My NaNoWriMo, Day 4

5 Nov

One of my Facebook correspondents was writing about how bad National Novel Writing Month ( was. Quality Over Quantity! Was the rallying cry. There is a lot of legitimacy to this point of view. You can easily write 50,000 words of crap in a month. And the crap can be like a sticky spiderweb from which you can have a very hard time extracting yourself.

However, I have determined once again that I am going to do it. I have not decided whether to put all the energy into my novel, or to mix it up with autobiography (I have two, yes, two separate memoir ideas), and blogging, or to have those things be separate. And I don’t want to count the book that I’m supposed to be writing, too. So far, as far as my novel goes, my word count, which should be 1667 words per day, has come to one word. That word is “percussion.” I am trying to write a war scene (I should be writing at least three five hundred word scenes a day). But I am still trying to remember everything I’ve ever read about what happens when a bomb goes off near you. In one way, I could not be more fortunate, as this week is an excellent week for thinking about the idea of aftermaths. But it is also somewhat unbearable at the same time.

I remember the night that Hurricane Sandy hit I foolishly, I guess, decided, it was the perfect time to go up to the attic and read old letters and try to weed them out. Now, having read enough of these old letters, I think I would rather let the house blow down than get rid of these sweet love tokens from my teenage and young adult life. My friends and I wrote so many letters then! And they were filled with such funny little details and on stationary. I found in an old notebook a screed I wrote about Sergent Shriver (WHY?). “Sergent Shriver is not a real man!” I wrote. It was in a notebook filled with my fashion designs, which involved a lot of “midi” vests with extra-wide bell bottoms and princess outfits. I did manage to throw out my 9th German homework, although it pained me to toss out copies of Das Rad (the Wheel), which any German student of the 1970s will remember with a strange fondness, I assure you. I found a letter from Mr. B. with a romantic—and no, it is NOT corny to me–poem that started, “She wants to marry me,” from 1977, (we were married seven years later). But it was as if little golden motes of love still floated up from those long-ago letters. “There are much better things to throw out,” my sweet husband said. I was so lucky then and so lucky now in my friendships. So while the wind howled and the attic shook, I was lost in another time.

But to get back to the subject. Percussion is a word I remembered, because I thought of how bombing victims often have ringing in their ears and can’t hear things for a long time. I have to make myself live with my main character again, have her go through the sequence of terror one bit at a time, in a logical order. I have to keep track of her emotional progression of confusion, grayness, fainting, not wanting to wake up, having her ears ring, seeing things and not understanding them, have her slowly becoming aware of what happened, remembering that she had to find her mother—in other words, the scrambling feeling of unbuilding and rebuilding your world that a person experiences in a moment of great shock. Living with that whole other place. For many people I know, the closest they’ve been to that place is their 9/11 place.

But this week brings back that September 11 feeling in a strange way. Here, even those of us who are less afflicted than our other neighbors in NJ are surrounded by a world that is very different than the way it normally operates. That’s a very familiar feeling right now. How do you get from place A to B? There are so many streets that are blocked off with police tape it’s hard to know where to go. How do you react to the sites of destruction—the ripped up trees, the piles of foliage on the side of the road, the neighborhoods that are completely dark? Who has power? Who has internet? Who has transportation? B. told me that a friend of his waited in line for hours for gas and they only gave him ten gallons and that’s the amount he started with. Police cars and their flashing lights are everywhere, directing traffic flows. The feeling of people waiting in long, long, lines with their gas cans for their generators, shivering in the stiff breeze is both novel and depressing. It’s the new reality—how long will it last? Not knowing what appointments you’ll be able to have or keep in the future or how you’ll get there. Everyone has a story, but it’s hard to reach everyone. It makes one feel like nesting—if one has heat (which we do). I like the Sabbath feeling, about which I will write more, but I hate the destruction. It is truly saddening and sobering to see the endless flapping pieces of yellow police tape everywhere and to think of the suffering people. It is a reminder of how many people live like this around the world in areas of natural disaster and war, and how wrong it is.

So, I still have dreams of at least expanding and enriching the infamous novel (rather than writing from scratch), but I think I’m going to have to get farther than the word “percussion” by the end of November 4. I should have at least 6,680 words written on the novel. And at 5:00 p.m., I have only walked 7,451 of my 10,000 daily steps, so I have to go rake the crap out of the backyard. 

Writing Spark: Got any ridiculous goals for the month?

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