Thursday, November 17, 2011

Procrastination Beat Down

When I signed up for NaNoWriMo and dedicated myself to writing a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days I knew it would be a challenge, but I didn't count on me derailing myself almost right out of the gate.

I did great for the first week. Every night once the dinner dishes had been washed and the kitchen tidied up, I sat myself down in front of the computer and made myself write for one hour. Each day that week I produced, on average, 1,600 words. I hadn't done too much plotting, but I had a basic story idea in mind to work from, and for the first few days the words flowed easily. I thought okay, I've got this, this won't be so hard after all.

Then week two dawned. Because I'd done such a great job during week one, I decided to reward myself with a little break. So I missed one day, and then somehow one day became two, and two quickly became three. Before I knew it, my "little break" took up the entire week and I found myself more than twenty thousand words behind. That's a lot, folks.

Talk about feeling like a big loser! I was so far behind I started to question whether or not I really even had it in me to do this. If I was slacking this early on, was I really meant to be a novelist? After a weekend of soul searching, I decided I wasn't going to go down without a fight. I might still be a big loser and could very well go down in flames at the end of it all, but at least I'd know I didn't quit.

As week three began I forced myself to get back into my evening writing routine, pushing myself to up my nightly word count. I even started trying to squeeze in 500 words or so before work. But I was so far behind, all I was doing was treading water. By Tuesday night I knew, if I had any hope of finishing on time, drastic action would be needed.

The very next day I took a vacation day from work. I got up early, fortified myself with some strong coffee and parked myself in front of the computer. I wrote from about 8:30 in the morning until 6:00 pm at night. I took short breaks here and there, and of course "somebody" had to make dinner, and that somebody was me, but for the most part my entire day was spent writing.

I am happy to report that I am caught up and back on schedule now. It feels great to know I conquered the twenty thousand word monster I created, not to mention my own inner fears of inadequacy. While I'm not proud of myself for procrastinating (you'd think I would have learned something after the paper shredding incident), spending a whole day totally immersed in the business of writing was an amazing experience which probably wouldn't have happened otherwise.

My NaNoWriMo Stats as of this morning
Below is another excerpt from my novel. Please feel free to comment.

Chapter 8
In Which Kate Gets Her Groove On

That night after Kate put Aiden to bed, she forced herself to put her daily verbal doodles aside and pick up where she had left off with Lydia instead.

“Come on, old girl. I know we can do this” she wheedled as she poised her fingers over the keyboard. She wasn't sure if she was talking to Lydia, herself, or possibly both. She hammered out a few paragraphs, but when she re-read them they sounded trite and forced. Her attempts to re-work them were no better and she began to become frustrated.

Pressing her fingers to her temples, she closed her eyes and tried to think back to when she wrote the first Lydia Thorne novel, and how she had felt doing it. She had been totally relaxed, that she knew. She had written the first book propped up on down pillows, with a glass of good wine on the night stand and a fire in the fireplace. It hadn't been hard to write a romance, relaxing in a romantic setting like that. All she had really done was take her own fantasies and put them down on paper, letting her imagination fill in the rest. It had been great fun, she recalled. She certainly hadn't been like this, all tense and pressured and hunched anxiously over the keyboard. There was no way she could call what she was doing now fun, not by any stretch of the imagination.

After another couple of attempts, with no better results, she got up and padded into the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine. As usual, Jill was in the living room, sitting up late grading papers in the recliner while Letterman blared in the background. Welcoming the distraction, Kate wandered into the living room, sipping her wine. After so many months of living together she knew better than to offer a glass to Jill, whose religious beliefs prohibited drinking. When Jill first told her she didn't drink, and why, Kate had felt intimidated about drinking in front of her at first. But over time, she came to realize that Jill was not the judgmental type. She probably wouldn't appreciate living with a roommate who drank excessively, of course, but Kate's occasional glass of Merlot wasn't an issue.

“Hey” Jill said casually, glancing up from the spelling test before her. “Looks like both roomies are burning the midnight oil tonight. How's the writing going?”

“Eh.” Kate shrugged. “It doesn't seem to be going at all, really. At least not with Lydia, anyway. I can churn out thousands of words about just about anything else, but whenever I sit down to work on the novel for my book contract I can't seem to focus.”

Jill made a sympathetic noise. “Would you like to trade? You can grade spelling tests; I'll whip up a few chapters for you.”

Kate tried to suppress a smile. It was hard to envision virginal little Jill writing a steamy romance. “We'd better not.” She said, deadpan. “I don't think my spelling is up to it.”

Jill put her red pencil down and leaned forward over her lap full of papers, stretching her arms and back. “Kate, I was going to talk to you about this anyway, but since you're here maybe this is the right moment.” Jill leaned back against the recliner again and turned to look at Kate. Kate's stomach did a flip-flop of premonition, fearing by the look in Jill's eye that this might not be good news.

“Donny proposed and we set a date. We're getting married!” Jill beamed, her cornflower blue eyes glowing with happiness for just an instant before she regained her composure. “The thing is I'll be giving up the apartment when the lease runs out in January. We're going to live at his place after the wedding, so rather than keep paying here, month-to-month, I'm going to live at home with my parents and save the rent money to put towards the wedding."

Kate's first thought was to be happy for her friend. She jumped up and gave her a bear hug of congratulations, the news about the apartment barely registering until she had sat down again. Not wanting to derail Jill's happiness – her eyes were glowing again – Kate kept a firm smile fixed on her face as Jill recounted the details of the proposal. As she listened she was mentally counting the weeks she would have left before she needed to move. Seven weeks, that was all. She needed to finish this novel more now than ever before, or finding herself out on the street with Aiden would be a real possibility.

Kate sat up late that night, and each night thereafter, hammering out paragraph after paragraph of trite material. It was total schlock and she knew it, but she told herself better to at least get the whole thing down on paper, then rewrite later if she had to. Lydia returned to haunt her dreams anew, mocking her. Her husky voice making snarky comments often intruded into Kate's train of thought when she was trying to write.

Kate had all but forgotten her promise to go out to the club with Araceli and Leo until Araceli reminded her of it.

“We're going pick you up at 9:00 o'clock on Sunday, so be ready, amiga! And don't forget to put on something sexy.” Araceli winked naughtily and did a little shimmy like the one Kate had done when she committed to getting her grove on again. Kate couldn't help but notice the shimmy looked a heck of a lot better on skinny Araceli.

The last thing Kate felt like doing these days was dancing. Lydia was torturing her and she was staying up way too late every night, trying to wrestle her novel into submission. When she did try to sleep, her mind kept racing through the calendar, stressing her out over how little time she had before she would need to actively start looking for somewhere else to live. But on the other hand, Aiden would be with Jeffrey for the weekend and taking a break from it all for a night might do her some good. Dancing would certainly help her burn off some of this stress, and the prospect of a few adult beverages weren't sounding too bad, either.

Kate was ready at 9:00 p.m. on the dot and waiting anxiously, peering out the window every few minutes watching for headlights pulling in. She felt like a fourteen year old, going to the big school dance for the first time. Getting dressed had been difficult. Finding something dressy that she still fit into that didn't make her look like a sparkly sausage had been so demoralizing she had almost called Araceli to cancel three times. Finally, she had settled on black slacks, strappy black heels, and a somewhat slinky (or so she tried to convince herself) yellow silk tunic with a wide black patent leather belt cinching it at the waste. Over it, she wore a simple black blazer with a little delicate jet beading around the neckline and cuffs.

She new she probably looked like she was going to a business meeting more than to a club, but it was the best she could do. She cursed herself for having gained so much weight and tried to make up for the boring clothes by carefully applying her makeup and blowing out her hair. She had managed a decent smoky eye and had tamed her hair into a decent approximation of a sleek, shiny pageboy. She had finished off her look by pulling her hair back on one side with a sparkly silver butterfly barrette, and now she was just waiting, anxiously.

At 9:40 she finally heard a honk and looked out to see Leo's battered red work van lurking beneath the street light. Her spirits sank a bit at the prospect of riding in the back of the van, but she grabbed her black satin evening bag and ran out into the dark with a feeling of excited anticipation bubbling in her stomach. Leo, smiling his usual amiable smile, opened the back of the van so she could climb in and gave her a hand up. She picked her way carefully through rolls of carpeting and padding and stepped over spackle buckets full of tools to find a spot to perch on near the front of the van. She picked a likely looking place on the end of a roll of Berber and balanced on it, bracing herself against the back of the driver's seat with one hand as Leo pulled away from the curb. Ready or not, she was on her way to the club.

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