Posted by: jeanne | November 4, 2010

my nanowrimo contribution for 2010

i’ve done nanowrimo for this will be my fourth year.  nanowrimo is short for national novel writing month, and the challenge for participants is to sit down and write 50,000 words in a month.  that’s about 2,000 words a day, and i get 500 words in longhand on a sheet of notebook paper (35 lines, 15 words a line, it’s remarkable that my handwriting is that regular (as you’d agree if you’d seen my handwriting)).  my nanowrimo entry for 2009 was called “train wreck: the wrath of mom” and was left hanging at the climax, the most important characters yet to be killed off.  nanowrimo for 2008 was “cathy eats her words,” and was also left hanging near the end, nobody having yet learned their lessons.  for 2007 i kind of forget what i wrote.  i’d finished “splat,” my only finished novel except the one my ex-husband tossed on me (“love has nothing to do with it”, a year earlier, and was probably working on “construction news” which never got past the first few chapters.  but like i say, i forget.

this year i’m not working on a novel, and i’m not putting it up online as i finish each day’s work.  i’m writing it longhand, and the first time it goes into the computer, it’s going to a real editor and will be prepped for publication.  i’m working on my memoirs.

hahahahahahahaa, you say.  no, really, i’m writing my fictionalized autoiography.  or, as my friend dallas has suggested, my LIE story.  first i was going to call it “not my real life,” and i was thinking of calling it “i was a sex slave,” but maybe i should just call it “six years on the run with my ex the ax murderer.”  mostly it’s lies.  well, mostly it’s covering the truth to protect the innocent.  no, mostly it’s hiding with my hands behind my back and claiming to have done nothing.  the places where i’d be lying would be the places nobody would believe anyway so we can look at them as entertainment.

i decided to do this, as i mentioned in my art blog (because i can’t figure out how to categorize my writing efforts when i write about them in my blogs.  except for individual blogs about each work of fiction, my blogs have to do with the food industry, fabric art, traveling, and cancer.  so why have i seemingly settled here with my nanowrimo blog entries?  because the story ends with my death of cancer, i guess is the best reason, and has little to do with art except for the creativity of making up the lies i’m going to fill my memoirs with.  i guess.),

i decided to write about my life because a) it’s interesting and b) it’s just a little notorious and so i’m pretty sure it’d find a publisher and c) if i don’t either nobody will ever know or someone will find out and blast me with it.

what i thought i’d mention today is my difficulties with the story line.  the only really interesting, dramatic part is the years of my 20s, when i made my most audacious mistakes.  my 30s and 40s were anesthetized and normal, and my 50s started with cancer and ended with jim and my perfect life.  so how do i write that?  most people will read either the sensational part because they don’t know me, or the last part, because they do.  so i have a real treatment problem.

so i was thinking.  i could write only my 20s, but i’d miss out on all the wisdom and lessons learned.  it’s important for the present day me to be all over the 22 year old me because out of perspective it’s a mess.  then i thought, i could write my 20s like a thriller.  i never really knew what was up; there was plenty of shadowy activity around me, and everything he said could have been true.  and i could write my marriage, corporate career and motherhood as a sitcom, because i have mostly acid comments to make on my ex-husband, because i want everybody to quit their day job, and because one of these days i’m going to write a novel called “bad grandma” that will take a lot of material from the casual negligence in that household (make lemonade).  my current life is the most important to me, tho, and i won’t be happy without running everything thru the filter of me as i am now, because damn i was stupid, but i wouldn’t have done it any differently.

well, i struggled with this three-sectioned story line.  obviously it’s virgin – mother – hag, and i’ve structured my writing that way before; it’s the basic female cycle.  but one after another the stories are just so boring, and i wanted to mix them up but couldn’t figure out how to do it.

before i talked to jim.  we sat in bed the other morning and he helped me solve my problem.  he’d been reading elizabeth george‘s writing book, which made a real impression on him because the process was very much like how he makes a painting.  i forget what jim said, but i saw the structure of the whole story in a flash as he told me how he saw it.  what i remember was that he mentioned that to him all three sections of my life had similar story arcs.

i thought, my youth and my middle age.  story arc.  fiction.

i saw my youth as if i were directing a movie, in a series of telling scenes building up to a turning point and the inevitable ending.

i saw my middle age as if it were a so-bad-it’s-good sitcom that you’d sit in front of and make mst3k comments on.

i saw my current life as the real story, and the other two parts of my life as if they’d happened to someone else.  i saw “myself” now, working on making a thriller out of the girl of my youth, and every evening sitting down to an episode of someone just like me in her 30s and 40s.  and the story would follow “my” current arc.

the arcs are simple – first falling in love, then living blissfully, then the turning point and disillusionment, then extrication, shit hits the fan, and a new life begins.  i don’t want all three phases to go thru the stages at the same time, so i’m going to lag my “current” life behind youth and middle age.

and this is because i die in the end, just as the first story is resolving and the sitcom shows its last episode.  the story arcs end up in the same place, with each character going thru the same process at a different level of maturity.

the interesting thing is that the turning point, in each story arc, is a sudden popup of something unresolved from the previous arc. this happened all by itself.  so with my ex the ax murderer the turning point is a lover who validates my struggle.  with my ex husband the turning point’s the trial of my ex the ax murderer.  and with my “current” self, it’s my ex husband doing something stupid that i’ll have to deal with, and will carry the seeds of the shit hits the fan part of what’s to come.

there’s lots of fiction in this.  to make a thriller out of my 20s i’ve got to have thrills, so i can act as if what’s his name’s boasts and dark hints were all true, and end up in a scene where top government officials from warring nations meet secretly in our living room to save the world, while i’m only allowed to serve tea and talk about the weather.  and i can totally make up sitcom gags about my marriage that don’t have to be true as long as they’re amusing.  and when i get to my “current” life, i’ve got to make up all sorts of things because at this point the cancer hasn’t come back, and i will have to imagine what it’s like to die, with all the pain and confusion and emotions i can bring to it.

there are all sorts of problems with this setup, but the idea is to write all three stories simultaneously, and have them spiral into each other in the end, so that it becomes like a mobius strip.


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