Apologies for the long silence on the progress of NaNoWriMo! But the good news is that I haven’t been here because I’ve been over there, head down and typing away at the novel draft. There’s been some ups and down, with word count advancing and retreating from the by-day goal (though nothing as fraught as earlier in the month!) And this morning before work I typed my last few hundred words to link-up and flesh out my last couple partial scenes, and typed Fin. at the bottom.
Only to find I was exactly 173 words short of 50,000 for the month!
So I went back and expanded a much earlier scene that I already knew needed revising, to finally wind up at 50,009 by my calculations. 🙂 Trying to get it across 50,000 for NaNo’s validator was a little more complicated, as new and old writing was hopelessly enmeshed within the draft. I’ve been calculating all month by subtracting my pre-NaNo word count from my total. So just between you and me, I validated 50,000 words of the novel draft in NaNo’s validator…I just can’t claim that they were the same 50,000 words that I wrote this month.
This makes my fifth NaNo, and it was both the same and different. Writing in 15 minute sprints, like last year, worked brilliantly again. I average 400 words in 15 minutes, so I spent the whole month calculating how I could get enough sprints in each day to manage my word goal. There were fewer moments of big-picture inspiration (suddenly seeing how it all fits together) because this draft was so fully imagined that I already knew how most things fit together…but there were smaller-picture inspiration moments, making a scene work or getting a particularly nice bit of dialogue in.
I have a couple early scenes I still need to write in the draft but I am within a hair’s-breadth of completion and that is truly exciting. Though I am also already making extensive plans for the revisions…so this may still go on for quite a while.
But today I’m celebrating another 50,000 word November. So have an excerpt about books! I wrote most of this during November, except for half a page in the middle. It’s complicated… 🙂
It took me a month to read Hamlet. It wasn’t nearly as long or dense as Victor Hugo, with significantly less architecture. Instead there was love and sword fights and betrayal and conspiracy. And Erik was right, the plot meandered a lot as Hamlet tried to bring himself to kill his uncle (or decide definitely not to), but they said wonderful things along the way. There were a few perfectly ordinary phrases I’d been using my whole life without knowing they’d come by way of Hamlet.
I thought it was delightful. Right up until the final Act. And that sent me marching off to Erik’s apartments in a state of righteous outrage.
I knocked first (I wasn’t that outraged) and once he invited me to enter I strode in and demanded, “Why didn’t you tell me Hamlet died?”
Sitting at his pipe organ across the room, Erik stared at me as though at a complete loss. “Why did I—what?”
“Hamlet! I read Hamlet and he has that whole speech about killing himself and he decides not to and then he dies anyway so what was the point of it all?” I flung myself on a maroon couch, crossed my arms, and awaited an explanation.
Erik sat down more slowly on the opposite couch. “You read Hamlet?”
“A French translation, yes. You were quoting Hamlet so I read it. Just because I’m a ballet dancer and not a genius composer and architect doesn’t mean I can’t read Shakespeare, thank you very—”
“No, that’s not what I was thinking,” he said with a shake of his head. “It’s just…I quoted Hamlet so you read it.” He shook his head again, more of a wondering shake. “Did you like it?”
“Until everyone died.”
“It’s a Shakespearean tragedy,” he said with a ghost of a smile. “Everyone always dies.”
“I hate stories where everyone dies at the end, especially when a bit of common sense would have prevented the whole thing.”
“You’d better try a Shakespearean comedy instead. Everyone gets married at the end. Less realistic, but happier.”
“Dead bodies all over the stage is not realistic.”
A beat. “If you say so.”
I shook my head. “It’s just—it’s like so many operas that have tragic endings. If the people involved had just talked to each other it all could have ended happily.”
“I don’t think Hamlet having a pleasant conversation with his uncle would have solved much.”
“No, maybe not, but if he had talked to Ophelia or his mother…” I shook my head again. “Well. What else should I read?”
“With a happy ending?”
I considered. “Not necessarily. I don’t mind tragedies, it’s just unnecessary ones that bother me. I like dark stories sometimes. Like Mr. Poe’s.”
“That’s fortunate, since there aren’t all that many happy endings on my bookshelves.”
At that comment, I rose to my feet, to go look at his shelves myself. He hadn’t exactly told me I could—but he hadn’t said not to, and he didn’t stop me either. Not even when I ran my fingertip along the spines of the books, stopping when a title caught my eye. “What’s this? Frankenstein?”
“Rather dark,” Erik said, and glanced down at the papers in front of him. “The story of a misshapen creature rejected by both his creator and the world.”
“Oh.” I stared at the silver lettering on the spine, wondered if this was possibly a very bad story for Erik to be reading, and whether that meant I should or shouldn’t read it.
I was just starting to move my fingertip down the line again when Erik said, “That’s the original English, but I have a French translation somewhere. I could hunt it out for you. If you want.”
I did. I just hadn’t been sure if he’d want me to. But if he offered—so I smiled and said, “Yes, I’d like that.”
He offered a copy to me a few days later. I didn’t fail to notice that it was a remarkably new looking copy. But maybe he really had had it tucked away somewhere.