NaNoWriMo Day 20: War Is (Almost) Declared

We’re two-thirds of the way through November now, somehow!  According to my plot outline, I’m a quarter of the way through my novel, which lines up with my goals pretty well.  I’m right around 22,000 words, and my first drafts tend to come in around 75-80,000, so that’s about right for a quarter of the way through the story.

I’m also in great shape for my goal to hit 25,000 words!  I expect to pass that in the next few days.  I’ve actually been holding pretty steady to land around 35,000 words, so that’s my new target – although we’ll see if Thanksgiving week is easier or more difficult for writing than normal weeks!

Meanwhile in the story, events are heating up in the world situation.  I’ve just got up to August 23, 1939, when the Nazis and the Soviets signed a non-aggression pact.  From my research, that seems to be when war between France and Germany became inevitable, although it wasn’t actually declared for about 10 days.  The romance moves along in parallel to the war situation, so that’s also beginning to pick up.  I’m righting something of the calm before the storm right now, with more excitement coming on September 3rd. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo Day 20: War Is (Almost) Declared”

NaNoWriMo Day 13: Bastille Day

Did you know the 150th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille was in 1939?  I didn’t either, but the book I was reading for research on occupied Paris mentioned that they put on an enormous military parade in July, 1939 – before they were invaded less than a year later.  Apparently the Germans didn’t take the intended message!  I mention this because that was the scene I’ve been writing for the last several days.  With two million Parisians lining the Champs-Elysses, clearly I needed to send my heroine to the parade too.  And I thought it was a convenient place to bump into Paul, the romantic lead, a photojournalist who obviously would have been photographing the spectacle.

After the parade, I went to another flashback to Maggie’s childhood – that went more slowly than the last one, but I did figure out her entire extended family (fifteen people!) so even if it ends up being more of a workshop piece and I substitute a different flashback during revision, it was at least useful.

I’ve been able to stay above 1,000 words each day – until today, but I’ll write some more later this evening, so we’ll see what happens.  I’m just short of 15,000 words, well ahead of where I need to be to hit 25,000 by the end of the month – although I’d be behind if I was going for the 50,000.  I’m happy with where I am, though, and with how the story is progressing.

Here’s a glimpse at the conversation during the parade.  Paul is doing his best to guess Maggie’s name, but since he’s basing his guesses on her gold necklace with the letter G, he’s not doing very well!  We pick up the conversation after a slightly ill-advised comment that landed badly…

He grimaced.  “And now I suppose you think I’m exactly the uncouth sort of American you expect, right?”

I shook my head.  “No – I sort of expect all Americans to be Fred Astaire.”  He was the only movie dancer my mother found acceptable.

He snapped his fingers.  “Ginger!” he said with sudden enthusiasm.

I smiled.  “Still no.”

“Oh well, I couldn’t have lived up to Fred anyway.  How about Gabrielle?”

I hesitated on that one.  It was, after all, the right name for the clue he was using.  My Great-aunt Gabrielle had been the first to own my necklace.  But it wasn’t my name.  “You’re not going to guess it.  And you’re missing the parade.”

NaNoWriMo Day 7: Off to the Cinema

Our first week of NaNo is down, and so far I’m still on track for my 25,000 word goal.  I had a really solid weekend and am at 8,120 words, which puts me a couple of days ahead on my word count goal.  It’s nice to have that cushion, because babies are unpredictable and I don’t know how future days will go!

I wrote about 1,800 words yesterday, which gave me a lot of my current cushion.  It helped I was writing a particularly fun scene.  The bulk of the novel is set in 1939-40, but I plan to drop in periodic flashbacks to Maggie’s childhood.  Partially that’s to build more dimensions in her character, but it also lets me feature Erik and Meg as characters, even though they’ve died by the beginning of the book.  So I spent Saturday writing a flashback sequence – Maggie goes to the cinema with her grandfather, the Phantom of the Opera, to see Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera.  They don’t altogether react as intended…

The movie was fascinating.  It gave me a queer feeling to see my familiar opera house on the flickering screen, though it wasn’t always right about the details.  The whole story seemed so removed from anything real that I could enter into it with a spectator’s enthusiasm, though it seemed to me that Grand-père was laughing and sighing in the wrong spots.

I watched mostly in rapt silence, but couldn’t help myself when we came to the unmasking.  A great gasp of horror rose up from the audience when Lon Chaney’s face was first revealed, enough to mostly cover my indignant, “But that’s not right!”

“Shh,” Grand-père said absently.

“But his face is wrong,” I whispered.  “And she shouldn’t have snatched his mask off – you don’t do that.”

He laughed then too, and tousled my hair.  “Quite right.”

NaNoWriMo Day 5: New Places to Explore

We’re five days into NaNoWriMo, and so far things are going well!  My goal this year is 25,000 words, or a half-NaNo, and I’m keeping on track for that.  In fact, I’m a little ahead – I’m at 5,063, which puts me almost exactly one full day ahead of schedule.  I always like to get a cushion at the beginning – and I have a slightly superstitious feeling that if I get behind early on, I’ll never catch up!

I was able to write a little above 1,000 words the first three days.  I was busier yesterday so I only got to 757, but had my current high day today with 1,143.  Not too bad!

I just finished Chapter One, and have managed to introduce three major characters.  We’ve been almost entirely at the Opera Garnier so far, but have been mostly visiting places we never went to in my Guardian of the Opera series, like the costume department and the stables.  I can’t actually find any history to tell me whether the stables of the Opera were still active in 1939, but…I decided to pretend they are, at least for now!

My heroine, Maggie, ventured below the Opera near the end of the chapter, taking us back to the Phantom’s parlor.  She also goes into the kitchen – a place we never actually went in the original trilogy.  I mentioned that Erik had a kitchen down there (he’d have to, right? He has to eat!) but it was such a prosaic thing for the Phantom of the Opera to have that we never once actually saw it.  This isn’t a very detailed description, but it’s still the first glimpse we’ve ever had of that particular room!

I turned away from the mantle.  Best to get to business.  I went out the parlor’s side door and walked briskly down the hall to the kitchen.  It was far more practical than elegant, a simple room with stone counters, an old wooden table, a multitude of cabinets and, most importantly, running water.  I checked the pantry and found that, while I’d have to go out shopping to create any feasts, there were enough canned goods that I wouldn’t starve if I put that off until tomorrow morning.  But first, I found the cleaning supplies.  An even coat of dust might mean everything was safe and undisturbed, but that didn’t make it altogether comfortable to live with, even temporarily.

NaNoWriMo Day 1: And So It Begins

Happy November 1st, which around here marks the beginning of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, when writers try to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.  I’ve done NaNo 7 times since 2011, most recently in 2019 when I wrote The Princess Beyond the Thorns, a book I’m hoping to publish in the next year or two.  And this year, I’m kicking off a brand-new project, and plan to blog about it.

I noticed while researching for my Guardian trilogy that most other historical novels set in Paris seem to take place during World War II.  My setting was 1881 so that was quite different – but it occurred to me that World War II would be the right timing for the Phantom of the Opera’s granddaughter.  So that’s the story I’m writing this November!  I’ve been researching the Occupation of Paris throughout October (a little light reading!!) and began the actual drafting today.

Because I have an eight-month-old baby, I’m adjusting my goals a bit this year.  Rather than aiming for 50,000, I’ve decided to do a half-NaNo and try to reach 25,000 words.  Today I got started on my opening scene and wrote 1,073 words – so that puts me a couple hundred up from my goal of 834.

Here’s a little glimpse at the writing so far:

I halted on the edge of the Place de l’Opera and drew in a satisfied breath, tinged with just a touch of relief.  Of course it was ridiculous to think that the opera house could have collapsed or vanished, just because my grandfather had died – but somehow, I hadn’t quite been able to feel that it would still be here.  But there it was: the Opera Garnier.  The soaring pillars on the front, the line of grinning masks, the great dome and the shining, golden statue of Apollo at the very top.  All still just as it should be and had always been.