If you’re expecting me to moan about the pain of NaNoWriMo, sorry, wrong person. It’s not that my NaNo is going well. I’ve given myself the task of rewriting a bunch of stinky old stories that never went anywhere. Some date back to the 90’s.
Some of the stories are turning from 2000 words in 200 word poems. That’s not a way to ‘win’ NaNo by writing 50,000 words.
Some of the stories aren’t worth saving, and I wonder why I wrote them in the first place. Possibly most of these were ‘write something, open a new document, go’ things. I am deleting them, finally. Not a way to up the word count.
Some of the stories need tightening, extraneous characters and events removing. Not a way to increase my word count.
One story file consisted of a single great first sentence, and nothing else. And I have no idea what I intended. Nothing comes to mind for that great sentence. No poem, no flash fiction, no micro fiction. So, I thank the Muses, and delete it, because the world is full of great first sentences.
Nevertheless, amongst the swamps of old prose, scraggly trees of tortured imagery and metaphor, and sloughs of depressing moping, I am having a good time. My days are divided up into small categories that make me feel I’m making progress on a number of fronts. NaNoWriMo, sewing, knitting, gardening, decluttering, reading, exercise and body care, Messenger family chat. Right now, I feel like I have most of the many balls of my life in the air, and it’s because I have short bursts of concentrated attention. This seems to be how I work, and why I never settled into one steady job, instead of having 3-4.
Today, I’ve made 7/8 of a present bag for Xmas, been to the gym, had a business meeting, and made a phone call I’ve been putting off for a month. Now I can have lunch, and the rest of my day is for trimming back a few rampant rose bushes, and NaNoWriMo.
Today, a story that has never sold, and has languished in the ‘unpublished’ file for 15 years gets hauled out, and with the help of the Melbourne NaNo crew, I have a fresh take on it. 15-20 years ago, my stories were full of women with no agency. They were hard done by, being ripped off by men, treated badly, allowing themselves to be without agency.
Well, enough of that bullshit. My character Marta is about to transform, and take the magic she discovers for a wild ride.
It’s nearly that time of the year, when thousands of people world-wide drive themselves crazy by attempting to write a 50,000 word novel (if they are adhering to the old school dictum) in the month of November. National Novel Writing Month.
Well, it’s more or less InThiWriMo – International Thing Writing Month. Plenty of people do write a new novel. But there are NaNoRebels: short story writers, a new book of poetry, script, thesis, memoir, autobiography, biography – if you can write 50,000 words, it’s a NaNo project.
I haven’t participated for a few years. This fibromyalgia(although, personally I think that long-term stress covers most of my symptoms) business has really done a number on me. For about 4-6 years years, I feel I’ve been in a Slough of Despond, or in Sleeping Beauty’s coma.
Just recently, I’ve felt awake again. Why? Who knows. The Illuminati perhaps(my mind leapt to them, because an email in my junk mail folder is inviting me to Join The Illuminati). Anyway, my mind has turned to writing, and NaNo.
I’ve decided that my NaNo will be Resurrect Old Stories Month. I have an unkindness of old stories that never quite worked. They are being hauled out, dusted off, opinionated upon by a facebook group I created for story resurrection, and then November is rewriting time.
What becomes very obvious right away is that I suck at titles. One story, a Snow White retelling, was thought to be a 70’s drug scene, just because of the title.
What is also obvious is that I live for retold fairy tales and myths, and want to have either Tanith Lee’s brain, or magically be in every Ellen Datlow-Terri Windling fairy tale anthology ever.
It’s also time to start looking at the very many first draft poems I have hanging about the place, and either ripping out the One Good Line and disposing of the rest, or rejigging the poem into something that won’t frighten the horses.
Today, a longish(for me) poem about an ex-lover. I was bitter, sarcastic, and mean when I wrote it. Time to print it out, circle the good bits, and see if I can’t reshape it into something more…speculative, and interesting. Aim: Andromeda Spaceways ezine.
Tonight, during a Facebook group conversation, I remarked: “I’ve had a comatose astronaut in a cupboard since 2006”.
It’s a hell of a line, and one I’m tempted to use to open the sometimes-mentioned but not-yet-planned writing memoir.
I am a sometimes participant in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. During the month of November, hundreds of people, if not thousands, from all over the world, commit to writing a 50,000 word novel (although that has now spread to become novel, collection of short stories, memoir, thesis, and just about any other 50,000 word project you care to name. Those not writing novels are called NaNo Rebels) in 30 days. Some are planners, spending weeks, if not months beforehand carefully crafting plot, theme, characters, book cover, and marketing plan. Others, like me, are pantsers. We open up a new Word document and write by the seat of our pants.
I’ve attempted NaNo 10 times and completed it 6. This is called ‘winning NaNoWriMo’.
Since 2005, I think, I have written: a mystery set in Melbourne’s belly dance community; an absurd science fiction novel; an urban fantasy set in Melbourne; a giant memoir; a steampunk novel, and my first-ever attempt at NaNo was a tart noir chick lit thing that I hope will never see the light of day. The other projects all ground to halt at 10,000 words when I realised I didn’t have the puff, or the time to finish them.
I have not rewritten any of those NaNo winners. Not a one. They remain in first draft pantsed messy state.
A few years ago, I realised that in my science fiction novel, I had an excess of characters, so I conveniently put one astronaut into a venom-induced coma, and had other astronauts shove him into a cupboard. I never got him out of that cupboard. Poor guy, he’s still there.
In the past couple of months, I’ve verbally outlined a couple of these novels to friends, and the general response has been ‘awesome, when is this being published?’. Which surprised me, because each and every book is what is called a ‘hot mess’, I believe. They need rewriting, and a lot of tidying up. I still I don’t feel I have the puff for marathons. I’ve been telling myself for the past year that I’m a sprinter, and short story writer, and poet.
These novels won’t leave me alone. They want to be in the world. And since I’ve been working with Brigid, the call to them is stronger. I may have to gird up my loins, such as they are, and stride back into those worlds, and get out the big pad of project paper, and the textas and coloured pencils, and make great big plans on how to fix them so that they are in good enough shape to be shown to an editor.
Oh Brigid, if this is indeed what you want me to do come 2019 (I’m in a writing class for short story until mid-December, and then I take December and January off to be with my family and endure Melbourne’s fierce summer), then please send me a clear sign. A really, really clear sign.
So mote it be.
I’ve signed up to do an online writing course called MONSTROUS WOMEN, run by teacher and writer Carina Bissett. I got so much (not the least of which was productivity) out of my previous class with her (Intersections) that I signed up again.
The past few days, I’ve been going through the reading matter for the first module, Animal Brides, and thinking of various settings and ways to tell an animal bride story. Being an Aussie, I dearly wanted to include Australian fauna, and was thinking along the lines of a kangaroo-woman, or some such.
The course is mainly focussed on stories, but poetry is allowed as well.
I knew the first stories were due on the 7th of this month, only a few days away. Now, last time I did a course with Carina, I went through a lot of angst, sure each time a new module dropped that this would be the time I couldn’t produce anything. There was a lot of beating my brains, sweating, and a little crying. But each time, admittedly sometimes at the last moment, a new story or poem came chugging out of me. So I have a little more faith in the machinations of my own creative mind this time around.
I woke this morning, and suddenly, there was a burning knowing in me that a poem was coming, and it was about selkies. I was barely sat at my desk when the poem came pouring out. Several references made it clear that the speaker was of Irish heritage (thanks, Brigid), and then the end surprised me with a reference to Australian oceanic fauna.
My daily devotions to Brigid have certainly paid off. Plus, I think it’s a darned good poem, powerful.
Great Goddess Brigid, thankyou for the sending of this poem. It rocked me to my core.
(I won’t be publishing it here. Even a blog publication counts as ‘first publication’ and many professional journals won’t consider the story or poem then. So, I’m saving this one for workshopping, and then sending it my favourite journals. My goal: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. That’s my number one place, the heart’s desire.)