For those of you just joining us a scant five weeks behind schedule, I highly suggest you spend a bit of time reading this before continuing below.
It’s been 30 days and I’ve come out the other side with a greater understanding of knuckle fatigue and time-management.
Also, I wrote a novel.
I am officially a National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) Winner, complete with fancy graphics pieces like this:
But the real takeaway from the last four weeks is that I have completed a decidedly rough draft of a novel.
My pal, Ken Lange, wussed out somewhere around the 3,000 word mark. Despite my diligent schedule of writing when I felt like it and then hoping to cram several thousand words on the weekend (but really just napping instead) I managed to taunt Ken repeatedly on my way to 50,187 words just four minutes before midnight on November 30, 2010.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll edit and revise and re-write, then hand the Draft 2.0 off to friends and family far more gifted in qualities necessary to refining a potentially publishable book. (I’ve developed a little something on the side that I’ll discuss in greater detail at a later date.)
Below you will find a few excerpts from the thirty days of novel writing. Be kind. There was little to no time for grammar or the rest of the good stuff that belongs in a novel.
When he arrived, Allison was already there. She picked a table outside, probably so their words wouldn’t echo off the ancient walls inside. Lydia’s, or at least the building it occupied, had probably been there for the better part of a century. It was easy to imagine it as a new Victorian home in the early 1900s, a speak-easy during the prohibition era, a wealthier-than-thou cottage during the 40’s and some incarnation of a house and then restaurant or cafe since then.
Allison greeted him meekly as Frank sat down. She had a magazine, worn at the binding from being folded over and creased. It was some type of celebrity gossip magazine with the incriminating paparazzi photos on the front and the senseless headlines about someone dying but still “vowing to beat this disease” or something about someone breaking up with someone.
The waitress came over to the table, looking haggard from what one could only imagine to be an interesting night, but interesting in a different way than Frank and Allison’s. Most cafés made a point to call the people who made and served coffee “baristas”. Frank liked Lydia’s because they knew that was a bullshit title. There was coffee and then there was a machine. You put in the coffee and hit the button corresponding to the selection. If they wanted regular, it would grind and brew. The same thing went with lattes, espresso, cappuccinos and everything else on the menu. The hardest task was remembering if the foam was supposed to be soy or skim.
“What can I get you, sir?” she said sir because she had too. She was the same age as Frank, maybe older.
“What did you get?” he looked to Allison.
“My usual,” she said. Frank knew that was a double espresso with light foam.
“I’ll just have an Americano with an extra shot, please.” she looked at him for a second, judging him on his selection of a watered down espresso, then turned and headed toward the machine that would do the hardest part of the job for her.
“We’re going to be a real family, aren’t we?” She said excitedly.
“I guess we are, Mom.” Frank replied.
Allison, Frank and Elaine spent the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening sitting at the small table in the kitchen. Elaine did most of the talking, sharing stories about when Frank was growing up. She asked about Allison’s family, about school. She was stunned to find out Frank had a part-time job and was getting up before sunrise most mornings.
“My son? Up at 5 a.m. most days? I don’t believe it. He wouldn’t even get out of bed if the house caught fire!” she said.
Then, Elaine made pasta and garlic bread for dinner for the three of them. Nothing fancy. It was a box of noodles and a jar of sauce. It was toast with garlic seasoning sprinkled on it, but she felt good cooking a meal for more than just herself and Frank could see flashes of his mother the way she was when he was a kid, moving around the kitchen, looking busier than she probably was to avoid eye-contact, conversation, problems. She didn’t ask too many questions about the baby or what their plan was going to be. It was almost as if she was avoiding the subject and asking questions about everything else.
When it came time to leave, Elaine kissed Frank and Allison goodbye more than once. She hugged both of them for longer than any normal hug lasts. Then, she stood in the doorway for a long time as Allison and Frank walked back to the train station as the small town of Chesterfield next to Killarney Lakes grew dark.
The train ride back to Oenwick was fairly quiet, interrupted by the scheduled stops to drop off and pick up more passengers just as it had on the way out. After about a half hour, Allison shifted, resting her head on Frank’s shoulders. She closed her eyes, hoping to rest for the remainder of the ride, but before she fell asleep, she whispered, “How come you never told me your name is Firhman?”
Frank did eventually sleep, thought not particularly well and not for a particularly long time. He had also neglected to brush his teeth before bed, which gave his mouth the feeling of a roughly knit wool sweater and morning breath like a pile of hot garbage.
It was interesting to Frank that, though he had been sleeping in the bed next to her for quite some time prior to them getting married and for quite some time since then, he had never considered what his morning breath must be like for Allison. She was usually still asleep when he got up and got ready for work in the dark; part of a careful ritual not to disturb her.
“But what if the dark or the light rather, was never really the problem. Maybe it was just every time I exhaled I smelled like this?”
The thought made him smile a bit as he grabbed his small travel bag of toiletries and headed to the small apartment’s only bathroom.
The clock on the wall said eight, or maybe nine. Frank was never very good at reading anything but digital clocks, but got his confirmation from the green illuminated numbers on the microwave. it was eight o’clock.
His mother was right, she was gone before he had woken up, but he didn’t mind having the place to himself. He couldn’t remember the last time he had had his apartment to himself and decided to take this opportunity to walk around in his boxer shorts, another little habit that used to comprise part of his daily ritual, but had since been forgotten for the sake of decency, living with a woman.
He flipped on the TV set, the same one that had been there with rabbit ears wrapped in tin foil when he moved out five years ago, and flopped down on the couch. The batteries in the remote were dead, though he spent a few minutes trying, pointing the remote at the receiver at different angles, then mashing the button with greater force, then holding the button down for a few seconds. He tried pulling the batteries out and swapping their position, then repeating the series of pointing at angles, mashing the buttons, holding it down, then hitting the remote against the butt of his hand.
Frank groaned from his comfortable slouch on the sofa that appeared to seldom be sat on, his feet propped at an exceptional height by the antique coffee table. The dreaded truth was that, if he wanted to watch TV, and if he needed to change one of the likely three to five channels his mother would be able to pick up with the tin foiled rabbit ear antennae, he would have to be standing to do it.
So, he decided he would rather just not watch TV altogether and moved on to the only other room in the house that wasn’t a bedroom, a bathroom, or the room in which he was currently standing. This left only the kitchen.
Still in his boxers, Frank opened the refrigerator and was caught off guard by the complete absence of food or even condiments located therein. He opened the crisper as if he expected there to be some stash of something edible in there, but for the second time this morning, Frank’s mother had made the correct prediction the night before. First, that she would be gone before he woke up that morning and second that he could help himself to anything in the fridge, little though it may be.
She wasn’t being modest.
He opted out of scavenging the cupboards, expecting he would likely find more of the same inedible or less than appetizing fodder.
Making a quick couple of steps then sliding on the fake wood floor with his socks, Frank rounded the corner into his old bedroom, looking back at the hallway clock, expecting it to tell him time had flown by, the way the past eleven months had flown by.
Twenty minutes had passed.