Monday, October 15, 2012

N is for ...

N is for novel.

Yes, this coming NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for you newbies) will mark the 3rd year that I've officially been working on my novel, although it started way back in 1995 as a character sketch I did for Fiction Writing class my senior year of college. It's a big, sprawling, steaming mess of a pile of words right now, one that will need much pruning, I think, but the goal is to just write everything I have in mind with it, then shear it into something semi-respectable.  Or at least readable.

But is writing is hard. It takes focus, perseverance, and dedication. It's hard to get into a groove and once you're there, it's so, so easy to lose it. So easy to be distracted, to blow off your work and read or watch tv or hang out. So hard to discipline yourself into doing your writing before you'll allow yourself any of those activities. And so easy to doubt that what you've been pouring yourself into is any good and worth the time you've been sacrificing to it.

Look at him, hard at work.
No distractions. Not even frites.
My friend Eric is a great inspiration to me. He has somehow managed to maintain a regular writing habit, even meeting with a critique group weekly. Oh yeah, and he has two books published. So I consider him my role model and aspire to the good writing habits he's developed.

I've also been inspired by Ernest Hemingway. For the past couple of months, I've just been sucking up biographies of him. It started with The Paris Wife, which is fiction based on his first wife, Hadley's life. I thought I was going to veer off in the direction of the other 1920s Paris expats, like Dos Passos, but I kept coming back to Hemingway. I'm on my fifth biography of him right now, and I just finished A Moveable Feast. There's a lot to dislike about Hemingway the person, but his writing, when it's good, is very very good. And even more than learning from his style of prose, I've been learning a lot from his thoughts and approach to writing. Discipline and dedication, treating writing like the work that it is and not just an artful distraction is what I've gleaned from Hemingway.

And for my friends who know how long I've been working on this project and keep asking me what it's about, I share this Hemingway quote:

"A book you talk about is a book you don't write."

Had to include this. It cracks me up to no end.
Apparently the Biebs & One Direction stole
their 'dos from Hem's back-to-front combover.
So, with all that, I'm locking myself in my "tower" room, a pot of tea and my happy lucky little cup (it helps keep my good fortune up) beside me, my good luck purple candle burning, and usually a dog buried in my lap on whose back I have to balance my laptop.

But for your patience, I will share with you the first couple of paragraphs of my novel in progress here. (No, I don't have a title yet. I suck at titles.)

He had been asleep for barely an hour when the ambulance woke him. Well, not so much the ambulance but the abrupt stop of the squealing siren right outside his window. Owen opened his eyes to find the ceiling of his room awash in flashing red and white lights like an angry disco. The room was the same one he’d had as a kid, even though his parents had long since left for Florida and he could’ve taken their bigger bedroom with the better view. He had a nostalgic fondness for this room that was better described as a desperate clinging to the past. It had sheltered him through a bewildered childhood, a painfully awkward adolescence, college years that alternated between exhilaration and devastation, and now this most recent chapter of his life: a sort of numbed holding pattern. 

The d├ęcor of the room hadn’t changed much in thirty-five years: a narrow twin bed with a headboard scarred with stickers and decals, a simple straight-backed chair and desk whose top was tattooed with three decades of carvings and inkings, a matching dresser and nightstand, equally abused. The wall hangings hadn’t changed much either. The avocado green walls still held the pair of black and white photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings his mother had installed back when the room held a crib in the hopes that he would be inspired to become an architect. The prints had been joined over the years by thumb-tacked pages from Mad and Rolling Stone, movie posters, beer ads featuring generically-attractive girls, a few random postcards sent by traveling friends. All faded. All dusty. 

Owen rubbed his eyes and sat up in his small, lumpy bed. I really ought to redecorate in here, he thought for easily the millionth time. At least get some new furniture. He stiffly rolled out of bed, one hand supporting his lower back, an old man’s gesture that seemed incongruous to his age, and crossed the room to the window. The ambulance and a sheriff’s car were parked on the lawn of the house next door. 

“Jesus, Edith’s gonna have a heart attack when she sees those tire tracks on her grass,” he muttered, then his tired blue eyes flew open wide. Just then, a pair of EMTs came down the front porch steps with a stretcher bearing a body zipped into a bag. “Shit.” He repeated the word as he stumbled down the stairs and outside.


  1. Oh gosh. You can do it! I want to read more! Finish it up so I can read the rest!

  2. Kerry,
    I enjoy the level of detail in your writing. And, of course, your perseverance. Looking forward to saying, " I knew her when..."