Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Novel is Done!

I finished my NaNoWriMo novel at 12:34 am on November 24, 2005 (Thanksgiving Day). It was a wonderful experience and I feel a real sense of accomplishment for having done it. I wrote about my maternal grandfather's life from the time he emigrated to America until his death. The novel is based on true stories told to me by family members and fiction I created where necessary.

I spent a good deal of time in October reviewing research notes and reading up on tips for writing fiction. I did a bit of last minute research and caught up on web design work. I looked forward to the NaNoWriMo experience. I read No Plot, No Problem! which gave me lots of good advice. I bought a pink fleece "writer's jacket" and knit myself a passion scarf (all reds and purples). I stocked up on chocolate and signed up for a local NaNo group (Ann Arbor). I had David make a lot of classical music into mp3s for me. By the time November first rolled around I was chomping at the bit!

The first day of writing was probably the hardest. It's so hard to face that blank page and figure out where to start. But once I did, things moved along very smoothly. I'd say I averaged 2.5-3 hours/day. On the first weekend, I wrote probably 4 hours each day and really got ahead. This was a good idea. I was writing while the enthusiasm was still soaring.

The second week didn't give me the let down I'd anticipated from what others and the book told me. My enthusiasm was still high all week and the writing progressed well. Until the end of the week that is. That's when I realized that I'd based a good bit of the story on what I'd discovered to be a bad marriage date for one of grandma's sisters. I was going on the assumption that mom's recollection of the time was accurate and it turns out that it wasn't. That meant that I'd have to rewrite the end of chapter 5 and almost all of chapter 6. That realization occurred on November 13th, the end of the second week, the second weekend, and almost at the halfway point of the novel. It was so discombobulating that I found it hard to regroup and go on with the story. Starting up again was much like the first day, difficult and awkward.

Eventually I did get my stride back but it took a good 3-4 days or so. Then my writing continued more smoothly but I found myself hesitating at every date, questioning the sequence of events, and making margin comments such as "add this or that story here if event date pans out".

I attended 3 meetups with other NaNo writers from the Ann Arbor group. It was nice to have some other writers to chat with about our challenges. I would do that again next year. It was worth the drive to the Cafe Royale on Plymouth Rd. I also posted a few comments to the message boards and read other's comments too. That also was very helpful. I wore my writer's jacket and scarf everyday for the first couple of weeks. That was kind of fun but lost it's luster soon after. I ate a lot of chocolate (left over from Halloween) which was a bad idea from my diet standpoint. I only actually gained one pound while writing the novel but the real tragedy is I got my sweet tooth (cravings) back. And I hadn't had those to deal with for almost a year. :-( It turns out, I didn't listen to much of the music either. I guess I prefer to have quiet. I did go on two writing expeditions, one to Hines park with Caesar which worked out well, and the other to Panera Bread which proved to be hugely distracting. If I did it again, I'd plug in some music and sit as far away from the noisy order/prep area as possible.

Writing the ending for me seemed almost anti-climactic. I'd expected to feel this huge sense of elation but it wasn't there. I'd describe it as more of a sense of quiet satisfaction. And a sense of loss too. I felt a kind of sadness that it was over. The excitement of editing and rewriting will no doubt be less exciting than writing that first draft. It was nice to have ended it very early Thanksgiving morning because then I got to share my success with everyone we saw that day.

I had a whole list of questions to ask my mom, things I wanted clarification on that she'd told me about previously. She couldn't answer a single one. And her long term memory had been so good until earlier this year. The short term memory she's been struggling with for a longer while.

I waited too long to write this novel. I should have done it 3 years ago when I first said I was going to do it. But I kept waiting for more facts, dates, history, etc. I did get that, but I ended up writing the book about more recent stuff and didn't need that info anyway. Now mom is too out of it to appreciate the book. I did it for her but it was done too late. And the funny thing is, the only story she keeps telling me now when I talk about the book is how when she'd started writing a book about her family many, many years ago her mother ripped it up and told her "no you don't!". She didn't want the family story preserved. I can't begin to guess why. My grandfather tried all his life to keep his personal and family history a secret from his family too. So at the end of all this I'm left with my mom too mentally out of it to appreciate the book and the knowledge that my grandparents are probably rolling in their graves and disgusted with me.

On the bright side, my immediate family is happy for me. They were a good support team for me and I appreciate their understanding. We had more take out dinners than usual this month!