I unearthed a folder of—I guess you’d call it juvenilia—a bunch of poems and stories that I started writing when I took my first creative writing class in college. I had high hopes of mining this old (crappy) work for stuff I could appropriate as material for my two main characters in my NaNo, both of whom are poets. I was thinking that the style I had when I was much younger might be appropriate to two teenagers, new-ish to writing, the way I was when I wrote it. But the fact is, my juvenilia is godawful. (Well, the poems are. The stories don’t suck that bad—probably because they are SF, and I used to read a lot of quality SF, so I had good influences impacting my writing.)
But the poems? Holy Cow.
And yet, I bet when I was much younger I probably thought my writing was awesome. Like sometimes, as I’m flipping through this folder, I’m so clever in my word play, I’m OBNOXIOUS AF. I was trying to find one of the poems that I could reproduce here to demonstrate how deliciously bad I was, but I actually am too embarrassed to show any of that stuff.
If I had any sense, I’d burn it all.
Ok, well, here’s a “This is Just to Say” parody I wrote, which is a little funny and not so appalling that I’ll have to hang my head in shame for sharing it:
Wm. Carlos Wms.-esque
This is just to tell you
that the plums
you ate were
which I was
for when your
that was mean
you’re so dead
and so cold
(Though I would probably line it a little differently now.)
Anyway, all of this is by way of saying, I’m still plugging away at my novel, although it’s dreadfully long-winded, and not making the progress I’d like it to be making—not in the sense of words, because I’ve got more than plenty of them. But rather, since it’s framed as a diary, and I envisioned that I would be encapsulating the entire school year in it, I’m kind of annoyed that I’m not further along than November. (When I started the book with August.) I don’t think it’s boring (but then do authors ever really think their own writing is boring?)—though a good beta reader would probably strike out whole diary entries as being immaterial to the plot. (Which it probably needs.)
I also keep reminding myself that the upper end word count of a YA novel is 69,999 words, and I should just remember this isn’t a Victorian novel where publishers paid by the word. But whatever—I can’t worry about that, when what I really need to think about is keeping on and figuring out how I’m going to resolve Cate’s life.
Also—since I think it’s a romance, who is Cate going to end up with? Is it Val or is it Lonny? Or is it a dark horse, like Finian? (Or is Finian actually gay?) I like all these guys in her life for different reasons—and she likes them all too.
Which actually just reminds me how much of a bad fiction writer I really am. Because maybe Cate is really just me—or what I could have been like if I were cool in high school—and maybe these guys are really just fantasy guys I imagined—the Mary Sue factor is pretty damn high.
And maybe that’s something I’ve realized about writing a novel—I mean, I knew it was hard, but what’s really hard is divorcing my brain, and my thinking, and even my writing patterns (which, I’m sure you’ve noticed in these blogs tends to be parenthetical and interrupting).
In a little flash fiction piece, of only say, 500-600 words, I feel like my writing can be so much more imaginative, and so much more not me. Initially, I thought my novel was going to be “so not me” too—I might even have used that term in an earlier blog—and yet as I go back over it, I think, well, the stuff in this book may not have actually happened, but I’m still, somehow, writing my life. Cate sounds like me. Like she’s a 40 year old…stuck in a 15 year old’s body.
That just may be bad writing at its finest.
But I’m not discouraged, because I like Cate. I like her Mom. I like her teachers, especially Professor Khaniff. I like Val and Finian, and I’m pretty sure I’m totally in love with Lonny the way Cate is. Even if he’s kind of a dumbass. Because he is a sensitive writer who has the grand vision, who won’t be defeated on the macro scale even if he pouts on the micro scale when things go wrong. He’s…ebullient. Which is so alien to me, and so very beautiful.
Anyway, there are still 12 days in the month to go. I have no doubt that I will get my 50,000 words—and probably a lot more, since I plan to write like a fiend over Thanksgiving. (When I’m not cooking a feast.)
I hope any of my Five Loyal Readers, if you too are doing NaNoWriMo, that you are experiencing good success, and that your characters continue to delight you, the way mine are.