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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

November 2015

NaNoWriMo Update: In Which I Award Myself a Badge






This year, the NaNoWriMo head honchos have made a bunch of new badges available. Some of them we earn by passing certain milepost word counts. For the others, the writer is put on her honor to award herself. So far, I have only had two -- a "Planner" Award for starting the month with an outline, and a "Tell the World" badge for blogging about my intentions. This week, I've earned my third -- the "Procrastination" badge.

I've now gone two whole days without writing a word, which has put me below the bar of expected performance. After today there are only six days left,  if I want to win this silly race, I will have to write 2,012 words or more on every one of those days.  That's doable, once I figure out how to stop this procrastination train I've been riding.

My "new and exciting ways to procrastinate" have included:

1. A search for a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau -- the first French wine to come out of this year's crop. The traditional release date in France -- practically a national holiday -- is the third Thursday in November (this past 19th). American distributors have always been quite good about having their supplies ordered so that they could be on the shelves on the required day. But not this year. My search had become increasingly frantic, until this morning, when I found cases of the stuff ready to be cracked open for Thanksgiving. One simply cannot write without the assurance that a glass of Nouveau awaits the completion of the day's production.

2. Weeks ago I had scheduled a "deep cleaning" of my kitchen and bathrooms. When the crew arrived Monday morning, I shut myself into my office to read page proofs while they worked. An hour so so later, I emerged to see how things were going, and discovered that "deep cleaning" includes the INSIDES of all cupboards and cabinets. Dishes, pots, pans, and foodstuffs were piled everywhere. "Don't worry," the head woman assured me. "We'll put everything back, except for stuff that is obviously dated "-- and she pointed to a package of grits marked to expire in 2004. I retreated to the office. But when they were gone, I couldn't find anything! And when I did an inventory of things I will need in the next couple of days, I discovered that they had discarded my newly-purchased bottle of pumpkin pie spices, along with the cloves, ginger, and cinnamon I always have on hand. So that required an emergency trip to the grocery store if I wanted pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.

3. The third procrastination was the most fun. I received a check in the mail for a percentage of all the items I have purchased at Costco in the past year. It wasn't an enormous amount, but it counted as "found money" and therefore eligible to be frittered away, so long as I spent it at their store. So while on my wine hunt this morning, I stopped at Costco for "a minute" and spend a LONG time deciding what to buy. I ended up with a fuzzy bathrobe, a box of Belgian chocolates, and a huge Christmas wreath for my front door. And the afternoon was spent trying to figure out how to hang the wreath on the door.

The days have not been a loss. I have a  clean house, two bottles of French wine, the chocolates, and the wonderful smell of real pine every time I open the door. But tomorrow, I'll have to get back to work!



We Interrupt the Grimness of the Writing Marathon to Bring You . . .

Views from the Inside of a Homeowners' Meeting


I've had a couple of pretty productive days -- 3600 words Sunday and 2500 yesterday -- so when our annual Home Owners Association Meeting popped up on my calendar, I couldn't come up with a good excuse. It even stopped raining. So off I trudged to the clubhouse last night to get a good look at my neighbors, hear the bad news about our finances, and vote for three new board members from a slate of  - - - three candidates.

Wow! If I were a scientist, I think I would have seen the room as a group of petri dishes, in each of which  a separate cluster of germs have been incubating for an entire year.

There were the "old-timers," of which I happen to be one. We moved into this condo community together back in 2004, just as soon as our buildings were ready for occupancy (six buildings, 24 housing units in that first batch.) There aren't many of us left. The half-life of a "retirement" community is not very long! But those of us still hanging around were clustered in the back row, many wearing hats to hide the ravages of disease or the disinterest that was leading us to nap through the formalities. We've heard these complaints and arguments a time or two before and know they are not going anywhere.

There was a row of widows and divorcees -- women newly single, inheritors of property they knew little about -- ready to ask the resident men trivial questions they used to ask their husbands. I could belong to that group, too, but the back rows were more fun.

There were the independent women, many long-time residents, who were not about to see their opinions trample on by a small group of "know-it-all" men. They were busy exchanging gossip, reports on who had died, and which units were coming up for sale. The self-appointed Neighborhood Watch mavens were a part of that group.

There was a gentleman in the back who announced that he wanted to run for office so he could find at least a few "like-minded individuals" in the group. That set off warning signals for me. "Like-minded" is usually a code word for "those who share my own particularly vitriolic group of prejudices." Fortunately he was not elected to office.

And finally there were the newcomers -- mostly young-middle-aged couples, looking around wide-eyed at their neighbors and wondering if that back door was really an exit or if it would set off an alarm if they tried to sneak out. (Note that we have no age-restrictions here, but the units are not designed for family living. They appeal to newlyweds who need to make due with that bargain set of "furniture for a whole apartment," to grandparents who are tired of babysitting the grandkids, and to singles of all ages who are just looking for comfort and privacy.)

At the front of the room sat the current board, at least one of whom was asleep.  A mixed bag of conclusions resulted from the meeting. The usual suspects were elected (re-elected) to fill the slate of offices. The sprinkler system still isn't working right, it's too expensive to put a cover over the pool for the winter, some trees need to come down because somebody planted them to close to foundations, and it may take up to two weeks to fix a water leak from a roof although it's quicker if the water is coming up through the floor. The good news was that our monthly assessment is not going to increase and the budget is finally in the black.

And so to bed, safe in the knowledge that our little community will survive for another year without our help!

Stupendous Day (or Why i Can't See Straight)

 

I produced a grand total of 3598 words today. Recovered my edge, made up for all those days I slacked off, set a "personal best" record, earned a NaNoWriMo badge for passing 25,000 words (that's why today's bar is orange), and planned ahead for the next four or five chapters.  Of course my eyes no longer focus, my fingers are cramped, my back has a crick in it, and the cats are all mad because they've been ignored. But I'm ready for a new week of writing. Bring it on, NaNoWriMo!

Some Things They Don't Tell You about NaNoWriMo

I've uncovered two underlying fault lines in that rock-hard theory that a writer can sit down every day for a month and churn out a set number of words -- with the result that a book miraculously appears at the end of thirty days. Oh, there are any number of people who will tell you they've done it (Hell, I've done it!), and there are book publishers out there who are ready to turn those wonderful thoughts into printed pages. Sure there are. 
 
BUT -- there's always a but.
 
One comes from the assumption that the Muse is always on call. Often, she is. I have those days when the characters grab my story line and start talking to themselves in my head, as fast as I can hit the keys.  And if I'm interrupted--a neighbor drops by, an urgent request arrives in e-mail, or the cat food runs out, I can stop typing and take care of the problem without interrupting my line of thought. I can empty the dishwasher or fix a light bulb or take out the garbage while the characters keep right on talking in my head. 

Yes, yes, don't bother telling me. I know that's another one of those bad signs -- like drinking my coffee black or craving radishes -- that proves I'm a psychopath at heart. That's all right. It's those voices that help a writer write.

On other days, the same characters stick their noses in the air, fold their arms across their chests, turn their backs, and refuse to utter a word. And when they do that, there's no real cure. Any attempt to write while the Muse is on strike produces nothing but drivel.

The other fault line is life itself. The creators of NaNoWriMo sometimes seem to have forgotten that Life with a capital L is no respecter of the plans of ordinary mortals. Things happen. Power goes out. The computer crashes. Some clumsy four-footed monster knocks a glass off the kitchen counter and leaves hundreds of sharp splinters underfoot. And sometimes it's something delightful. A friend receives a prestigious award and invites you to attend the award celebration. A long-distance call re-awakens another friendship. Whether they be good or bad, some interruptions put an end to a whole day's production schedule.

All of which is to say, I haven't had a good week so far. Sunday and Monday were OK, but Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday the 13th were a total loss. Fortunately I have a couple of days' worth of extra words to cushion the lapses. And there's one more day this week to do some repair. Nevertheless, NaNoWriMo has taken a hit, and so has blogging. I'm posting this on both sites as a feeble excuse as I disappear and try to regain my momentum.

An Interim Report

As of last night -- the end of Day 6 in NaNoWriMo, I recorded a total of 13,143 words. That's a good 3,000 words ahead of schedule. Time to celebrate, right? I could take the whole day off today and still be ahead of schedule.

So what did I do today? Exactly what every NaNoWriMo pundit says one should not do. I stopped writing and went back and read over what I had accomplished so far. Bleah! Despite my careful planning in October, the story had already taken over and started to run in a new direction.  Once glued to the screen by the magic of electronics, those words weren't exactly what I wanted. I was telling, summarizing, and leaping over whole segments that in retrospect seemed pretty important.
Taking a sharp ax in hand, I began to chop up the dead wood and rearrange the segments into a coherent whole.

I had planned to start my story in 1906 after a brief prologue. Now the prologue is gone and the story starts in 1886. There is a new design for the book's exoskeleton. I had planned to use straight third -person-omniscient point of view throughout. Now several chapters contain journal entries that present transitions told in a first-person narrative. And that change moves one of my characters from being "just one of the family" to being the observer, the reporter, and in some ways the judge and jury of the whole.

Now that I've done all the rearranging, the cutting, pasting, and trashing -- I have four completed chapters and plans for the next two. My word count program is in shreds, exhausted from trying to figure out what I am doing. It says (and I suspect it is pretty accurate) that in three hours of work, I have added a total of 166 words to the whole.

I'll add a postscript tonight to see where this afternoon carries me.

An updated ScreenShot to finish out Week 1: