrote in 15 minute spurts sometimes. I wrote long into the night while Claire slept. I wrote notes in my phone on my morning run. The important thing is, I was always thinking about my story. The constant work, the constant pull to put something, anything down, forced me between writing sessions to think about what would happen next, so no time would be wasted.
And the joy - the joy is what I really want to talk about. I think the writing slog before NanoWriMo was beginning to wear on me, and even though it still made me happy, it wasn't fulfilling me the way it had before.
But writing a whole novel in a month brought me so much joy, because I stopped being such a perfectionist, and just wrote what happened as I saw it. It was so liberating to work without fear.
So the million dollar question - is it crap? I don't think so. Maybe I'm still riding the post-book high, but I think it might be one of the best things I've done. It is funny, (at least to me) which I'm not accustomed to writing. It is romantic and dramatic and it is a fun read.
Here is an excerpt for those who are interested. I do think I am going to query with it when I'm ready, so can't make it into a Kindle offering or anything, but I'm hopeful that it will make its way into the market someday.
One more thing - we were encouraged to design a cover for our book, so I came up with this. It's nothing fancy, but I like it, and I think it represents the book well.
Ruby McCoy is a child prodigy who published her first journal at eight years old. Now, at 17, she is an international celebrity. But her life is not as perfect as it seems. She's struggling to write her last journal of her youth, to figure out who her real friends are, and is looking for true love. This book is about her search for the marrow of her life, and her own struggle to tell the truth.
“Nick told me you got detention yesterday,” Kirsten said breathily, her voice tickling my ear through the phone, “Is that for real? I hardly believed him. Who would give Ruby McCoy detention?” I could hear Nick in the background, singing out loud to some punk band. It was 9:00. What did they do together all day after school? How could you spend all day with a boy at school, then all afternoon and evening with him after school? I got sick of myself after all of that time but being with someone like Nick—or worse, Kirsten, sounded unbearable.
“Yeah I did,” I replied. “Marnie is taking it to the school board though, she has an appointment with Headmaster Zhang in the morning. I didn’t end up going anyway.”
“Ahh, I see.” Then I heard her cover the phone, “Nick stop!” she cried, her high-pitched laughter shrieking into the phone, “Nick that tickles!” I rolled my eyes while that carried on for several more minutes, rearranging my books and hanging up the shirts that always found their way to my bedroom chair, the phone starting to feel hot on my ear.
“Well that’s too bad,” Kirsten replied when she got back on. “Mr. Jackson is a loser. A pretty hot loser. So did I tell you about my new campaign?” she went on, before I could respond. “We’re going all white. White screen, white clothes on me, white everything but my skin. It is going to be perfection, Rubes. We’re done with clear face - white face for the human race is more like it!” I didn’t bother telling her how completely racist that sounded. Hopefully she would come to that conclusion on her own, or at the very least—the marketers running the campaign.
“That’s great K,” I muttered. “I can’t wait to see what you do with it.”
She paused, “Oh and Rubes – I can’t believe I forgot!” she shrieked again, but not because of Nick this time, I think. “Your party! I got an e-vite to it like ten minutes ago. It sounds amazing! Why didn’t you tell me about it sooner?” I could sense the Kirsten pouty voice coming on.
“I didn’t even know invitations went out,” I replied honestly. “Marnie is handling the whole thing.”
She laughed a little. “I should have guessed. She always does everything so well, doesn’t she?” Kirsten had been fascinated with Marnie since the third grade when Marnie so generously gifted Kirsten the half-used tube of Chanel lipstick Kirsten complimented her on. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kirsten still had that tube somewhere.
I rolled my eyes, and flopped onto my bed. “She sure does.”
“Well you can bet that Nick and I will be there. He has some cute friends too that I have been meaning to introduce you to, but you know . . . with my big campaign and all of my modeling shoots, it’s been tough to find time.”
I bit my lip so hard that it drew blood. “Rubes?” she asked, her pouty voice back, “Rubes did you hang up on me? Are you mad at me?”
I could hear Nick in the background, “Babe just get over it. She’s fine, now get off the phone.”
“I’m not mad.” I lied, “Not mad at all. We’ll talk soon, alright?”
“If you say so,” she replied in full pout mode. “Make some time for your best friend if you can, promise?”
My eyes widened in disgust, “Sure. Talk to you soon.”
“LOVE YOU!” she wailed, before hanging up promptly.
I put my phone down and wandered into the kitchen, opening the fridge to see what we had. Ever since my mother became thin again (cough, lipo) she only filled the fridge with healthy snacks. Things like pre-sliced apples that came in a low-calorie bag, as if you could get fewer calories than an apple and light string cheese. We lived on rice cakes and carrot sticks thanks to her. Even our peanut butter was all-natural, so we had to keep it in the fridge. Luckily, I knew where she kept her real stash. Behind the boxes of canned tuna in the pantry, she had a secret cubby where she kept her emergency supply of junk food. I rifled through it, finding a half-eaten bag of Cheetos puffs and some M&M’s in the back.
“Ahh,” dad said, stepping through the door. “You found the good stuff.”
“Hey daddy,” I said with a smile, looping my arm around his waist for a hug. “I didn’t know you got in.” He was still dressed in his suit, his hair just starting to gray around his ears. It felt like I was seeing him for the first time in a long time, even though he had only been gone a week.
“Just barely,” he said. “I had a driver come, I didn’t want your mother to have to worry about driving in this rain.”
I nodded. She hadn’t gone to the airport to pick him up in months. Years for all I knew. “How was your trip?”
Even though I would never say it to him, I knew my success had been great for my dad’s career. I remembered the long stretches of time before I published. He was absent for most of them, not unlike now although I got the feeling that those trips were different – harder. One trip in particular I remember waiting up for him to get home. He had been gone for weeks this time, selling pots and pans in the Midwest. I forced myself to stay awake – fighting through the waves of sleep with a vengeance so I could greet him when he came home. Jane snored softly next to me, her chest rising and falling in syncopation. I was just beginning to lose the fight, sleep overcoming me when the door clicked and his footsteps – those familiar footsteps shuffled in. I slipped carefully out of bed and cracked the door open, hoping to surprise him. Through the sliver in the door I could see them. It was mostly dark in the kitchen where they stood, my mom and dad with their foreheads pressed together. They didn’t talk or cry or anything, they just stood there with their foreheads pressed together, the dim flicker of the fluorescent bulb casting a moody light across their bodies. They stood there forever it felt like, and it didn’t seem right to interrupt them so I didn’t. No one said a word, and even Jane’s snoring seemed to stop while they just touched and let themselves exist together. Eventually my dad kissed her cheek and she led him by the hand to their room. I went back to my bed instead of running out and pretended like I hadn’t seen anything the next morning when my dad gave us another goodbye hug, because he was leaving to go out on the road again.
Until this moment with my dad in the pantry I hadn’t realized how much I would give to see them stand like that again, back in that two-bedroom apartment on Juniper in Stamford.
“The trip was great,” he replied, interrupting my memory. He still looked young for a dad, but the space beneath his eyes were beginning to grow dark just like my mother’s. “We closed a big deal, I got to see some of my best clients… I really can’t complain.” He paused and reached into the bag of Cheetos I was holding, popping a few into his mouth. “How has your week been? I heard about the whole debacle with your detention. That’s too bad.”
“Who told you?” I asked, leaning against one of the shelves. “Mom?” It wasn’t a small pantry, but with two of us in here together it was getting a little tight.
“Marnie.” he responded—a little too quickly. “She emailed me,” he clarified softly, as though to stop himself from sounding too eager.
“Marnie ruined it,” I said, my mood changing drastically with the mention of her name. “She’s going to try to get Mr. Jackson fired.”
“That’s too bad,” he replied absently, “I wish she wouldn’t do that.” He changed the subject quickly, “How is your writing going? Are you making progress?”
I shrugged, “Yeah I guess. It’s been difficult for me to write lately though. I can’t figure it out. It’s like I have these ideas that I want to put down, but all I can hear in my head is Wink and Marnie and my critics and I can’t get around it.” My openness with my dad surprised me. For the most part, he left the writing and my career to my mother – focusing on his own job instead of mine. I always liked that about him. I knew my franchise made plenty of money for him to never work again, but he would never accept that. He felt a lot of pride in what he did.
“Just write what you want to write. It’s always worked in the past, hasn’t it?” he said, already making his way out the door. “And I’m glad you got out of detention, sweetheart.”
I started to follow him to see where he was going and what he was doing then changed my mind. I had nothing left to say to him. I wished I had more – I wished that I would feel that same desire to wait up for him to come home like I did before. That he was the kind of dad I could tell everything to, that I was the kind of daughter he would want to tell him everything.
I sat in the pantry on the floor and finished the entire bag of Cheetos before I finally said what I wanted to say.
“I love you dad,” I said out loud—to an empty room in an empty house.