I spent October fussing around, trying to get ready. I spent lots of time reading up about things like the three act structure and outlining techniques. I even wrote several short stories, just to limber up my story telling muscles.
Before I knew it, the calendar said November 1st. Every time I wrote the date at work yesterday, I would get a little thrill, thinking today is the day. As the day wore on, the thrill turned to nerves. At home later I could sense my computer looming in the corner, its blank screen leering at me in a silent challenge.
Finally, at 6:30 I plunked myself down in front of the computer, turned it on, and told myself "You aren't moving out of this seat until you churn out at least 1,600 words." The weird thing is, once I started typing I tossed all my preparation and my carefully outlined story idea right out the window and wrote about something else altogether.
My favorite writer is Diana Wynne Jones. If you don't know her, she was J.K. Rowling before there was a J.K. Rowling (http://www.dianawynnejones.com/noflash.htm). As I opened up my word processing program last night I remembered something she once said in an interview, that she never planned her books, the stories told themselves and her job was just to write them down. At the last minute, I decided that was what I would do, too. I would let go of all the fussiness and simply let my imagination lead the way.
If I actually do manage to end the month with 50,000 words on paper, there will be plenty of polishing and editing needed to give me my busywork fix. But for this month, it is all and only about getting the story down on paper. I'm committed only to going wherever it takes me and writing simply for the joy of uncovering a story, the way an archeologist uncovers ruins, one small piece at a time.
Below is an excerpt from the chapter I drafted last night. Your feedback in the comments is both welcome and encouraged.
KATE GETS ON WITH IT
In Which Kate Has Writers Block
Kate nibbled a finger nail as she stared at the pristine whiteness of a blank Word document, flickering on her computer screen. She was supposed to be thinking of a plot, coming up with exciting romantic conflicts for her heroine, Lydia Thorne. Instead, her mind kept wandering to the laundry. The laundromat was only open until 8:00 and it was 7:20 or so now. If she didn't get there soon, they would bag up her laundry, dry or not, and put it in the Good Will box out in the parking lot. She knew this because the sign on the wall by the door said so. From what other patrons told her, they meant it, too.
Kate shook herself and forced the laundry out of her mind, trying to get back to Lydia. “Come on Lydia” she mumbled aloud. “Do something already, you stupid cow!” She knew it was silly, but she could almost sense the character lurking, just out of sight in the back of her mind, snickering at making Kate look bad. It would be just like Lydia to do that, and Kate ought to know – she had created her, after all.
If anyone had told her, a year and a half ago, that she, Kate Worthington, would have written a successful romance novel she would have laughed at them. Yet, that was exactly what she had done. She wrote it on her lap top, sitting up in bed tapping away on her lap top on the nights when Jeffrey was away on business trips, usually a glass of wine on the night stand beside her. She knew when she married Jeffrey that he traveled a lot for his job, he had been very up front about that. She missed him, of course, but his job allowed them to enjoy a lifestyle that more than made up for it. They had a lovely big house, were able to send their son to a good school, and took fabulous vacations twice a year. Wasn't that worth a few lonely nights? Ok, more than a few . . . four out of seven days a week she was on her own, not that she was counting. The truth was, she was lonely. Very lonely. Writing her romance novel had been a way to get through it by escaping to a romantic little world she had created for herself.
Looking back, writing the damn book had been almost too easy, really. All it took was a little wine, a nice fire in the gas fireplace in her luxurious master bedroom, with the big cushy king sized bed, a little longing for her hubby and some imagination, and the words just spilled out all by themselves. Her friend Missy, whose husband was in publishing, read it and had gushed about it so much to her husband that he sent a copy of it to an agent he knew. It had surprised Kate as much as anyone else when she suddenly ended up with a book deal.
Seeing her book in print for the first time had been a major thrill. She and Jeffrey had thrown a little book launch party, invited their friends from the neighborhood. She had basked in the glow of everyone's attention, not realizing yet how much work she would have to do to promote the book. Soon thereafter, her agent had her out doing book signings, attending conventions and book store openings. It had been overwhelming at first, but soon she had come to enjoy it. She hadn't been so busy, or so mentally engaged, since college. She soon found herself obsessively seeking out opportunities to go promote her book. The time she spent answering fan mail, blogging and doing appearances hardly seemed like work at all, she had enjoyed it so much.
But somebody else hadn't enjoyed it much, and that somebody was Jeffrey. Oh sure, he was Ok with it at first, when it was just a hobby. He even liked introducing her to people as his wife, the author in the beginning. But pretty soon her busy schedule began to conflict with his, and she started to expect him to help out more with their son and in running the household. Little cracks began to appear in their marriage, and grew into bigger cracks as continuous fights erupted over silly things. The marriage had collapsed more suddenly than she had ever thought possible. It was as if it had just imploded, unable to handle the strain of two busy professionals in one family. Damn the fragile male ego, she thought to herself. If only Jeffrey had been able to man up and deal with her having a career, too, they could have made things work.