147. On Writing 50,000 Words in November



It was an up and down affair. Have you ever heard the folktale/joke routine That’s good, That’s bad? Mostly it’s the joke that goes, “Oh, that’s good. No, that’s bad because… Oh, that’s bad. No, that’s good because…

Yes. That’s the way my November went.

  • It was good when my characters did things that were totally surprising that I hadn’t planned. It’s true. It happens.
  • It was bad when that character led me to a wall and I had no idea where to go next.
  • It was good to leap over that wall and jump into unknown territory.
  • It was bad when a character just flowed from the keyboard to the screen, and I had no idea who he was. It’s true. It happens.
  • It was good when suddenly I had an aha moment, and that character joined the rest of the crew just like it had always been planned.
  • It was bad when I got to the middle and seemed to be slogging around and around in the Slough of Despond.
  • It was good when that terrible ‘stuck-in-the-middle’ disappeared and the words began to flow across the screen as fast as I could type them.
  • It was bad when I wrote a phrase that made me cringe in despair.
  • It was good when I wrote something that made me laugh out loud.
  • It was bad when I re-read the beginning and wondered what I was trying to get across…
  • It was good when I took that  crappy narrative beginning and tried to turn it into poetry —  And. It. Worked.
  • It was bad when I felt as if I was totally wasting my time — What am I doing writing this stupid novel that’s lousy, too detailed, and no one’s going to read it, and I’ve spent all my spare time — and time that wasn’t spare — on the dumb thing.
  • It was good when I reread one of my chapters and thought “ooh, I like that.”
  • It was bad when Mr. H.C. would say, “Don’t worry, I don’t need to eat tonight.” :-)
  • It was good when Mr. H.C. said, “If this is something that you need to do, then do it.”

I started with 7 chapters written, which I did not use in my word count. The few days before Nov. 1, instead of writing another chapter, I wrote an outline. This was genius, if I do say so myself. I also did a vague timeline, which was less helpful, but I still did refer to it and adapt it as I wrote.

So, I won’t bore you with more words. I’ve got to get back to my novel, because IT STILL ISN’T FINISHED.

I don’t know how or when or if I’ll finish, but I do know this: I’m 52,962 words ahead of where I was on November 1.

And it feels good.

Oh, that’s good.

No, that’s  bad, because I’m still not done.

Oh, that’s bad.

No it’s good, because — I did it!

Oh, that’s good.

Yes, it is…


Now if you’ll excuse me, I have laundry to do…

146. Taking flight

Before a few weeks ago, I had flown once in my life. Well, twice if you don’t count it as a round trip. And that was a LONG time ago…

It’s not that I am was afraid to fly. I just like to drive. Or be with people that I know very well who are driving. Road trips make me happy. It makes me feel like I have really, really travelled to get where I’m going.

I’ve been to lots of airports. But always as the person who is hugging people hello or goodbye, never as the person who is flying there and back again.

And I’ve been on road trips to lots of places — I’ve been to the tip of Nova Scotia to San Diego; from Ashland,Wisconsin to Juarez, Mexico; from Boston to Santa Fe — and because I’ve been in a car, in between I’ve seen Chicago, St. Louis, San Antonio, Big Bend, Boulder, New Orleans, Nashville, Madison… I’d always rather drive, thank you very much.

But then, my daughter moved 2,590 miles away to California.

That’s a long drive.

Google Maps tells me it takes 36 hours to get there by car and that is driving straight through, no stops. 38 hours with traffic.

And maybe in some future life, I’ll be retired with extra time; for now though, we had to fly.

We were leaving Chicago at 8:30 am and flying nonstop to Oakland, landing at 11:15. Supposedly.

At about 7:45 the announcement was made. Flight 1350 to Oakland California was delayed. We wouldn’t be leaving until noon at the earliest. It was a mechanical problem: not anything one could glibly say “Eh, just fix it and let’s get going, shall we?”

So we sat around. And sat around some more. I vaguely wondered if I should be up at the ticket counter with everyone else, jockeying for another flight, another city, another time?

The people at the desk never lost their cool and were ever so pleasant; they gave us each $100 off our next flight.

By the time we finally got on a plane–our original plane from DesMoines never was repaired; they just found us a new one somehow– it was 12:30 pm.

Our pilot apologized and added this caveat: “Our flight time is regularly 4 hours, but we’re going to get you there in two hours. Enjoy your flight.” I think he was trying to confuse us about time zones and real air time — but we did get there around 2:30 with our baggage on the right plane.

I must say the takeoff over Midway Airport in Chicago is disconcerting. People’s houses are right there and very close.

I must say the landing over Oakland Airport is disconcerting. From the little window over the wing, all one sees is water coming up very fast. I was hoping for land to appear soon.

But in between taking off and landing, it was breathtaking.

Looking down at the real topographical map of this country, watching cloud shadows, brown squares and green circles dissected by curving roads and rivers, Rocky Mountains, high desert, green mountain lakes — Mr. H. C. said I was like a kid with my nose pressed against the window the whole time.


Cloud shadows
Brighten an empty
Desolate brown moonscape.
Look far and see
A sea of clouds
Inside out
Top down.
Cloud shadows
Darken the geography of time.

Words scribbled on my phone tried to capture the awe I was feeling; photos taken with my phone were just as unsuccessful as the words.

Passengers mostly seemed unimpressed by the view out their windows. Unaware and unconcerned that we were hurtling through the clouds in a metal cylinder (albeit a brightly painted one), they were busy eating, napping, laughing, reading, laptopping…

Yes I know it was all new to me. And everyone else on the plane probably flies twice a month and finds it all boring. But it wasn’t. It was some of the most amazing landscape scenery I’ve ever seen.

from the air
It’s good to shake up those road trips every now and then.

And so I’m shaking up this road trip that I’ve been on for awhile. I’m taking a break from blogging in November to participate in NaNoWriMo. Don’t know how far I’ll get, but flying is definitely faster than driving…