Saturday October 29, 2005, 3:06 am 68 hours and 54 minutes until fingers in motion.
With just over two days to go before the gun sounds to kick of NaNoWriMo it’s time to take stock of the situation and make sure that all systems are go. Just like astronauts, scuba divers, and airline pilots I’m running through my pre-trip checklist. Are my fuel tanks fully loaded; my dials spinning in the right direction, and do I have enough oxygen in case things get rough?
The problem of course is all the intangibles that I can’t just check off on a list of things. Those guys sit in their cockpits or on their boats and they have the dials to look and the buttons to push. They have their clipboards in front of them listing what everything is supposed to look like, and they have somebody with them double-checking everything.
On the other hand I have my keyboard and me. The laptop seems to be working in tiptop shape, all the keys still move and the memory is fine. There’s plenty of room on the hard drive for 50,000 words and even in the eventuality that I need to create more I can just hook up the external floppy disc and start dumping stuff. (This is a very old laptop that I picked up on e-bay for $100.00 but it’s the best investment I’ve ever made)
But what about what’s sitting in front of the laptop? How’s it doing? The only person that’s going to run a checklist on me is me so I’d better start doing it. The cat sitting on my lap is a nice guy, but he doesn’t have the greatest insight into my ability to finish this project, he’s just grateful for food and treats. My wife, who probably knows me better than I do on occasion, will most likely, and wisely, just try and stay out of my way for the duration.
Physically I have no doubts that I’ll be able to squeeze out an extra 1700 or more words a day. I’m not going to stop if I’m on a roll so there’s even the chance of finishing early. What I really need to worry about is any emotional and psychological barriers that I am going to need to overcome.
Oh, yeah and the technical business of writing could be a problem. Plot, characters, story line; you know stuff like that. This last week I’ve spent a few days playing around with ideas, and starting sample chapters. The end result is that I feel that the rough story line I’ve been developing in my head will be just fine. There’s lots of room for interpersonal conflict, a love story, suspense, pathos, and humour.
The great thing about fiction is that you can make it up. That’s why its called fiction, you can invent everything and not have to worry about anyone calling you on facts and dates or whatever, because you’re the one who’s the creator of the universe. The only thing you have to try and do is stay consistent.
So I’ve grabbed an historical period from our world and transported into a fictional construct so I can do whatever I want with it. If people catch on to what it is I’ve done that will be okay, but even if they don’t, as long as they like the story I’ll be happy.
I know there are authors who go to great lengths to research a time period, and then create a whole new world based on our history. I wonder why if they’re making a new world why they insist on such verisimilitude to its parallel in our universe? I’ve no problem with a novel being novel.
I’ve always been fascinated with my Mother’s paternal family line and I’m going to use this novel to try and recreate one of the many potential stories of those people. She is a mixed Polish/Romanian Jew. Maybe if you don’t know much about the history of Jewish people that won’t seem like such a big deal to you, but there is a world of difference between the two nationalities. (When her father married my grandmother his family took him aside and said to him: “Remember to hold your head high. You’re a Romanian and she is only a Polack”)
While there is no doubting that Polish Jews are of Ashkenazi stock, there is some mystery around my Mother’s Romanian family. Both of us have had cause to wonder whether or not they could be of Sephardic heritage. There has always been a certain romantic appeal about the Sephardic, not least their co-mingling with the gypsies of Spain during the periods of the Inquisition and the expulsions of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal)
There is historical documentation that Jews and gypsies both sought shelter in caves in the hills surrounding the cities that they were expelled from before beginning their migrations to other parts of Europe. It may be that as the more tolerant Moorish and Ottoman empires retreated before the armies of the reconquista (forces retaking the lands for Christianity) that Jews fled with them. The path of retreat would have been through the Balkans and back across South Eastern Europe to Turkey, which would have passed through countries like Romania and Hungary.
Using those few historical facts and a lot of imagination the world I create will have the equivalent of gypsies and Sephardic Jews coming together to flee before the armies of conversion. For me it will be a wonderful opportunity to create a romantic history for my family. I’ll be able to incorporate the little that my grandfather passed along to us in terms of family history that is pertinent (things like how he helped make the Bronfman family their first million by running whisky across the Canadian/American border during Prohibition won’t make the cut)
So I don’t actually have too many worries on the whole plot and story front. It really looks like that’s going to be able to take care of itself. All I’m going to have to do is go along for the ride and type it out. Of course that’s also where the potential for problems exist. There are really only two things I know in advance that I’ll need to be concerned about (more of course could develop as I progress)
The first is to remember that this is not a finished product. First of all 50,000 words are not a completed novel so I should not be anticipating ending the month of November with a manuscript that’s ready to be sent off to publishers. This means I have to also avoid the trap of thinking I need to have every word exactly right, and I mustn’t get caught up in polishing up sentences, and spending precious moments fretting over style. There is no place for perfectionism in this type of word count only contest.
You’ve heard of the condition called repetitive muscle injury, where your hands or other body parts seize up because of repeating the same motion over and over again. Well in this case I’m more worried about repetitive brain strain. Every day writing about the same thing, the same story, the same people, and the same situation; what kind of damage is that going to do to my brain?
Will I get too bored to continue? Churning out 1700 plus words on a daily basis on the same topic might just drive me crazy and I’ll stop caring enough about the project to complete it. I know that sounds silly, but I also know what I’m like and how quickly I can run out of steam or motivation.
I’m hoping that by keeping up with my regular postings and publishing this series a least once a week that I will be able to avoid that problem. They will provide my brain with enough alternate stimulation to keep it happy. Picking a subject that’s close to home should also help me maintain interest. I can imagine reading it to my grandfather once it’s complete, and. he can complain how I got everything wrong. Since he’s been dead for twenty years it will defiantly be imaginary.
But, truth be told, the thing that will more than likely ensure that I’ll finish no matter what, is the fact that I’m being so public with the whole thing. I don’t know if I could live with falling short after all this build-up. Pride may go before the fall, but in this case pride will ensure there is no failure.
This is my last entry before the start of the contest. For the next month anytime we meet up here on these pages, you’ll be hearing about how its going, and maybe even reading a couple of paragraphs. I hope you don’t mind if you end up being my ear to vent into, my shoulder to cry on, and in return I’ll try to give you a peak inside the mind of a writer in constant overdrive.
I’ll be talking to you again soon. Until then, for all those who are embarking on this strange journey good luck and have fun. The rest of you can just sit back and enjoy the show.