NaNoWriMo began at midnight on October 31. Woo-Hoo! and Hurrah!
And that is also when I started writing some truly bizarre shit.
Let me explain….
I didn’t do a lot of planning for my NaNoWriMo “novel” due to the fact that I wasn’t sure I was really committed to doing it and to the fact that my life has been a scary rollercoaster/bumper car ride for the past few months topped off with packing up all my Mom and I’s stuff and putting it into storage. None of which left a lot of time to plan out a novel.
But I did do some planning. I did some “mind-mapping” and mapped out characters and some ideas for a plot and started a Pinterest board for the main character. I mean, I had a general story idea in mind and I was pretty attached to it. It was kind of a Chelsea Handler with a law degree meets Post- Apocalyptic/zombie doom that may or may not be the result of the Rapture and/or an alien invasion type story, with some super-hot sex.
(And now you know why I didn’t want to tell anyone about it…. :))
And then the clock struck midnight on October 31 and it all flew out the window.
All of it.
My kind-of-interesting idea suddenly seemed incredibly stupid and unwritable. I didn’t know where the story started or where it ended or what the point was (if it even HAD a point…) or anything.
Mostly I didn’t know where the story started — way before the end of the world, when the main character (Stella?) may or may not have met (and, ummm, schtupped?) a shady engineer-type guy (engineers….trustworthy?) who knew a little too much about how to wipe out civilization, or after the “end of the world” when Stella starts to realize how totally screwed she is and then remembers shady engineer guy — and for me, that seemed like a dealbreaker. It’s hard to have a story without a beginning. So there I was, ready to chuck the whole idea, when an apparition appeared in my bedroom (it was Halloween, you guys) and here’s what it said:
Just fucking start, Kim. Write the first word and then the first sentence and pretty soon you will have a paragraph and then it will start to make sense to you. But first you have to start. It doesn’t have to be perfect! You can go back later and change it, but nothing can happen until you just fucking start. Stop researching, stop outlining, stop staring at the blank screen and WRITE SOMETHING. Start.
It was the spirit of my wise friend Jodi (who, it turns out, isn’t dead — so that’s cool….) who had held my hand through my first few years of practicing law (which was fucking scary, by the way…) and who had to tell me, on more than one occasion, to just go to my own office and START WRITING whatever legal thing it was that I was avoiding the shit out of by hanging out in her office lamenting the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to write the thing.
Apparition-Jodi was right, as usual, and once I started putting some words down, they turned into sentences and then paragraphs and then, voila!, I was writing.
And it turns out that my story starts with a young attorney, who may or may not be my “main character” and who may or may not be named “Stella” (no last name yet) sneaking out of a hotel room (her clothes disheveled and hair positively post coital) and taking what can only be called a “walk of shame” down a brightly lit and horrifically carpeted corridor in a Las Vegas resort hotel in the wee hours of the morning — Coach bag and “fuck me” heels in tow. I’m not sure whose room she just snuck out of, but I have a very bad feeling that it might have been the keynote speaker of the conference, a/k/a her boss. This girl is pretty smart, but she doesn’t always have great judgment, especially when she’s wearing those heels.
Then I hit a wall. Because I knew Stella had to go back into her room and I knew that her well-meaning, but conservative/uptight/religious/parentified co-worker (who feels like a Susan or a Janet, or maybe a Robin) was in the room waiting for her and she was going to have to explain herself and/or lie and I just didn’t feel like I could tackle that scene at the moment, because UGH – who likes to write about moral superiority? Not me.
So I found NaNoWriMo word sprints on Twitter (@NaNoWordSprints). Best. Idea. Ever.
Basically the NaNoWriMo official people have someone on Twitter 24 hours a day (not the same person, obviously) setting up word sprints. A word sprint is really just a challenge to write like the wind for a specified period of time incorporating the sprint leader’s suggestion into your story (or not) and then you can post your word count and/or anything you’ve written and also see what other people came up with. It’s fun, but most importantly for me, it has actually turned out to be a good way to get me writing again after I’ve hit a wall.
The first sprint I found was a half-hour sprint with the challenge to incorporate two women named Ruth into my story. Which, in my case, means that I started another story, because the two Ruths were not hanging out in a garishly carpeted hallway in a Las Vegas casino in the wee hours of the morning, they were locked in an interview room waiting for their court appointed defense counsel (which would never happen in real life, since they don’t usually lock co-defendants up together prior to their interviews and the two wouldn’t be meeting with the same attorney… HELLO… Criminal Law 101 (which I learned about on TV, FYI)… but this is FICTION folks, and I’m the motherfuckin’ author!) who turns out to be none other than the arguably promiscuous attorney who may or may not be my “main character” — Stella. She’s not a defense attorney, but she is doing pro bono work and was told that one of the Ruths (she doesn’t know there are two) was arrested for misdemeanor trespassing/disturbing the peace, so she thinks she can probably handle the case. Imagine her surprise when there are TWO Ruths waiting to speak with her and they spill the beans about the dead man in the trunk of their pale pink 1969 Cadillac DeVille (convertible). It’s clear that the Ruths need a real defense attorney (luckily Stella knows a few) and that their situation is going to envelope Stella in a way that she never imagined when walking into the interview. Sticky, sticky, sticky.
And then I got to Tampa last night and tried to “flesh out” the scene between Stella and Susan/Janet/Robin/Ms. Moral Superiority and it still wasn’t going anywhere — mostly Stella just wanted to rush into the bathroom, close the door behind her and wait for Ms. Moral Superiority to stop asking questions and go back to sleep, but that doesn’t make for very interesting dialogue so I decided to do another word sprint (Word Sprint!) and the one that was just about to start suggested that I incorporate a giant into my story.
So, at some point after the end of the world (as we know it…YES, I just quoted R.E.M.) Stella is driving her Mini Cooper convertible (cars still work, apparently…) in a horrible snowstorm when she sees a person on the side of the road. Not just a person, but the FIRST PERSON she’s seen since you-know-what, so she is pretty anxious to talk to someone, plus the person has got to be freezing, so she stops. Turns out the person is HUGE. And what she thought was a big head of hair covered with snow is really a big head of pure white hair (also covered in snow….interestingly enough) surrounding a big face containing a big mouth and two big bright blue eyes and probably a nose. Anyway – it’s a guy and he’s huge and once I started writing about him, I realized that he was pretty much the Abominable Snowman from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with less facial hair, nicer teeth and the capacity for speech. He’s also a total horndog, which wasn’t an aspect of his personality that they explored very well on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Oh, and he might be the archangel Michael. If you believe in that sort of thing, which I don’t. And neither does Stella, it turns out.
So. As you can see, I’m not taking my story too seriously yet, but I’m having a lot of fun writing it. Which is a pretty valuable lesson in itself, especially when you’re me. Which I am.
This here blog post is my writing for today and tomorrow it’s back to the “real” story (whatever that is). Don’t worry, I’m not planning to blog too much about this NaNoWriMo thing — writing and then blogging about what I’m writing is probably a little much, even for me. I’m sure I will be back to bitching about life and talking to monsters and walls and whatever else soon enough. (Oh joy!) And I will be doing it from a gorgeous beach in Mexico, which will be uber-annoying for anyone not similarly situated, i.e., pretty much everyone else.
p.s. We are in Tampa until Sunday, then off to Puerto Morelos! I’m loving spending time with my sis and family, but also really looking forward to getting Mom back to her home (“Casa de Colores”) near the ocean. What I’m not looking forward to is getting Mom (in a wheelchair) plus myself and four huge suitcases + two carry-on bags and my laptop through two airports + customs/immigration. Do they serve Xanax on Spirit Airlines?