The people demand the novel.

I have received one incredibly cryptic request for the novel. Here is a little bit of what I was working on in November, unedited and contextless:

Augusta

The property was searched and searched again. The police never found the monster who chewed on Shelby. I don’t believe they knew what they were looking for. In time, the case was dropped. I don’t believe they would have dropped it if she had died of her injuries rather than the cold. Why was she naked? Where was her dress? Her hair was wet when we found her. They thought it was the dew rising up from the field, and the mist in the air, but there was silt from the river on her legs. She’d been swimming naked in the middle of the night. I knew. I watched her from the river bank. And she wasn’t alone. There were other women with her, all swimming or swinging from the branches of the trees, or lying on the bare mud of the steep riverbank, sprawled over trees’ roots. Dancing as if they were all mad. Pale women, as blue and faint as starlight, with long hair and black empty sockets instead of eyes. They led Shelby by the hand to that locust tree and they mounted it together, until they were all stood up in the branches howling at the sky. She tied the rope around her ankles so if she lost her balance, she wouldn’t die. But there was waiting for her at the bottom of the tree, the serpent woman who haunted the old cemetery in the pines. She unhinged her jaw as serpents do. She was in the bible, you know.

This is what I told the police when Monty said I wasn’t in bed that night and had gone out for a cigarette. He fell asleep. He wouldn’t have known if I’d come back five minutes later in any case. They said I followed Shelby. Mud was on my shoes. Well, that’s all true. So I did. I saw the black man leave her at the drive. I watched outside the window, saw her walk away and cross the wedge of light cast by the floodlights and disappear down the road. It’s easy to guess where she would have gone — always down to see the Mexicans. They were having a potluck party at the trailer park. I used to like to go to a potluck party, but I didn’t anymore. When she spoke to them, I couldn’t understand what they were saying ever. But they laughed too much.

I saw her take the rope from the barn, and I followed her to the river. I took her dress back to the house and laundered it myself later on. But first, who were these women rising up from the fields? I’d never seen them before, but it seemed like she had because she was kissing them on both cheeks like they were Italians. Foreign muck. Anyone could tell they weren’t from the town or the county. They seduced her. I watched them. And when she lost her balance, I was waiting at the bottom of the tree for her. To save her. But the serpent woman got there first. She was dirty and she smelled like fish. She actually asked Shelby if it was okay what she did. The poor girl was just crying. Well, she shouldn’t have taken my pills.

(I can see the blood and the stillness of her. They said, do you have any idea what happened to your girl? I said, that’s no girl.)

This was of course not what the police wished to hear, and I was made party to my poor girl’s death. If I hadn’t done anything to stop it, I must have done something wrong. The law doesn’t say anything about that. They couldn’t handle me anymore, so they packed me off to Broughton, but you know what? I couldn’t handle them anymore, or their darkness. You have no idea what these people are capable of, but you can sense it while they’re skulking around the house, the fierce and perverted daydreams they must be having and that’s why they don’t talk to you.  They have no self-control whatsoever.

Broughton was wonderful because that was the place I found my art. They gave me paint and bits of scrap, and for once in my life I was able to create something beautiful. I began by painting little dresses. They liked those and hung them in the hall. It wasn’t a nice place, but because I was money and blue blood, I got my way always. I painted the scenes of my life and I painted all of the people who came before me and all of those who would come after. Future people are real people; we must never forget this fact.

NaNoWriMo, the end.

I finished the month of novel-writing on Friday, and here is the “web banner” to prove it. They also provided me with some kind of certificate to download, and then they asked for money again.

Winner-2014-Web-Banner

 

During the last month, I learned some things.

  • The ability to type a large volume of words in a short period of time is inversely correlated to the production of decent fiction. I think there must be a better way to communicate that, but I am really hungry and there is not any food in the house and I feel burned out and also like my entire identity has been subsumed by all of that mediocre fiction.
  • Weekends are nice. I wrote every single day for close to four weeks, and it was not good. I felt productive, but the wage of productivity was the inferior quality of the work produced. This is usually true, isn’t it?
  • When you feel burned out, working on a draft is the worst! It’s as lame as that lame, storied middle school dare: You’re sent into a dark closet with an ugly person who has probably said mean things about you at some point. You know what you’re meant to do, but the entire experience is awful and humiliating. When you come out, you are certain that everyone is laughing at you, but in fact they don’t even care. They’ve forgotten about you. They’re all eating pretzels and sheet cake.
  • By around the 26th day, I kind of knew what it was that I really wanted to write, and then I started to write it. The rest is full of base sentiment and vulgar clichés like “base sentiment.”
  • I actually feel sad that the month is over. There I was, with generally good habits (except that I stopped working out), toiling at the computer for hours every morning, ruining my teeth on coffee and tea. And now I’m like — fuck it. I’m just going to take the day off and wipe the mold off the bathroom wall. And then I’m going to sit down and think about what I’ve written, because I did not do that once last month.
  • But in seriousness, the best thing that came out of my novel-writing month was that it created some space between me and the other novel I wrote. It is really, really bad to come out of a long project with nothing on the back burner.

 

 

 

 

Week Three: NaNoWriMo

  • On schedule to finish.
  • It is very time consuming.
  • And I still have not put last week’s laundry away.

Pushcart Prize nomination!

Many thanks to Brenda Mann Hammock and everyone at Glint for nominating Lamia for a Pushcart. I couldn’t be more tickled!

NaNoWriMo: Week Two

  • Halfway point.
  • Getting really, really tired of the appeals for donations. Sorry NaNoWriMo, I blew my discretionary budget on sweaters and half-priced cocktails.
  • But I am unapologetically a fan of this month of novel writing. I’m inclined to think most people would benefit from having to spend some vast amount of time doing something that rewards focus and introspection. But maybe not. I don’t know.
  • My intention was to participate more fully in the discourse this week, but I don’t care and I don’t have time and I am too boring. Sitting in a chair again, typing!
  • I hate sitting in chairs. Sitting in chairs, looking at computers is the worst thing about writing. I’ve sat on couches and on exercise balls and I’ve jury-rigged a standing desk, but inevitably, inexorably my ass is drawn back to the chair, back to the computer. It’s awful.

NaNoWriMo Week One in Review

  • I kept to my targets without much difficulty. Consequently what I’ve written isn’t very good. Word count: approximately 13,000. I took yesterday off to draw a diagram and clean the bathroom. Also, writing every single day of the week is hellish. I intend to keep the sabbath for the remaining weeks and  have adjusted my targets accordingly.
  • This draft might be vulgar and the POV ineffectual, but I’ve been working shit out and getting some kind of idea of what a subsequent (better) draft might look like. So that’s okay.
  • I left out the part where I bought a frumpy skirt from a charity shop and stuck in in a tote bag full of cat food because this is the person I have become.
  • I did not live-tweet because of banality. This week I intend to break down that wall. I tell myself that I keep my thoughts to myself because of my carbon footprint, but that is absurd. Yesterday I bought tights at Primark. Please don’t tell.
  • Over the weekend I attended a local write-in. Someone was talking about staying up all night to work on their piece. I think this is admirable, but insane. Why risk your health for fiction? And during cold and flu season! Madness.
  • I received emails and updates from the NaNoWriMo website. I read them. The pep talks and the appeals for money. Honey I am dirt poor, and I hate to say it, but if I had money to spare, I would probably not donate it to writing programs. Isn’t that awful? I have several uncharitable views on writing. Such as: the world does not need your novel and not everybody has a story to share. It’s better to divest yourself of all your illusions regarding the nature of writing. Fiction matters, but that doesn’t mean yours does. What you are writing is probably shit. Steel yourself for rejection and anguish, and be free. This is life. It’s not so bad. Christmas is coming! They are selling mulled wine outside of the shopping center now.
  • Last night I google-hungout with my friends in America. One asked me what my day looks like. It looks like sitting in rooms.

Perseverance

I used to date a guy who had a friend who was very mentally unwell. The mentally unwell friend wrote one page of fiction everyday and at the end of a year he had 365 pages of fiction: a novel.

My boyfriend read his friend’s novel; he derided its lack of focus. It was all over the place, he said. It was random and chaotic. Its author hadn’t made a plan at all, he just wrote and wrote. The resulting novel evidently didn’t make a lot of sense. But I think for a first draft maybe that’s not so bad. I would rather carve a novel out of 365 pages of chaos than have to start again.

My boyfriend also wanted to be a writer. He wrote short stories for creative writing classes, which in retrospect weren’t terrible, only he couldn’t take criticism. From me.

I have written one novel. It took me nearly four years. I didn’t have a very good plan. The final draft is very different from the first. And now I am writing another novel, and although it may be premature to say this: I hate it. I HATE IT. I HATE EVERYTHING. If this were the nineteenth century, I would throw the pages into the fireplace and weep. But the pages aren’t even pages and our fireplace doesn’t work.

Whenever I feel down, I try to think of the worst case scenario: my writing is derided by people who are close to me and I am revealed to be a loser in the end. I am so afraid that I am going to fail. Or worse: become bitter and despised.

How do you keep your dreams from making you into a monster?