Amanda Gates
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A Musings - October 2011

Three years ago this November I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). I wrote about 1,000 words a weeknight and 3,000 words a weekend day (November 2008 had five weekends – bonus!) and completed a 50,000-word+ young adult novel (you can read a little about it here.). If you finished, they offered up a free, bound copy of your masterpiece, so I even have something in book-form to show for it.

My husband says I should do it again. “Write the sequel,” he says. “But we have a baby,” I say, as I lay exhausted on the couch each night. With November coming up, I was thinking about my NaNoWriMo experience, and also the experience of giving birth, and thought, "You know, they’re kind of similar."

At first, you’re like, “No, I can’t do this. That’s crazy.” Write a novel in month? Get pregnant and have a baby? Too hard. Not for me. But then you think about it and think about it and, well, you like a challenge (and maybe someone else is there too like, ahem, a husband, who is very persuasive). So, you say, “OK, I’ll go for it!”

You start off all excited. You write a chapter (you get pregnant). Woo! But after a short time – say, one week of NaNoWriMo or 5 weeks of pregnancy – you start to feel tired and sick to your stomach and all of a sudden you wonder, “What am I doing?!” But you can’t stop now! (Obviously, you can stop NaNoWriMo, but I wasn’t going to quit, so just play along…)

By mid-week the second week (i.e. second trimester), you’re renewed with energy. Maybe you’ve got some cheerleaders in your corner pumping you up, maybe you’ve found your groove (you’ve nested) and you think once again that this whole big, hard thing is something you can do. “I’m kicking butt!” you say.

However, by the end of week three (i.e. month nine), you’ve had it. “I just want this to be over!” you say. But there’s still work to be done. You’re losing sleep. This project is All You Can Think About.

And then comes the end, where you have to write like 5,000 words in two days to finish (or, you have to head to the hospital and push out a baby). You work at it and work at it, your husband says, “You can do it!” and finally, just when you think you can’t write one more word (or give one more push), this thing you created, your baby, is here.

And you feel relief. And exhaustion. And so much pride. Everyone is proud of you. They look at what you’ve done and tell you, “It’s the best thing ever!”

So, yeah, you’re proud. And happy. And so glad you did it!

But, my God, you never want to do that again!

Until you do.

Because that’s the thing with the memory. You remember it was hard, but the rewarding feeling and the feeling of pride you get every time you look at what you made, well, those feelings override all that hard stuff.

(So, yeah, I kind of want to do NaNoWriMo again. Now, if only I could pop the baby up on a shelf like I can a novel.)


Posted: Fri, 10/14/2011 - 15:36 | Comments: 1

I decided to blog about these two books together because throughout most of each of them, I felt pretty much the same way: Creative concept, hateful characters.

A Visit from the Goon Squad

First, here’s what I wrote on Goodreads after I finished it a few months back:

“So, I give this a big 'eh.' The execution is clever, with chapters about different characters at different time periods all connecting in weird ways. A chapter completely in PowerPoint - kind of brilliant and I actually loved that. A chapter written like a profile about a celebrity you could find in Esquire – also clever. However, the characters? JERKS. Every last one of them. And as I started each chapter and each new person was another psycho, weirdo, inconsiderate d-bag, I just didn't care one bit. I kept reading, hoping to care about SOMEONE, but alas I was just thankful it was over.”

I hold to my initial review. I imagine this book, written in this format, about characters I would actually like and care about, and wow, it would’ve been amazing then. However, I did read an article about the author, and while I still hate everyone in the book (OK, except Stephanie. I could maybe like Stephanie.), discovering that each character’s story is like an A Side and a B Side to their life… well, again, clever, very, very clever.

Of course, Egan will win the Pulitzer and I’ll look like the jerk, but there are plenty of things people love that I just don’t get (i.e. The Simpsons & Mumford & Sons).

One Day

This was one of the first Kindle books I bought last year, but then everyone hated on it and told me not to read it, so I didn’t. But, there comes a day when you’re desperate for something to read on the bus, so I started it. Like Goon Squad, the execution is very interesting: telling the story of two people by only focusing on one day (July 15) of every year (for like 20 years). That part of it I really, really enjoyed. It’s refreshing to read a book about someone’s life that isn’t just perfectly chronological. One day every year, and as a reader I didn’t really think I was missing anything in between.

However, again, the characters. While I did enjoy Emma and her self-deprecating humor and her wanting to be a writer and loving the same man for many years (many of us are/were an Emma), Dexter was not likeable at all. I would want to take him and shake him for being so drunk and slutty and insulting and hateful all the time. And why was Emma even his friend? I found myself skimming his parts, particularly in the middle of the book, just disgusted with his behavior.

I didn’t give up, and in the end, I’m glad I didn’t. I actually thought the ending helped redeem the book. Dexter became a better person (and Emma remained true to herself) and some of the emotions he felt at the end of the book truly resonated with me. Maybe this was a book about Dexter’s journey and we were meant to hate him lots of the time. I don’t know. Obviously, because I hated him and skimmed much of the middle of the book, that still makes it just OK for me.

Posted: Thu, 10/06/2011 - 07:55 |