(If a person speaks about 5,000-10,000 words a day, how much is 1,667 words, really?) It rings like a promise into my fourteen year old ears. (That amount is not nearly as much as you think it is, I promise myself.) (Yeah, but thirty times over?)
National Novel Writing Month is a month long competition with your mind, health and reality to complete a 50,000 word story in the thirty days that is November. Your account on their website becomes your homepage, as you watch the apathetic brown bar not rise as quickly as you feel you are raising it, piling on words half-senselessly onto a document, shoddily weaving out a story that is nothing like a novel but everything like your own fantastic creation, your magnum opus.
(I am going to write a novel this month.)
A blank screen is the most intimidating thing, the shiny pure white of my dirty old PC glaring at me, daring me to get its face even dirtier with the blather I can produce from my mind. (Word vomit), I smirk as I look down at my pages and pages of notes to write this thing, (it will all be word vomit).
(If I read about one hundred books a day, how hard can it be to write one of my own? All of this reading seems to be passive at this point, compared to writing.) The answer to that is already known—hard. So I begin the hard thing, with my fingers crashing against the keys, fabricating a brutal murder. The salesman with the gun in his briefcase, watching the lovely couple walk into their quaint suburban home. He takes out the gun, he does what is supposed to be done with guns but people insist isn’t the reason that guns are made. The man leaves. I twitch, the unfamiliar rush of caffeine surging through me like a tumbling of cheerleaders encouraging me to WRITE WRITE WRITE WRITE. So I WRITE WRITE WRITE WRITE.
(Is it one hundred words? After one hundred more I can look at Facebook. For five minutes. Then another hundred. After that I can use write or die, shoot out another one thousand. After that I will be caught up to yesterday. Thank God we are not cooking Thanksgiving this year, it is eleven thirty, I have until four until we leave. Write. Thank God I’m not handwriting sections anymore, my hand twitching from overuse as I tried relaxing all my muscles to go to sleep. Write some more.)
(Every day of November is an adrenaline rush, the most invested I have been in numbers since I will be when SAT’s come along. My fingers slam against the keys, I get an email from NaNoWriMo. A pep talk email from another famous writer. Awesome. Skim it, read it. That espresso shot of someone else’s words sends me back into the abyss of my own design. Where are they going to go to now?)
My mom says, “You haven’t showered in two days, go get yourself ready, it’s a quarter to four!”
“I’m writing,” I say absentmindedly, my mind on one mode: ignore all words that are not yours. Take your words and get them on the paper already, what are you waiting for have you seen the clock? It keeps moving forward, never changing its pace. The clock is your bitch, now make time question itself with your amazing quick writing abilities.
Most writers take years to write their novels, just to have a first draft. They carefully carve each and every word out of a stone that they have meticulously picked, they take their characters out for coffee. I have a scribbled on page of ideas, my flow of words comes only from the gushing stream of my mind, my characters and I eloped about two weeks ago. I am not a writer.
I sluggishly get into the shower, put on the outfit my mom picked while I was gone, I’m too lazy to argue. I pet my computer goodbye and get on with it. Thanksgiving time, I guess.
I am the Goliath. I am a beast, a machine, words flow out from my fingers like milk from an udder. My metaphors need work. Me? I slam words onto the computer screen like this is the US Open and this shot will win me my match. I have reached 48,000 words, I feel like crying, my wrists are sore and my fingers are fed up with the marathon dance I have put them through these past few weeks. But my heart, oh! My heart is singing the victory cries of thousands of soldiers, the giant aspiration that I kept deflated, folded up and triple wrapped in the back of my brain, the dream of writing a book.
I speed and I speed, the sky outside turning its colors on me.
My whole body trembles as I start writing the final words to my novel. In the other room my brother is working quietly on that project that I am too busy to work on, the only sound in the house the near rustling of my fingers as they fly over the letters, a show to enjoy as the words I have wanted to write down get written. There is a nice thought that whenever you are born, you are only allotted with so many words. I wonder if in these few weeks, I have wasted mine on something that will never come to its true potential. If it has potential at all.
Writers write books all the time that end up being like balloons—they can fly but they are fragile and empty. I don’t want a balloon, I want a boulder that slams into a stream and changes the flow as the stubborn waters relent.
I feel an earthquake rupturing inside of me as I look at the word count bar below my writing, my fingers doing the thinking and my eyes stuck to the screen. 49,987…49,992…
I finish the scene, put my final number into the NaNoWriMo site, and for what feels like the first time in forever I get up from my desk. I look down at my hands as I walk into the next room to see my brother. I am breathless, all I can do is grin.
“What?” Daniel asks, looking down at his work, the desk lamp lighting his face with a harsh glow in the depths of the night.
“I finished,” I grin, “I’m done. I wrote a book.”
Sitting in the car with my brother and my father as we zip down the highway, I look out at the grey November skies. It’s my favorite time of year, my favorite weather.
“Just tell him,” my brother pushes me.
“It’s not a big deal,” I insist, looking away from him.
“Tell me what?” my father asks from the driver’s seat. I look down, I don’t want my dad to know what I have wasted so much of my time on.
“I wrote a book,” I mumble.
“Well it’s about time,” my dad laughs, “we all knew that was going to happen eventually.”
- Why would somebody want to read this piece (the “Who cares?” factor)?
- Can you clearly identify the author’s intention for the piece?
- How well does the author support the intention of the piece? Cite specific details that support or take away from the author’s intention.
- Is there information missing from this piece that would make its intention clearer? What else would you like to know?
- Does the author portray herself as a round character? How does she do this?
- Do you trust the author of this piece? Why or why not?
- How clearly does the author establish a sense of setting/space in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
- How clearly does the author establish characters other than the self in this piece? Cite specific details that support your claim.
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- Are there particular passages with engaging language/description that stood out to you? Describe the appeal of these passages.
- Would you read more writing from this author? Why or why not?