NaNoWriMo: Halfway Point & Excerpt

25K written, halfway through.

Here’s an excerpt from what I wrote today–obviously very rough, weird draft. Sorry, if it’s not clear what I’m going for, it’s supposed to be a page of a letter from the main character, this wellness guru/religious leader. It’s roughly modeled off of Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians and Song of Songs, so hopefully that explains the strange tone somewhat.

Love is another illusion. It is one of those grasping, desperate attempts to outwit your natural solitude. You may fool yourself for a while, but sooner or later you will recognize love is an illusion that cannot be sustained for long.

Ultimately, it is a betrayal. Sometimes this betrayal is like cold, slick metal between your ribs. Other times it is a dull constant aching, like a cyst, like a cancer. Either way, it will eat you from the inside. You will be changed. Look at me. I was in love once, I was cut from the inside out. My whole body, a thousand tiny cuts. I will bleed away, eventually.

It is like that wonderful dream where you have found the Other, the one who completes you, the one who can look into your eyes as if they were her own, the one who seems like they can reach into your heart, and gently, gently, cradle it. They have entered your bloodstream, and you feel overwhelmed with joy. You feel as though you have found what you had been missing all along. That precious, vital thing that had been cut out of you so long ago, returned and now you are whole. You are, at last, yourself. Only, of course, you wake up. Everything is the same as before. You are not changed. You are the same person you’ve always been, half empty and bewildered. You grieve the loss of that feeling of wholeness, like a sawed-off appendage, even as you realize it was never really something you possessed to begin with. That is the essence of love. That is when you realize what the poets say is, somehow, true. He cannot contain you. You will vanish into thin air.

Ask yourself, for how long can you keep your beloved? You cannot possibility expect him to stay in there, inside your head, alongside those incessant thoughts, the gruesome doubt, the internal screams that keep you up all night. There is no room for him, either.

Writing Routines, Odd Research, and NaNo Update

First update of the week! I got a little behind this weekend on my word count, not really by doing anything fancy, but just throwing away the little bit of routine I have during the weekday does make for more of a challenge. I finally just got caught up today and am days away from making it halfway through!

As for my story, I’m essentially in the same boat I was before. Very little plot. It almost seems like I am writing the backstory for my characters, like the actual action starts long after the parts that I’m writing. Does anyone else do this? While definitely not a useless exercise, it’s a little discouraging. If the whole month goes by and I haven’t made any progress in terms of plot, then I suppose I will try my hand at outlining a plot in great detail and see how that shapes up. But no time to think about that until November is through!

Also since I made it back on track with my word count, I have some spare time to do my favorite thing: Wikipedia research! Look what I’ve found: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linda_Hazzard. Linda Hazzard started a sanatorium in a small town in Washington State where people from all over would go for her fasting remedies. She went to prison after over 10 people died in her care, due to starvation, over a period of four years. This has sparked a bit of inspiration regarding alternative medicine and quack doctors. An interesting read and definitely relevant today.

My story is set in a sort of alternative wellness center in middle-of-nowhere Washington, so this’ll be good inspiration.

I’ve also been on the NaNoWriMo subreddit, which has had some interested conversations that I hope to later turn into posts, such as revision plans after November, time management (e.g., what to do when you fall behind), and how to schedule the time to write, for example, with a toddler. Stay tuned for future posts!

Nano: Eventual update

Despite all odds, I’ve been keeping up with my word count. I’m now at 13K and counting! Though my story is in tragic shape, the actual part about putting the words on paper (normally very hard!) is coming much easier than usual. So I suppose I can’t complain…but I’m going to anyway.

My story itself is a mess. It’s just a collection of shorter stories about a variety of women and their various problems (all could be individual stand-alone stories in the own right, if I wasn’t so set on something else). As of yet, they are not related, so I need to think of a way to connect the stories (you know, a plot or whatever). Ugh. I am so worried that I am going to get to the end of November with 50,000 words, and think, “what the hell was I doing?” Well, too late now.

Today I wrote a little piece that was basically this retelling of a kabuki play that I learned about on NHK’s Kabuki Kool.  (By the way, one of my favorite shows). It’s called the Zen Substitute, I think, and it really resonated with me because it concerns deceptions, broken promises, promiscuity, and all sorts of fun relationship stuff. But mostly, it struck me because the husband never calls his wife by her name, he calls her this not-so-flattering pet name, “the mountain god.” Actually, it sounds kind of flattering, but I think he’s basically saying she is terrifying. And he goes to great lengths to avoid her wrath. It doesn’t stop him from keeping a mistress, but, whatever. I’m not completely sure why that stuck with me, but it did. Something about how female rage can be elevated into a sort of godlike status, almost mythic proportions. I want to make strong female characters in my story, but I also want them to have depth. Through their own shortcomings, through their own missteps and failings, they emerge into their full, dangerous potential. That’s the gist of what I’m going for, at least.  More on mountain gods later, I’m sure!

10,000 words

Hi there! Here’s another quick status update on how NaNoWriMo is going. Today, I hit the 10,000-word benchmark–that’s right, I’m 1/5 of the way done!

I wish I could say that my story is coming together. It’s not, not really. I’ve still no clear plot to speak of. But I do have a host of interesting characters, and these images and ideas keep popping up. I hope that at some point it’ll just come together, or at least I’ll be primed to put all the pieces together and get to the true heart of the story after November is through. So, to those of you still plodding your way through NaNoWriMo in the dark like me, keep at it! It’s not a sign of failure, just a sign that you’ve got more writing to do!

Quick Update

It’s November 4th. It’s been an exceptionally busy week (Halloween + my birthday + my daughter’s birthday), but I’m happy to say that I’m not even *that* behind on my writing.

I’m at 5,000 words!

But I have been getting a little discouraged in my story. As I write, it’s painfully apparent that I have no idea where to story is going (not shocking since I spent hardly any time planning). Even though I knew this would likely be the case when I went into the month, it is a little daunting, sitting down and free writing, no editing, just whatever pops up.  I keep thinking, “you’re going to waste your whole month with this?”  “This is going nowhere.”

It takes a lot of effort to keep telling myself that this is to be expected, that it’s part of the fun, and that it’s maybe even necessary to get at the soft underbelly of what I want to say–the real story. If I spent all November writing meaningless, disorganized drivel, but came away with a solid kernel on which to base a “real” story … that would be worth it. Or, even if that doesn’t happen, if there are no breakthroughs and no kernels, I still wrote something, and maybe it was something that needed to be written, that will pave the way for ideas later down the line. Maybe it’s just something I need to get out before I can move on to something better.

I do, honestly and from the bottom of my heart, feel that it is really important to trust the writing process. You might not get what you want out of it, but you get what you need. Regardless, it is challenging, to come back to the keyboard day after day with some vague hopes and a whole host of self-doubts. There are so many other things I could be doing, things where success is much easier to gauge, things that are instantly gratifying. So many things that don’t seem as likely to make you look like a complete and utter failure.

Anyway, I just wanted to be honest about how quick and easy it is to fall into this mindset. Hopefully, I’m the only one in the world who feels this way, but I doubt it.

Holy Cross

This is the nonfiction essay I wrote that I am using (with great artistic license) as part of my NaNo novel. N.B.: this is a rough draft, and I don’t usually write non-fiction. Also N.B.: This is a pretty personal story about my traumatic experience pregnancy and childbirth, probably not a topic for everyone, but I hope that it resonates with someone out there.

The Virgin Mary watched as the doors parted and we entered Holy Cross. I was 42 weeks pregnant—eager, full, expectant. They placed me in the High Risk pregnancy unit, the standard procedure for inductions. I was ready, but I wasn’t prepared for the grimness, the culture of fear the permeates the walls of the labor and delivery wards. The nurses and their veiled threats of “let’s hope you don’t have a C-section,” or how they would run around frantic every time I moved, dislodging the wires that flimsily held my baby’s heartbeat. Once, after a dose of Pitocin, the rhythmic beeps disappeared. Four nurses rushed in. They positioned me on all fours as they yelled and moved the sensors, searching for the heartbeat. The baby had shifted. Once stable, they left us alone with the machines and the beeps. It all seemed so fragile.

The next day, my water broke. But the baby was stuck. And my blood pressure continued to rise. As I was given magnesium, I was told that I would have to wait 24 hours after the birth to hold my baby. I did not know what magnesium meant. I didn’t know it would make my vision double. I didn’t know it would make me retch. What choice did I have anyway? At midnight, I was told I would have to have a C-section. My husband suited up in that pale blue gear as I was wheeled into the OR. Four people had to flip me from the hospital bed to the shining operating table. I was nothing but dead weight.

I shivered and shook on the table. The pain in my right shoulder was as sharp as the scalpel in my stomach. Over my left shoulder, my husband begged me to stay awake. His voice was insistent but far away. The cold kept me awake, but I did not want to be. I was trapped in a body that was no longer under my control. All I wanted was an end to suffering. Somewhere in the distance, the doctor was counting her instruments. I didn’t even care about seeing my daughter, the one I had hoped and waited for. A nurse pushed her close to my face so I could see her, but I barely even moved my head. By the time I did, she was gone.

Back in the labor and delivery, I was told my daughter was in the NICU. Her face was deformed. They suspected it was a genetic disease, but they needed to run some tests to be certain. After five hours, my husband was allowed to visit her. I laid back in the hospital bed, as the encroaching dawn cast a livid glow on the machinery surrounding me. I waited from news from the NICU: nothing but neon green lights in the glinting dawn.

Twelve hours later, my husband wheeled me down to the NICU where I met my daughter for the first time. She was bruised and fragile, hooked up to wires and boisterous contraptions. She had a tiny iv inserted into her tiny little wrist. I worried about pushing the needle further into her skin as I picked her up. I sat awkwardly cradling her in my wheel chair, adjusting the wires, and fumbling with my nursing bra in the middle of the NICU, flanked by one-pound babies in incubators and their sullen-looking families. A NICU-nurse hovered over me as I tried to get my daughter to latch. She adjusted my nipple and pressed my daughters face into my breast. She admonished me for stroking my daughter. “A newborn’s skin is too sensitive.” I felt like a failure and I was ashamed.

Afterwards, my husband would wheel me back up to my room, and I would cry. I cried because I was in pain, I cried because I wanted to hold my baby, I cried because I wasn’t sure she or I would ever leave. A nurse said I had postpartum depression. I lied and said I was crying because I was so happy. I wouldn’t let them see me cry again. I didn’t want them to keep me any longer.

On the fifth day, the hospital chaplain paid a visit, she made the rounds to all the parent’s with babies in the NICU. She asked how got through the difficult times. I looked at my husband and said blandly, “we support each other.” I wanted to say, “What choice do I have?”

I left Holy Cross on the seventh day after my arrival, feeling beat up, defeated, exhausted from the ordeal of having to protect my fragile self against the onslaught of fear. I took my daughter with me.

My daughter will turn two in November. Every day I look at her and know I have so much to be thankful for. She is healthy, exuberant, joyful. People look at her and say “all’s well that ends well.” But some things linger. I can’t go into a hospital, not even to visit my sister in the maternity ward. Every cough, fever, or sniffle from my daughter elicits a deep pulse of panic within me—please, god, don’t let her be sick again. I can’t go back. Precious moments are stolen away from me through anxiety. Fear lurks around every corner.

When I tell people about this, they often act as if I am expressing something unspeakable. As if talking about the ordeal makes my child any less precious, or childbirth any less miraculous. Perhaps it is an affront to god to feel disappointed. But I think if there is a god, she would welcome it. After Holy Cross, I am acutely aware of my own weakness and fragility: I thought I was going to die and I did not fight back. I did not fight to see my child. I lied down, defeated, and I cried until fear caused my tears to stop. I curse my body and it’s failed machinery: I will never have children again. These are some harsh truths about me. Sometimes, there is no choice to be made. But, I am learning to lean into the fear, the disappointment, the uncertainty. Just a little. And bit by bit, I embrace it, tentatively, like a newborn.

Day One: Recap

“’In all men’s hearts a slumbering swine lies low,’ says the French poet; so come ye, whose porcine instincts have never yet been awakened, or if rampant successfully hidden, and hurl the biggest, sharpest stones you can lay your hands on at your wretched, degraded, humiliated brother, who has been found out.

-Oscar Wilde

Day one, and it has been ridiculously productive! I hit a gold mine by retelling a real-life experience that’s been fresh in my memory. I wrote it out as a nonfiction piece, then rewrote it in a slightly creepier tone and fictionalized some major elements to make it fit in as it as part of my novel.

I basically used it as part of the backstory for my main character. It’s really helped me get into the story a bit more. The main character (don’t have a name yet) went through a series of traumatic experiences, eventually leading her to completely change her life and transform into this pseudo-religious leader/cult leader/feminist icon (or something). This is where the story begins!

Also, I feel like I should explain the Oscar Wilde quote: I really like it and it fits into my story, somehow. It’s pretty biblical. I always think of women being stoned in the Bible, but I guess it applies to men too.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stoning

Happy NaNoWriMo Eve!

Hello! It’s the last 30-odd minutes of October and the perfect time for a quick blog post. I’ve had this empty blog for a while, and I figured why not start it up as a little diary of this year’s National Novel Writing Month activities?

This year I am starting out with a less traditional route: I’m writing a non-linear, multi-dimensional collection of writings, more or less based on a theme, a feeling, an idea. Eh, it’s confusing to explain, but I always am a bit short on plot and heavy on ideas, so this works for me. Or maybe it won’t, I guess we’ll see.

As if it’s not painfully clear, I haven’t spent too much time planning this out. No outline to speak of, just a list of books to read, research to do, and a few random ideas scribbled in a spiral notebook. Hopefully, I’ll include more on the specifics later.

Here’s to a productive and creative NaNo!

Oh, and if anyone’s out there, please feel free to find me on NaNoWriMo.org. I’m ProphetOfProse.

Explanation of Blog Name

“I really think I write about everyday life. I don’t think I’m quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.”

–Edward Gorey