Incurable Curiosity

In-cur-able: (adj.) Not likely to be changed. Cu-ri-os-i-ty: (n) A desire to know.

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NaNoWriMo 2012

I participated in National Novel Writing Month for the first time last year, without a plan and without much of a plot. An idea was there, but the words didn’t come as I had hoped. The good news is that I found in it an idea for a real-life project that may be attempted in January.

This year, I prepared for my novel several weeks in advance. I had a plot and began an outline. Characters came from nowhere. The outline became more detailed. On November 1 I began my second novel. By the second day, I realized something:

My story is not centered around events in the plot, but the words my characters say. The vast majority of my current 6,000 words are put into dialogue, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. My novel is not void of description; rather it does not rely upon setting. That might be due to the way my own mind works; I focus much more on words than on place, and in this project the words come out as dialogue.

Last year I couldn’t pull any sensible conversations into my story, while this year I struggle for anything but conversation. That may be due to switching from 1st-person to 3rd-person omniscient, or maybe because I have 7 central characters with no respite of thought in which to retreat. This may be a noisy novel indeed!


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Waiting In the Park

During NaNoWriMo last November, I went down to the local park to write for a bit. I didn’t get very far on my novel as I was distracted by everything going on around me. The weather was lovely that day, so there were plenty of people at the park to watch. I noticed that no matter what they were doing, they all seemed to be waiting for something. I wrote a short sketch of my observations as I waited for inspiration. (Note: I wrote in present tense as I looked around, and it didn’t feel right to edit into past tense.)

At the park entrance awaits a bride-to-be, looking all around for her tardy entourage. Her single attendant smiles nervously, assuring the bride that they will arrive soon, even as she glances up and down the street, then down at her watch, then back up the street. As long as I’ve been at my little table in the sun, no one has shown up yet.

Two tables to my right, in the shade, a lone band member waits for his teenaged companions to join him and reclaim their instruments, of which he has been appointed guard. Several minutes later two of his friends arrive, though the day’s plans appear to have changed. The musician’s expression is one of well-known disappointment, though he wears a practiced smile at the girl’s not-entirely-heartfelt appreciation for his patience. They walk away.

Meanwhile a trio of adults – one younger than the other two – walks to a table in front of me with two honey-colored spaniels. No member of the group looks accustomed to the walk it takes to reach the park, and so they sit and wait for energy to return as they enjoy the sun’s warmth.

Behind me wanders a group of black-clad young adults. They loiter around the coffee shop entrance, sending one person in to find something. After a few minutes the searcher reappears empty-handed. The group descends to wander the walkways, their dark attire in stark contrast to the vibrant, sunlit surroundings.

Below me on the green at the foot of a hill stands the leader of a hula hoop troupe. He arranges his materials and attempts to engage passers-by as he waits for the rest of his group to join in entertaining a transient audience. A few pause to watch, but no one is brave enough to let go of their time and take up the fun.

I can wait no longer for inspiration here; it’s time to pack up and go home.

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A Non-writing Weekend and Chapter 1

Confession: I didn’t write much in ‘The Blank Book’ over the weekend. The story froze in my mind, and nothing I tried could get it moving again. I was able to work out some details of the story’s chronology, though, so I have something of a plan to work from instead of writing random passages.

It also seems that I have stumbled on a side effect of searching for inspiration for a specific project: You get ideas for everything except what you’re working on.

Anyway, this is the first part of Chapter 1, written last week:

After debating it in her head for two solid minutes – what if someone sees and accuses me of stealing? – the young traveler decided to pick up the book, if only to find out who it rightfully belonged to. The book itself was of medium size, sturdy construction, and bound by well-worn mahogany leather. She cautiously lifted the front cover, half hoping to see a name identifying an owner, half wishing that it would be blank.

In fact it was neither. There inside the front facing page was a simple notation written in a clear, confident print: “Write in me, then pass along.” On the top right corner was a date: 9/17/08. Hmm, almost three years ago. That was it; no signature, no further instructions, nothing. Quickly flipping through, she found that several pages in a row were written in one script, then the next few were written in a dramatically different style. It looked like the whole book, except for a few pages at the end, had been written in, and by at least a dozen people. Some pages had places where ink had bled through, others had what looked like water stains on them, a few consecutive pages contained sketches, and and about a third of the way through the book there was a thin blue ribbon that must have been used as a bookmark.

Hey, this might be an interesting read, and no one has come to claim it yet… it isn’t illegal to take something if it says to take it, right? Just then there was the call for her train. Feeling rather like the heroine in a spy novel, the girl hastily stuffed the mysterious journal into her backpack and joined the crowd lining up to file into the train.

Finding her seat, the girl pulled the book out of her backpack as quickly as possible. Hopefully whoever sat next to her wouldn’t be the nosy type. Fortunately, the seat next to her remained vacant as the last call was sounded, though a professor-type gentleman claimed the seat across from her.

“Always bring something sensational to read, eh?” The man asked with a chuckle.

Surprised, the girl replied, “No, this isn’t my journal.” She hesitated for a second, then added, “But I did bring a copy of ‘Dorian Gray’ with me for later.”

“Good choice, good choice. What are you reading, then? If you don’t mind my asking, that is – looks interesting.”

“Something I just picked up, actually.” Why am I telling him this?

“Ah. I will leave you to your reading, then.”

“Uh, thanks.”

The gentleman removed an iPod from his coat pocket and inserted a pair of noise-canceling earbuds into his ears. I guess he won’t mind a lack of small talk, then.

“Ok, what do we have here?” She muttered to herself as she opened the book again. Taking a quick second look at the first page, she was once again mystified by the short note written in black ink. If this was some kind of advertising campaign, there was no indication of it there. A turn of the page revealed a more interesting tale.

I am a thief.

Those were the first words written on a page of small, tight lettering drawn in heavy pencil. The confession looked very bold as an opening statement, sitting there on the college-ruled line running neatly along the page.

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A Renewed Perspective

Day 4 of NaNoWriMo. I have come to a realization: It isn’t about word count or deadlines; it’s about the story.

I have been stressing over how I’m going to meet the 50,000 word goal by November 30. The bar graph shows me that I am way off the mark already. The ‘At this rate you will finish on’ indicator tells me that I will finish on Christmas Eve. The progress bar has only the slightest sliver of blue at the left hand side.

Unfortunately, there is something that the stats page lacks: A story progress indicator.

I signed up for NaNoWriMo without a plot in mind. Thankfully I got an idea that wrote itself out in my head on Oct. 31, but translating an abstract into a reality is a whole other thing. I assume it’s a journey for even the most experienced writers who have traveled that road time after time. For me, it’s blazing a trail through completely unfamiliar territory. Everything is new, everything is exciting: meeting my characters (they’re becoming good friends already!), discovering their stories, learning how everything will turn out in the end. Even the frustrations of writing seem like agreeable challenges.

So why am I trying to measure this experience by how many words I can type in a day?

It’s a wonderful goal that is pushing me to get this thing written, but in the end that won’t be what I remember. In the end I will have gotten an idea out of my head and into reality. In the end I will have (hopefully) improved my written organizational skills. In the end I will have accomplished a goal. And maybe, just maybe, I will have written a novel.

The story may not be 50,000 words, but if it’s complete, I’ll be satisfied.

And now I will step off the soapbox and return to the world of words.

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Making It Beyond the First Words and Staying Organized

Not even 24 hours into NaNoWriMo, I’ve run into my first roadblock: Figuring out how to maintain three plot lines at once. To keep things organized, I have made three separate word documents, one per plot thread. I’ll worry about putting it all together later.

Ok, that moment of freaking out over my first writing roadblock is over. Stay tuned for further first-time-novelist-moment updates!

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The First Words

The Blank Book


Time: Mid-day

Place: Grand Central Station

The lunch hour commuting crowd has thinned out a bit, not that you could tell in a place that is always chaotic in some way. A bored teenager sits with her back against the wall, trying to block out the noise with her iPod as she waits for the next train. Suddenly the music stops – and right before the end of the song, too. Lovely, now that note will be stuck in my head for the rest of the day. And I can’t even charge this thing until I get to Grandma’s. That’s what, 13 hours from now?

She digs around in her backpack for a minute, then gives up. Looking around for some other distraction – This book has to last me until the next stop at least, and I really don’t want to break out the sequel until there’s no other option – she sees a leather-covered volume sitting on an unoccupied bench two seats to her left.

I wonder if that’s someone’s journal? Not exactly the most brilliant thing to go leaving in a train station. Skimming through an abandoned magazine, she keeps an eye on the book, checking every few minutes to see if someone claims it. Finally her curiosity becomes too much, and she moves over to the bench holding the book. Maybe someone’s name or something is inside the cover…..

(Word Count: 233)

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Preparing for An Adventure Into the Unknown: NaNoWriMo 2011

In the spirit of adventure, I have signed up for the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge, which dares writers to create a 50,000-word novel between November 1 and November 30.

It really will be an adventure for several reasons:

  1. This is my first NaNoWriMo.
  2. I have never tried to write a fictional work beyond short-story length.
  3. Writing fiction in general is a foreign thing to me.
  4. I have no plot line (though I do have several potential stories scattered around).
What I hope to gain from this experience:
  1. An understanding of the basics of story writing. I have read a few things on the topic, but why not test the sink-or-swim theory?
  2. An expanded writing horizon. It may fail miserably or exceed my highest hopes, but I won’t know until I give it a try.
And I might be trying to satisfy my habit of going after ridiculously unrealistic goals, too.
In any case, I’ll try to post some of what I’m writing here. As always, feedback is a beautiful thing, and I’d welcome some accountability. Until the 1st, I’ll also be finishing up some drafts that have been idling, so expect several posts over the next few days.