Sunday, November 22, 2009

News from the noveling world

NaNoWriMo is in full swing, which means I'm working on my November novel and there is so little time left over for things like eating, sleeping, thinking, seeing people . . . and blogging.

In fact there was a wonderful ten-day (twelve-day?) trip to California, with time with my family, a glorious all-family get-together and a celebration of my father's 80th birthday, and time with dear old friends in Berkeley, and time with much, much older friends even in southern California. I want to write about all of that but in the meantime I just wrote my sister an answer to a nice e-mail message and question, and I thought I wanted to share it with you as well.

She asked me: "Are you allowed (or do you feel comfortable) to tell me the rough theme of this year's novel? I don't think you ever told me last year's."

And much later, I wrote her back. So here is my news of my novels!

Hi sister, you are already going into school week mode now I'm sure, sorry I didn't write you back sooner [sis is a schoolteacher]. But I was desperately trying to catch up a little on my word count for my novel while at the same time keeping my editorial work going (I have still a bunch of stuff to do before we leave on Wednesday for Chicago to go to David and Claudia's).

You asked about the novel(s). I'm allowed to tell whatever I want! I tried to not talk about last year's while I was doing it because it felt easier to me then. I told Felix about it before and during, and at some point told Max, and much later told hubby. Not because it was so fabulous, I just felt vulnerable and fragile.

Long story short it was about a mother and daughter and mother-in-law who together run a matchmaking agency, and they live in the studio building out behind my friends L & K's house in Berkeley (I asked L's permission to set it there), and the mother also has two little boys like 1 and 3 who are tandem nursing (the daughter is about 12), and the 12-year-old and the little boys have different fathers, both of whom are AWOL in different ways, and the mother-in-law is the long-lost mother of the only temporarily missing father of the little boys, and at some point the whole family, including also the 11-year-old boy who lives down the street from them and is the 12-year-old girl's buddy, fly to Berlin to find a wife for one of the matchmaking clients, and they find her on the top of a double-decker bus where she is singing in German a lullaby to her little girl, and the client (who if I remember correctly was originally from South America) had some childhood connection of his own to that particular lullaby, and so how could they resist, and the connection is made and the singer (conveniently enough a single mother) and the client are connected up and all is good. Also the 3-year-old belatedly starts speaking and the 11-year-old gets the cast off his leg. But the novelist's guilt at creating a straight-people-only agency in her lesbian friends' house while California was undoing gay marriage never got fixed, and the AWOL father of the little boys never got discovered, and various other things were imperfect.

And on a whole other level of course the book was about many other things, it was about the 12-year-old not wanting to be alone, and about tandem nursing, and about connections and love and marriage, and about my sentences.

This year my book is about me feeling more confident about my writing, and it's still about my sentences but it's also about me having some sense of being able to write dialogue, and a little more mastery of how to make plot move forward, and a lot more flexibility and looseness in sitting down to write. It feels more fun and less strained and cramped and forced, so I hope it might read that way too.

On the level of plot it is about three different women who live/are in Bloomington (I say it that way because one is plopped down here for a month while the others have lived here long-term). One is 25 and one is 55-ish and one is about 40, and the 40-year-old one is a little bit modeled physically on GE, with whom I am corresponding on Facebook [GE: you know who you are!], and the 25-year-old is physically modeled on Michal Rose, and all of them are in some way me but not me also, and the 25-year-old has three older brothers who live at her father's house and 4 younger brothers who live at her mother's, and the 40-year-old has 2 young children who are sometimes sons and sometimes daughters in my mind, I'd better decide.

And the plot is emerging as I write it but the structure of the book is based on two things, the poetic form of the ghazal, which is in some ways unrelated couplets having to do with love and the desert, where the last line of each couplet has repeating and rhyming parts, and I spent some time thinking about how to translate that poetic form into prose, and I don't think I succeeded perfectly, I can imagine doing it better and differently maybe in the future, but it was an interesting exercise. The other structural piece is the braid, I set up a braid of these three women through the book.


End of letter to sister. It occurs to me I should have said that I think the novel this year is also about men and women: relationships between, differences between. Me being a person who has known and liked and connected with women for so many years, trying to think about men in a more rounded way. But it still, of course, comes back to women.

More blogging later I hope! Novel news in the numerical mode: I'm way behind because of my travels to California and my editorial responsibilities, but I'm catching up. As of today, I'm at 28,314 words (wrote more than 3,000 today) - I have to average a little over 2,700 words every day for the rest of the month to make it to 50,000. But I can do that!

Love to you all, and Lisa, thank you so much for your comment and thoughts last time, sorry I never wrote back!


prahlad said...
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I love NanoWrimo! Good luck with your future writing endeavours! said...

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Danie said...

That's great you did NanoWrimo! Keep writing!

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