|Down by the Oyster Farm in November|
November is National Novel Writing Month. This year, even though I haven't yet completed the revisions on my novel, The Age of Grandchildren, I decided to commit to signing up for NaNoWriMo this November.
The objective of NaNoWriMo is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. Of course, no novel of mine is ever likely to be as short as 50,000 words. The Age of Grandchildren, in its current state of revision, is 116,000 words. But, nevertheless, 50,000 words is a good start on a novel.
Hitting the goal of 50,000 words meant writing, on average, 1,667 words every single day of November.
A Few Words About My Writing Process
One thing to keep in mind is that writing is time-consuming. And I am a very slow writer. Although some writers like to pour the words out onto the page to generate a first draft without worrying much about vocabulary, sentence structure, sequence, and so on and then go back and revise later, I like to compose carefully and revise and edit as I go along. Therefore, in order to get 1,667 words down on the page, I needed to spend five or six hours at my computer each day in November.
I didn't achieve the goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. But I did write 43,700 words, and I am very pleased with that. Since the end of November, I have continued to write (despite the distractions of Christmas in all its glory), and my novel is now 46,583 words long. That is eleven and a half chapters, and 172 manuscript pages.
Before sitting down to write on November 1st, I had written some notes, including a plot overview, some character sketches, and some notes on subplots. I had also written a couple of pages setting the opening scene. But that was all. Those 172 pages came out of my head during November.
Five to six hours hunching over the keyboard every day has left me with a sore back and tennis elbow (from the mouse). I didn't keep up my usual level of exercise. It reminds me of my pre-retirement life!
My New Novel
The working title of this novel is The Time Before Time Zero. It is a prequel to The Age of Grandchildren, and there will eventually be a third novel in the sequence. It is set in the greater Vancouver area in the near future. It tells the story of how twenty women ended up hiding underground in a shelter beneath a university. It is told from the perspective of four different characters. Time Zero is the moment in time when everything changes for the characters.
Excerpt From the Novel
The Woman on the Platform
Beulah was hurrying along the sidewalk, her eyes on her feet and her mind turning over a problem they’d discussed at the meeting, but now she looked up and saw a knot of protestors clustered around the transit entrance. There were twenty-five or thirty of them, several waving placards.
“Shame, shame, you’re to blame!” They started up a chant, waving signs to punctuate their message.
“End-of-Timers,” Beulah muttered to herself and began elbowing her way through the crowd toward the gate. A fat man with a shaved head blocked her way forward with his hand-written sign scrawled on corrugated cardboard: The End is Nie! Reppent Before You Die!
Beulah pushed past the misspelled sign. At the front of the group, two teens wearing rainbow clothes, their faces painted with teardrops and down-turned clown mouths, held a banner printed with you have destroyed our future. Around the border of their banner, they’d drawn pictures of an oil refinery, a ship, a transport truck, and an airplane, all spewing clouds of black smoke. Their eyes rimmed with black eyeliner were as tragic as their mouths.
As Beulah placed her forearm under the scanner at the gate, she looked into the entrance lobby to see who the protestors’ target was. Ah, there she was, a pregnant woman just stepping onto the escalator. It was getting so it was no longer safe to travel the streets anymore. Every day there was another riot, mugging, or car bombing by one faction or another -- the Climate Warriors, Heteros for God, Queer Love, or the End-of-Timers.
Beulah ran up the escalator and arrived on the platform at the same time as the woman. Now that she was beside her, Beulah could see she was probably in her early thirties, with a slim athletic build, coffee and cream skin, and close-cropped tight curls.
“You okay?” Beulah asked.
“Yes. Thanks.” The woman lowered her eyes.
Then she looked up, right at Beulah, and burst out, “It’s my own damn fault! I should have worn a loose jacket or something to cover it.” She waved her hand at her stomach, the bulge visible under a clingy top.
“Not at all,” said Beulah. “There’s nothing wrong with bearing a child. Don’t let those idiots get to you.”
On the street below, they could still hear the chanting. “Shame, shame, you’re to blame!”
“How far along are you?” Beulah asked. “Sorry, I shouldn’t be so nosy.”
“It’s okay. Just three months. But unluckily for me, I’ve shown almost since day one.”
“I’m Beulah, by the way,” Beulah said, sticking out her hand.
“Olivia.” They clasped hands briefly. There was an awkward silence, as if they’d both suddenly recognized how odd it was to be shaking hands with a stranger on the jelly platform.
“Pardon me, I have to go.”
Olivia turned away and tapped her forearm against the control panel of a MePod. The door slid open silently and Olivia got in. There was a sucking sound as the pod moved into the valve chamber, and a swoosh as the pod entered the plastic vacuum tube and sped away.