Stuck in the Middle with Me

Self-help gone wrong

Oh. Oh. Oh.
It’s NaNo time again, time to write 50,000 words in a quick 30 days, and of course, I’m in it to win it. Gonna do this thing! Let’s go! (Insert “Animal House” scene, John Belushi running away to battle while his friends sit and watch his weird exit.)
This year I sat a moment and examined my previous attempts, all of which met the critical 50K bar of excellence, but none of which completed a story. That’s where the post-NaNo editing was supposed to happen, and when at last I pulled up the files to begin, I got stuck in the morass of my own verbiage and fell asleep a lot. My stories still lie festering and staring blankly until I get the cojones to rework and complete.
It’s a mess.
And what did I do for those half-successful but not to my own par all previous seven times? I Pantsed it. (That’s a real verb in the NaNo world.) I wrote and wrote, with no thought for rhyme nor reason, spewing lyrical genius from atop my cerebellum onto the keyboard with abandon and glee.
Ain’t so gleeful now, am I?
On October 29th, so so late in the game, I decided I’d make an Outline, the middle school equivalency to torture; loathed them then, loathe them now. But Pantsing wasn’t working, I reasoned. Maybe Plotting was the way of my future, especially if I wanted to finish a story.
Being the book geek that I am, I consulted not one but seven tomes on the subject of writing, planning, navigating, and getting-onto-paper the visual translation of the audio in my head.
Most all of these helpful books say: Start in the middle.
Egads!
Are you kidding me? The middle doesn’t come around for two full weeks! I haven’t even come up with an opener besides “Once upon a time…” and these helpful self-helpers have effectively left me quagmired in a stew of over-wrought thinking, over-whelmed and eating ice cream for both supper last night and breakfast this morning! (Though, you know, that’s not really my complaint here.)
Today is Day 2 of NaNo, and though I floated a lot of words onto the Doc yesterday, today I’m tapped. I got nothin’. Yet my grey matter is storming the castle, screaming, “Just Pants the thing, this one last time. Do research the other eleven months and next year we’ll try this outline thing. We’re running out of time, Dudette [my brain calls me “dudette,” a weird affectation that I’ll ponder later as some sort of brain condition, but for now, Dudette doesn’t seem to rile me]. Get this thing in the books and be done!”
And yet the other half of my brain, the tenacious, not-quite-there side, says no, we gotta figure this out this year.
“Think through the details,” rational-but-annoying Me says. “Create the back story and the “why” and generate the point of the whole telling. Get an outline. Get to work. We have 29 days.”
But since I always have finished before Thanksgiving — because who needs to think of a nearly-done novel around the turkey table; no, all focus should be on mashed potatoes — that’s less days.
Adding to my panic.
And more reason for my brain to keep throwing images of pants onto the screen of my frontal lobe.
I’m telling you, people, I don’t have enough ice cream left for this level of tension and no time to get to the nearest freezer section, because of course I’m in the middle of the prairie.
This is going to be a long month.

 

Marching Forth

“Why do they not teach you that time is a finger snap and an eye blink, and that you should not allow a moment to pass you by without taking joyous, ecstatic note of it, not wasting a single moment of its swift, breakneck circuit?”               —   Pat Conroy

A year ago today, March 4th, my favorite author passed away due to cruel, diligent, incessant illness.
I’m a librarian and every time a new release calendar arrives in my email, I cannot help but skim the lines for Mr. Conroy’s name. I cannot help but wish so fervently for a new word from this author. If it’s an “I’m Dead and Here’s What I See,” that’s fine. I’ll take that. He’ll describe it beautifully. If the words were new pages of manuscript pulled from beneath a pile of old receipts and cupcake wrappers, I’d take that, too. Dust them off. Or don’t. I can handle dust. I just want to read what he writes.
But so far, no new words.
Recent literary offerings are writ in broadly painted strokes. Today’s attention span is ephemeral, a four-pica width, so tightly packed as to disallow for character development or description. Writers offer nuance, a shade, and leave intricacies to the reader.
And that’s what our general reading population wants. Quick story, fun plot, hopefully a dead body by page three, then let’s move on because I have things to do.
I respect that. I, myself, need to read many books weekly in order to stay on top of trends.
But. BUT.
When I need a real read, a story, an immersive tale, I adore a detail brush. And coffee. And a squooshy blanket.
It’s my Conroy Trifecta.
I had the joy of meeting Mr. Conroy once, and to this day, I squirm at my own geekiness. I didn’t ask what I wanted to ask, I didn’t apply enough Fandom to the situation, but I swam, denuded in nerd-dom, too briefly into Mr. Conroy’s ice-blue eyes and have pictures to prove it.
I guess that must work.
And I’ll still wish for his name on every New Release list.