Friday, November 23, 2007

This just might work, after all


That's the word count as of right now.

Actually, it's the word count as of around 2 PM today, since I've been driving and visiting people since then.

At the start of Turkeyday, I had around 22K, maybe 23K. When I went to bed that night, I had just hit 35K.

In case you didn't already know it, that's a lot of writing.

In fact, that's even more writing than I did the night before my senior term paper was due. And that damned term paper probably took longer, too. The biggest spurt this time was a six hour stretch from about 9PM to 3AM sitting at the dining room table at my wife's grandma's house. I got up once to get a fresh glass of Dr. Pepper and some more cookies.

In that time, I hit a section of my story I intended to just kind of graze -- maybe mention for a paragraph or two. My thinking here was that I wanted the point of the story to lie elsewhere and to get there I would have to gloss over some historical bits. I also didn't want to go where that part of the story could take me. I didn't know if I could deal with it emotionally.

Starting Thursday morning, I had a bad feeling about where the story was going and I found myself being extremely cranky and irritable all day. I was also doing everything in my power to avoid working on the story, but the fact that I was cooped up in a farmhouse with four families, a toddler and an infant, and NO ACCESS TO THE INTERNET, meant I could only hold out for so long.

I kept dancing around it all day long. I would write a bit here and there, and I even wrote the two paragraph synopsis I had envisioned and went past, onto the next thing in the tale I was slowly unraveling.

But after all the visiting was done and everyone was completely stuffed to the gills and parked on a sofa or chair watching football or snoring, I sat down for what I knew would be a long haul. No matter where it took me, I knew I needed to hit 30,000 words if I had any hope of finishing this thing.

And I started writing. And I found I needed to change something I had already written. So I scrolled up to just before the part where I skimmed over a whole year in the story. And I fixed the problem. But I didn't scroll back down. I just kept writing. Everyone else drifted off to bed by ones and twos. I kept writing. When I noticed I was the only one still up, I checked my word count. It was over 32,000. I figured I could hit 35,000 before bed, so I started wrapping the section up.

The story I'm writing this time is very personal. It's only fiction in the sense that I changed the name of one character. I still doubt anyone will ever give a shit about reading it, but perhaps it's a good sign that the part of my story I wanted to skip used up over 10,000 words in and of itself.

That part, covering a single year of a boy's life, took more out of me than I could have ever imagined. Writing it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I'm not ashamed to say I cried through a lot of it. I dug up whole chunks of buried memory. They were fresh as the day I had buried them, and some of the things they showed me hurt just as much now as they did then.

This novel has taken a turn from what I had initially intended. It would probably be more accurate to say that it has followed a perfectly straight path and will miss the turn that I had intended. And that's fine with me. The other idea can live on until another story. For now, this one is being told exactly as it needs to be.

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